On Youtube, just about anyone can claim copyright in just about any video for the purpose of monetizing, regardless of whether they own a fragment of a copyright or not. You will only hear about it when someone gets too greedy (in the range of $23M) after claiming over 50,000 copyrights, buying a series of very expensive cars, getting noticed and investigated by the IRS and at least one District Attorney, and attracting over 30 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. The point is, Youtube knows about it and allows it!
Here is how it\’s done:
If you ever uploaded a video on Youtube, you must be familiar with the myriad of parasites who come to claim copyright royalties of bits and pieces and fragments of your video sound. The more popular the video, the longer the list of parasites. If you\’ve used other people\’s music, be it for dance choreography or exercise videos, it would be normal to think that some of these self-proclaimed rights-holders are legitimate music labels or publishers, artists, composers, their agents, or other run of the mill dinosaurs of the boomer-ish music industry. What else would you expect of an industry that is in the habit of crediting 150 people on each song. There isn\’t a song that is that good or that bad to need that many people to make. Adding a thousand royalty holders on each song is meant to dilute the actual artist\’s cut and keep artists permanently enslaved and unable to refuse doing as they are told (which usually rimes with something depraved and suicide-inspiring). The mainstream music industry is definitely scammy, so you don\’t ask questions, you accept the idea of each song being owned by legions of entities.
But even then, you may be a little suspicious as to why the list of rights-holders just keeps growing and growing with each couple of thousand view counts. You may have complained to Youtube about it, only to be put back in your place. And if you are like me, you know there is no other choice than to take down your most popular videos from Youtube (because nothing is meant to last forever and it always feels great to take down a content with 50 monetizing parasites), you make sure to only post original sound videos on Youtube (start dj\’ing and making your own music), and keep your dance vids, choreos, and user-generated experiments for TikTok.
But before you move out to other less parasitic platforms, you may have naively thought that original sound will fix the issue. Well, that\’s not how Youtube works. Artists who are run like slaves have no idea themselves who is who on the list of monetizers, new talent just wants to create and shine (which youtube counts on and exploits), small labels and in this case Latino labels are discriminated against by Youtube and are not given access to the content management tool, and Youtube does zero due diligence to verify new holders, because liability is transfered to their entrusted 3rd parties. In sum, their whole content management tool is a scam enabling fraud and conspiracy among a number of \”verified\” third parties and major music labels who act as intermediaries of the content management system.
One thing I know from experience is that the most authentic reflex of a true copyright owner who discovers unauthorized use of their content is to proceed to a takedown request, and if Youtube doesn\’t listen, take the names of all the listed copyright holders, hit them with injunctions to make sure the content disappears from the face of the earth and seek damages. The only way to figure out if there is a true \”misunderstanding\” is when you start suing someone. Otherwise, Youtube protects the 3rd parties who protect the fraudsters. It is only natural to NOT want the content being monetized by anyone if you haven\’t approved of it.
What, however, if you are a label from Puerto Rico and Youtube doesn\’t deem you\’re high enough in their caste system to allow you to know what happens to your content or directly monetize your content. You hear through the grapevine that someone else is monetizing 100% of your artists royalties. So you tell Youtube about it and they reply that they will look into it and nothing happens for 4 years. As I said, until you start suing, nobody will look into anything.
What about user-generated content of legitimate copyright in a song? Again, if it is user-generated, why is it even monetized by Youtube or anyone? What happened to user-generated being fair use and strictly non-commercial? Oh that\’s right, the Supreme Court (US) happened when it said that Google\’s use of Oracle\’s code was fair use. It was a big win for Google, so now Youtube\’s arrogance knows no limits, has begun monetizing ALL channels (even channels that are not for profit), runs ads on ALL videos, be they original content, user-generated, or blatant copyright infringement, and pretty much does whatever it wants, all while making the platform ever more oppressive for creators.
And even major music labels seem to have a hard time figuring out who is who on the \”dynamic\” rights-holders list of the content they purport to own and control because the confusion is precisely meant to benefit Youtube. Based on the Billboard article, it seems nevertheless that big labels know full well of this problem, but they enjoy the fact that smaller labels suffer. After all, they the big guys have access to the content management system, the friggin giza pyramid. And when you hold the key to the pyramid, you are one of the few who is entitled to know what happens to your content, and just like an entrusted 3rd party, you have the power to give that privileged access to lower-caste entities, be they fraudsters or not, whenever you decide. So you\’re like, we admit having knowledge of those bad apples, but since it hurts the competition (that is more creative than my slaves) it may be more commercially reasonable to keep my knowledge of ongoing fraud to myself. And from time to time, you ponder, why can\’t I steal from that pesky competition. Tempting right! When you are one of those verified big labels of white privilege and misogyny, Youtube trusts you 100% with whatever you claim. You can come and say, hey youtube this Puerto Rican rapper borrowed one of our songs written by \”long list of names\”, I want 100% of all royalties. Automatically you get 100%, nobody from Puerto Rico will ever know it… This is hyperfeudalism 2.0 (when you substitute platform for land, landlocked becomes platform locked, tied to the land or tied to a platform, it is full fiefdom in both cases), in other words fraud.
The problem is real, it is happening in real-time and it is safe to say that there are at least a billion dollars of royalties fraud occuring on youtube in any given year!
Can it be fixed?
Usually my ideas for reform as a solution for horrible issues are radical and highly unpopular. Now we\’ll do something more nuanced. For efficiency purposes, we have to look at the root cause of this problem: marketing, ads, and stats. These three things are responsible for pretty much all the redundancy and copyright toxicity on the internet 2.0, not just on Youtube.
However, Youtube has created a business model where it successfully monetizes (and allows monetizing) of fraud and infringement with zero accountability, therefore the solution I have from the tip of my head is to temporarily eliminate marketing from all Google products, hide ALL stats from everyone except channel owners (not just the dislike stats, all stats), prohibit ALL ads on Youtube for a few months or so per year or permanently (if the problem persists), block monetizing of all content to retroactively figure out who was defrauded and pay back the legitimate copyright holders, eliminate third parties, give all creators access to the CMS, put all copyrights on a blockchain ledger, accessible by anyone from anywhere and operating like a crypto-currency where independent users will be \”mining\” as in reviewing (literally fact-checking) each copyright holder\’s claim, in return for mining-fees, while giving the benefit of the doubt to the creators until proof of the contrary. When something is fully accessible by everyone, it is a little harder to hide fraud.
Placing the burden of proof on self-proclaimed copyright holders for the purpose of monetizing instead of creators who are the raison-d\’être of a given platform is only natural. It may suck, but this is how it works in any court of law on this planet. You claim a right, you have to prove it on a balance of probabilities. Not the other way around as it is now on Youtube. So long as the platform applies a different standard of proof on claimants of economic rights than the one required by law, this problem will not only persist, but copyright will become a synonym of fraud across platforms. Oh wait, maybe it already is.
Update: There is currently a class action against Youtube for unequal access to the content management system. As I said, the whole thing must be decentralized.