Welcome to another edition of Writerly Wednesday. This week TB shares about the frustrating process of dealing with pirates on YouTube.
Pirates are everywhere!
Recently, a sapphic author got in touch to tell me one of my books was on a pirated site. Usually, I thank the author but don’t visit the site because most of them involve ebooks and are loaded with malware.
But the site in question this time was YouTube, and three of my audiobooks were available for people to listen to. I’m not talking about snippets from the audiobooks, but the whole books.
After some digging, I learned how to report the books for copyright infringement. Within hours of submitting the forms, YouTube responded to all three of my claims by saying they were concerned that my takedown requests were fraudulent.
I should stop here to explain something. Once upon a time, it was easy to submit a copyright takedown notice on YouTube. They’ve tightened the rules because certain individuals were doing this to legitimate videos and then notifying the rightful owner they wouldn’t remove their notice until they were paid a certain amount of money. That means legitimate creators were being blackmailed by a different type of pirate.
Even knowing this, the verbiage YouTube used in the email was quite intimidating. Have a read:
We are concerned that some of the information in your takedown request may be fraudulent. Please understand that YouTube receives a large number of fraudulent copyright takedown requests, and we take abuse of that process very seriously (see YouTube, LLC v. Brady (D. Neb. 8:19-cv-00353)).
We remind you that in your allegation of copyright infringement, you stated that:
- You are authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed, and acknowledge that any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity is infringing may be subject to liability for damages.
- You understand that abuse of this form will result in termination of your YouTube account.
For each video in question, please explain how you’re authorized to make this claim, including supporting documentation or other evidence wherever possible.
If we don’t receive a detailed explanation from you within 7 days, your YouTube account may be terminated. You may be able to avoid termination if you retract your takedown request. If you wish to do so, please reply to this email with “I hereby retract my claim of copyright infringement.”
Again, I get that they’re trying to scare the blackmailers, but as the actual copyright owner, receiving this email in triplicate within several minutes of each other wasn’t what I needed. Not only that, the three audiobooks in question were on a YouTube channel that hosted audiobooks from many different authors and publishers. Furthermore, the channel in question already had 40 books taken down. But sure, send an automated email accusing the author of being the fraud instead of doing simple due diligence. That makes total sense.
I had to jump through hoops and share sensitive information to prove I owned the rights to my own books. Did the owner of the channel have to do the same before uploading entire audiobooks? My guess is no.
I imagine it’s difficult to maintain a behemoth like YouTube to ensure piracy isn’t occurring. I get that. I really do. It’s just I’m an indie author, and having people steal does indeed hurt my bottom line. Not only that, I don’t have a legal team to fight my battles for me, so it zaps valuable writing time.
After several emails back and forth, YouTube did indeed take down the videos, and the channel in question was yanked from the platform. But in the final email, YouTube stated that the videos had been removed. They also included a link for me to remove my takedown request, ya know, just in case I changed my mind about the pirate stealing from me because what YouTube really cares about is views, not copyright infringement.
I’m aware this won’t be the last time I have to deal with this issue. It’ll be a game of whack-a-pirate for years to come. There are times I feel like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, but instead of imaginary enemies, they’re pirates looking to make a quick buck and major corporations who don’t give a darn about the little people as long as they make billions of dollars, while the rest of us just want to earn enough to pay our rent and put food on the table.