Someone Stole My YouTube Video. Then YouTube Terminated My Account.


“Also, did you know that a spambot reposted our video?”

My brother Randy sent over a screenshot. On the bottom was the listing of our video that I uploaded 13 years ago to my personal YouTube account. Above it, a listing of our video but uploaded by someone else. Even though the illegal rip of my video had only accrued one view in eight months, it’s my legal right to stop the unauthorized distribution of my creative works.

Within minutes, I filed my first DMCA on YouTube. A few days later, YouTube…terminated my account.

Huh?

You read that right. They shut down my account. I was the victim of theft, and my channel was terminated.

The first email they sent me was just one notifying me of the news. The other got into vagaries of why, along with an opportunity to appeal. I responded with a flurry of emails in hopes they would overturn this insane outcome. Though I hate to be “that guy”, I made a fuss about it on Twitter too in hopes that would elevate my odds of having a human review my case.

In a case that appeared to be as clear as day, YouTube (or at least their moderation bots) made the completely wrong decision. In a blink, I lost years of my personal videos while the thief lived on.

In the moment, the only solace I felt was that YouTube didn’t nuke In Third Person. With it being the home of my video output, I would have been completely distraught at the thought of losing my life’s work and my ability to distribute videos in the future.

Hours passed. I tried to keep myself busy with work, but I was keeping an eye on my email in hopes that YouTube would reply to my appeal.

Finally, they did. My account was re-instated and the offending channel was terminated. Though YouTube eventually did the right thing, this case study brought a few things into focus.

The intended purpose of the DMCA is to protect creators from this exact scenario

It’s incredibly easy for someone to lift the digital work of someone else. DMCA is in place to give us tools to protect our works. While I have many grievances with the way the laws are written and how the DMCA management tools work, I would rather have a means of protecting my work than not.

This was a nightmare scenario where the system almost completely failed, but at least there was a mechanism for me to appeal my case. Thank goodness for that.

It does give me concern though. Many people have made multiple bogus DMCA claims against me on my YouTube channel in an attempt to siphon the ad money I don’t make. Meanwhile, I make an honest claim and lose my channel. Going forward, I would be scared to file a complaint and put my channel at risk of going under, even though I have done nothing wrong. At this point, my confidence in the system is at the very least, shaken.

Your digital creations and aren’t permanent

At any time, all of your work on an online platform may disappear. Maybe you violated the rules. Maybe you end up in a scenario like me where your account is wrongfully deleted. Maybe the platform you use goes out of business, like Mixer and Vine among many others.

If you can, make backups of your work. I know this can be particularly messy with video content, but saving what you can locally or in a cloud service is better than nothing.

Diversify your online presence

If YouTube was my only platform and I wasn’t able to appeal for any reason, my career would be toast. Expanding my presence across as many platforms as I can not only helps me expand my reach, but keeps me connected with my audience if things turn for the worst. Losing YouTube would have been a massive blow, but at least viewers know they can still find me on Twitch. And if Twitch implodes, I wouldn’t have to start from scratch on YouTube.


This situation was awful. I don’t wish this on anyone. But things are back to normal and I have since taken the opportunity to download every video on my personal channel. Almost all of the In Third Person videos are also stored on my computer for safe keeping. Fingers crossed that this doesn’t happen again.

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