Cybercriminals posing as music rightsholders were arrested and sentenced to prison after extracting over $23 million in revenue from YouTube’s Content ID system. After about 800 impacted artists came forward, the court has ordered the scammers to pay $3.3 million in restitution.
Under the company MediaMuv LLC., Webster Batista and Jose Teran claimed to own the rights to over 50,000 copyrighted songs, according to Torrentfreak. The pair said they simply looked for Latin music that wasn’t yet monetized on the video-sharing platform and claimed it as their own.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the defendant’s counsel agreed on the restitution amount and that it’s due “immediately.” Batista and Teran are allowed to make minimum monthly payments.
Restitution amounts owed to victims vary in amounts. The Recording Industry Association of America, RIAA, and Regalias Digtalez are to receive some of the largest sums on behalf of hundreds of artists.
YouTube’s anti-piracy system is designed to protect rightsholders, but in this instance, it worked against them, Torrentfreak said.
While MediaMuv wasn’t a direct member of YouTube’s Content ID program, it operated through a third-party company with access to the platform. YouTube’s Content ID program is a digital fingerprinting system Google designed to identify and manage copyrighted material on YouTube. When a video is uploaded to YouTube, it’s compared to audio and video files registered in the system. If there’s a match, the owner can block the video or monetize it.
Since its inception, artists have disagreed as to whether Content ID goes too far or doesn’t go far enough. Creators who upload videos teaching viewers how to play a song are liable to be flagged by the system. In the case of the artists exploited by Batista’s and Teran’s scheme, the opposite is true.
YouTube wasn’t immediately available for comment.