Content creators on YouTube are being targeted by extortionists abusing the video platform’s copyright strike system to threaten them into paying.
The BBC reports that Minecraft YouTubers Kenzo and ObbyRaidz allegedly received messages informing them that if they did not pay what was essentially a ransom of between $75 and $400 (£60 to £310), the extortionists would lodge a third spurious copyright complaint. Given YouTube’s terms and conditions, a third copyright strike would have seen their channels entirely deleted.
I have two false copyright strikes on my channel & someone out there is extorting me for my money to have the strikes removed. help. pic.twitter.com/pNmzNH34Ff
— Kenzo (@KenzoPvP) January 30, 2019
Kenzo went public and took to social media, writing: "I have two false copyright strikes on my channel & someone out there is extorting me for my money to have the strikes removed. Help".
YouTube responded to the tweet, promising to investigate, and later that same day YouTube tweeted again confirming that the takedown notice was "(obviously) abusive", and removed the copyright strike and reinstated the video.
"This is an example of a fraudulent legal request, which we have zero tolerance for, so we also terminated this channel," YouTube added.
Appreciate your patience —we confirmed that this takedown notice was (obviously) abusive. The strike on your channel is resolved and the video is reinstated. This is an example of a fraudulent legal request, which we have zero tolerance for, so we also terminated this channel.
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) January 30, 2019
Google – which owns YouTube, of course – did not respond to a request from the BBC for information on how it hopes to prevent such abuse of its copyright system in the future.
"Anybody can [make spurious copyright claims]. They made it so easy to take somebody’s channel down – they strike a few videos and your channel is terminated," ObbyRaidz said later in a video he posted to his YouTube channel. "The way I look at it, YouTube just put a Band-Aid on a much bigger issue. This is something that can affect more channels in the future and they need to fix this right now."