Wall of Shame: Documented Cases of Copyfraud and Abuse of the Content ID System

Written by Patrick McKay 
Wednesday, 23 November 2011 15:22 

This section attempts to document known instances where the Content ID system is routinely abused and used to fraudulently claim copyright over videos which the claimant either does not own, or is notified that the video in question is fair use. Its purpose is to provide a sort of wall-of-same, exposing the dishonest practices of these entities to the public eye.

1. GoDigital Media Group (www.godigitalmg.com)

One of the most noturious and long-time abusers of the Content ID system, GoDigital acts as a sort of clearing house for dubious uses of the Content ID system. They market their service as a way for copyright owners to identify and monetize copyrighted works in user-generated content, and are responsible for thousands of illegitimate copyright claims on YouTube. While these works allegedly belong to the individual artists which are GoDigital’s client’s, all Content ID matches show up under GoDigital’s name. Apparently, they do little if any checking to verify if their clients actually own the rights to particular works before submitting them en mass to the Content ID system. As a result, a wide variety of royalty free, public domain, and Creative Commons content ends up attributed to GoDigital and their clients.
Interestingly, GoDigital is the most transparent of the copyright trolls, and freely admits that they make false claims, though of course they say this is rare. However, instead of accepting Content ID disputes when they are filed, it is their policy to reject all disputes filed through the Content ID system and confirm their claim against the video. Instead, they expect YouTube users to fill out their OWN dispute form on their website, after which they may or may not release their claim against a video.
One high profile victim of GoDigital’s fraudulent copyright claims is the royalty-free music library Partners in Rhyme, which haspublicly accused GoDigital of allowing one of their competitors, another stock music site called AudioMicro, to illegally claim and monetize music on YouTube licensed to Partners in Rhyme’s customers. Another stock music site, Shockwave Sound, experienced a similar problem.
Other documented cases of false GoDigital claims:

2. Netcom Partners (www.netcompartner.com)

While some YouTube copyright trolls have ostensibly legitimate business models, Netcom appears to be an entity devoted to nothing but blatantly and deliberately fraudulently claiming copyright on YouTube videos they do not own. According to a recent report by Wired.com, Netcom is a Russian company with a website registered in Cyprus, listing their base of operations alternatively in either Malaysia or Switzerland. Cached versions of their website (since blanked) reveal that they formally offered a service to artificially inflate views of YouTube videos. Now, it seems they exist simply to falsely claim copyright ownership of popular YouTube videos and hijack the ad revenue. When confronted with a dispute, they most often do not press the matter, and flee at the first sign of opposition. Despite the fact that there could be no clearer abuse of the Content ID system, YouTube has refused to take action on the matter, and Google declined to comment for the Wired article, citing company policy.
Documented cases of false claims by Netcom:

3. Sanoma NL/Gamer NL (www.gamer.nl)

According to multiple reports dating back as far as 2009, Helsinki-based media group Sanoma uses its GamerNL YouTube account to file false Content ID claims against a wide variety of videos using content from videogames. Gamer.nl produces video reviews of video games, and submits those reviews to the Content ID system. Its reviews frequently feature footage from videogames, including gameplay and cutscenes. Because of the overbroad nature of Content ID matches, Content ID flags not only GamerNL’s reviews, but ANY video using the same footage from the underlying video game. This allows GamerNL to claim copyright over, and hijack ad revenue from, numerous videogame videos it does not own. Content ID abuses by GamerNL have been well documented in this blog article, as well as articles by TorrentFreak and Wired. While false claims by GamerNL appear to be more a result of overbroad identification by the Content ID system itself rather than malicious action on their part, they have little incentive to correct the error. In the meantime hundreds of videos are innacurately attributed to GamerNL, and they continue to earn illegitimate ad revenue from them.
Documented cases of false claims by GamerNL:

4. X-Media Digital (www.xmedia.ru)

Very little is known about this Russian company which claims to be some sort of online media agregator. They also run the sitehttp://www.getmovies.ru/, which appears to be a Russian site for downloading pirated movies (oh the irony…. a pirate site acusing other people of copyright infringement). They appear to be using Content ID to falsely claim and block numerous videogame related videos (including Dead Island and Battlefield 3). According to a response one YouTube user received (dated 9/29/2011) after contacting them:

One of the activities of our company – aggregation of content on YouTube. We provide a YouTube Partnerstatus to several gaming channels. Some of our partners mistakenly put wrong parameters identify content. Now we are working to resolve these errors. Partners warned. All locks we cancel as soon as possible. I hope that within 1-2 days the problem is completely solved. (Source: https://www.google.com/support/forum/p/youtube/thread?tid=549af2903639d120)

However, at least as of late October 2011, users were still receiving false copyright claims from X-Media.
Documented cases of false claims by X-Media:

5. Major Record Labels (Sony, EMI, WMG)

While in 99% of cases Content ID correctly identifies music by major record labels, in cases where users choose to dispute a Content ID block based on fair use, their dispute will most likely be rejected, with the “reviewed and confirmed” message appearing.  While the music labels have deals in place with YouTube allowing users to post videos with much of the music in their catalogues, many songs (especially those belonging to WMG, which has long been the most reluctant of the major labels to allow their music to appear on YouTube) remain arbitrarily blocked. There is no transparancy about what songs are and are not allowed for use on YouTube, and if a user is unlucky enough to use a major-label song that is on the block list, even if their use of the song is a minor one that would qualify as fair use, they are likely out of luck. While the major record labels are the most legitimate beneficiaries of the Content ID system as they have a genuine need to police use of their copyrighted content on YouTube, it is still regretable that they are given the authority to unilaterally deny legitimate claims of fair use. As a result, it is nearly impossible to make fair use of popular music on YouTube.
Documented cases: Too numerous to name. One example is this anime music video, which was permanently blocked worldwide with the “reviewed and confirmed” message after I disputed EMI’s copyright claim on fair use grounds. Read more. 

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