What A Shock: Scammers Are Abusing YouTube's Notice And Takedown System With DMCA Claims

from the duh dept

There has been something of an explosion of copyright claims on streaming services as of late. Frankly, the impetus for these claims is all over the place. You have your ever-expanding cadre of copyright maximilists going ballistic. There are the political actors, looking to copyright claims to try to take down content from those on the opposite side of the aisle. There are the automatic bots that crawl for content and get it wrong many times. And then there are the scammers.

There are lots of ways to abuse copyright to scam folks out of money, or their accounts and content. But one recent method appears to be crawling for YouTube videos that incorporate tiny sections of video game music and then attempting to take over monetization of those videos.

Twitch streamer and content creator Ludwig Ahgren was hit with a copyright claim on one of his newer videos, but with a little bit of research, it became clear that it was a scam. The claim in question came on his video that was supposed to go up today where he talked with fellow streamer Devin Nash. The copyrighted material was listed at the end of the video. After pulling it up, however, the only sound playing was Zelda’s Lullaby from The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time.

If the claim came from Nintendo, it would have held some actual credibility. But video game music is frequently used in videos because companies tend to avoid copyright striking those to avoid taking down gameplay by accident.

But it wasn't from Nintendo or any other company. Instead, it was from someone named Hezkej Benes from a video called "Happy Doge." And after a quick search, Ludwig found the video in question, which had less than 200 views, and was simply a collection of the beginning of popular songs and meme sound effects.

So, how it works is that the scammer loads up a video of snippets of copyrighted video game music and the like, since game makers don't typically issue takedowns for that sort of thing, and then makes copyright claims on other content using those same snippets. From there, assuming there is no pushback from the maker of the other video, the scammer gets to slurp up whatever revenue those videos generate.

This is effective as a scam due to the notice and takedown system in place with YouTube. Without the opportunity for review, either by the impacted streamer or by a human at YouTube, scammers can fire off these notices at will and rely on a small percentage of pushback being received. Whatever the intent behind this system, it's clear at this point that there are multiple avenues for abuse. That makes it high time that we revisit all of this and see if there is a better way.

Filed Under: abuse, copyright, takedowns


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 14 Jul 2020 @ 12:26pm

    Reminders for those who want to say “YouTube should just ignore the requests, then!”: YouTube’s takedown system is largely automated, and even if it weren’t, YouTube would likely still honor fraudulent takedown requests to avoid the legal consequences of ignoring a legit request. YouTube’s system is a branch of the poisonous tree; the trunk of that tree is the DMCA takedown system, and the root is copyright in general.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 14 Jul 2020 @ 10:50pm

      Re:

      "YouTube would likely still honor fraudulent takedown requests to avoid the legal consequences of ignoring a legit request."

      ...and, as TOG mentions below, the other real problem is that the ones making the fraudulent claims won't face legal consequences. If YouTube correctly identifies a fraud, it would most likely be YouTube who faces action for ignoring the request, not the fraudster facing consequences for lying.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 15 Jul 2020 @ 12:25am

        Re: Re:

        "...the other real problem is that the ones making the fraudulent claims won't face legal consequences."

        Unless "bad faith" can be proven - which in reality means trying to prove a negative.

        What copyright does is that it puts a censorship tool in private hands and induces a chilling effect of fear and uncertainty - because even after you have a legal team vet your offer you still can't be sure you're covered when a thousand copyright troll show up and force you to waste hours and days worth of lawyer bills to defend yourself.

        The DMCA exacerbates the issue by orders of magnitude by in effect reversing the actual burden of proof.

        It's the perfect shit-show example of how to fundamentally screw the spirit of justice and fairness which ought to be the foundation of law.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Celyxise (profile), 15 Jul 2020 @ 8:47am

          Re: Re: Re:

          If DMCA 512(f) had any teeth this kind of scamming wouldn't exist, but no one in power wants there to be any accountability in that direction.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 15 Jul 2020 @ 2:55am

      Re:

      Reminder for those who want to excuse bad takedowns "because a computer did it":

      Someone had to program the computer to do that, and usually those who have programmed computers to do that were told to do that by their boss.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2020 @ 12:31pm

    Until there is a penalty for false copyright claims, this will only get worse. I would love to see a system where platforms would be obliged to immediately release all information they have (including financial) on the claimant to the affected poster and then automatic liability for false claims at maybe three levels:

    1) Full refund of misappropriated funds plus all reasonable legal expenses in the case of accidental false claims.

    2) Double refund of misappropriated funds plus all reasonable legal expenses in the case of negligent false claims.

    3) A minimum of tripple refund of misappropriated funds plus all reasonable legal expenses in the case of deliberate false claims.

    Of course, that is just a pipe-dream and the large media companies who pay the lawmakers to enact the laws are rarely harmed by false claims. The little people who bear the brunt of the harm get no say.

    Maybe it's time to crowd-fund a superpac to balance against the maximalists?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 14 Jul 2020 @ 1:12pm

    No penalties for abuse equals a whole lot of abuse

    That makes it high time that we revisit all of this and see if there is a better way.

    Penalties for fraudulent/negligent claims would go a lot way to addressing abuse of the law, because as it stands right now there is basically no risk to issuing claims and the only people who face penalties are the platforms if they ignore them, or the targets who face having their content removed on accusation and ruinous fines should it go poorly in court for them, whereas if the accuser loses in court they lose the case, nothing more.

    Equal out the law so that both sides face penalties for abuse and a lot of instances like this would vanish overnight as it's no longer a risk-free source of money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jul 2020 @ 2:41pm

    This has been a thing for years now...

    Just look at the sheer number who go around uploading huge archives of public domain, creative commons, or even copyrighted works to contentid, just to cash in on a bunch of pieces, even if in a handful of those only temporarily before the owner of something slaps back at them when they find their own content hit with a strike.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 14 Jul 2020 @ 4:14pm

    Of course, getting all the money from a minutes-long video for a seconds-long clip is plenty scammy in and of itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2020 @ 7:53am

      Re:

      But you don't understand! That clip inspires the entire worth of the complete video. In fact the rest of the video detracts from the value of the clip. The clip claimant should get more than the money the video generated!

      (Or so the maximalists would have you believe).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2020 @ 8:37am

    This has been happening since day 1 if the introduction of the DMCA! It was said then what would happen and it has been proven to be the case hourly, almost, ever since! It has also proven ehat profiteering and gutless fuckers we have in Congress, always making sure that yhey themselves benefit from any and every law passed and that certain industries and their bosses are also well catered for at the same time! When a law is implemented with no consequence for breaking it intentionally, knowing that breaking it is to the complete advantage of the breaker, what's to stop them doing so? It's time for Congress to stand up and revise the DMCA so that it does as it was intended to do all along!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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