YouTube’s Content ID system helps rightsholders and content creators prevent copyright infringement.
Copyright holders can either remove problematic content from the video platform, or they can choose to monetize it.
Monetization is preferred in many cases and can be quite lucrative. Over the years, the Content ID platform has generated more than $9 billion in ‘claimed’ advertising revenue.
Criminal Content ID Scam
This option isn’t just utilized by legitimate owners, scammers have been making use of it too. While it’s unknown how often the system is abused, an indictment published by the Department of Justice in late 2021 showed that a U.S. company run by two men built a multi-million dollar business on this scheme.
A criminal investigation had uncovered a massive YouTube Content ID scam. By falsely claiming to own the rights to more than 50,000 songs, the pair generated more than $24 million in revenue.
The scammers’ company, MediaMuv LLC., wasn’t a direct member of the Content ID program. Instead, it operated through a trusted third-party company, which had access to the platform,
Last year, one of the defendants confessed to his part in the ‘MediaMuv’ copyright swindle by pleading guilty. Webster Batista Fernandez described it as a relatively simple scheme: find Latin American music that wasn’t yet monetized on YouTube and claim the content as their own.
The ‘number two’ of the operation, Jose Teran, signed a plea agreement this February. While he wasn’t the driving force, Teran participated in the criminal conspiracy and plead guilty to money laundering and wire fraud.
This week, Teran was the first to be sentenced for his role in the operation. The defense requested a mild probation or home confinement sentence, which would allow the defendant to continue to care for his family.
“[Mr. Teran] respectfully asks that the Court exercise its discretion to sentence him in a manner that allows him to continue supporting his family while working to make the victims whole,” the attorney wrote.
The prosecution, on the other hand, argued that a multi-year prison sentence would be more appropriate, to deter Mr. Teran and other scammers from abusing the Content ID system in future.
“Teran personally obtained more than $6 million in personal profit, which he used to sustain a lavish lifestyle. In addition to the harm Mr. Teran caused and the exorbitant profits that he reaped; a significant sentence is warranted to deter future conduct,” the Government argued.
Court Issues 70-Month Prison Sentence
After reviewing these two opposing positions, U.S. District Court Judge Douglas L. Rayes sided with the Government’s take, sentencing the defendant to 70 months in prison followed by three years of probation.
In addition to the prison sentence, Mr. Teran will forfeit various properties. These include a house in Phoenix, a Tesla Model C, a BMW i8, and bank accounts containing over a million dollars.
This is the first sentencing in this criminal Content ID case. The second defendant, who is seen as the leader of the operation, is expected to be sentenced later this year.
The scale of this scam was unprecedented but abuse of YouTube’s broader set of copyright tools certainly isn’t. Google previously went on the record stating that tens of thousands of accounts are terminated each year due to dubious copyright infringement claims.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.