At considerable expense, Christian Friedrich Johannes Büttner, the man behind successful YouTube channel TheFatRat, recorded and posted an original music video. It ran up 47m views, helping to place him among the higher echeleons of YouTube's hitmakers.
But then a scammer—someone with no posted videos, no working contact info and no significant internet presence—claimed ownership of it through YouTube's ContentID system.
Büttner appealed and was denied.
Worse, it was clear that YouTube had simply allowed the scam account to wait until the last possible moment to respond, then to decide for itself whether it was a legitimate appeal.
Büttner, being a serious channel operator with millions of subs, tried to get relief from his liaison at YouTube. He was told he had to work it out with the scammer (who was still being paid the revenue the video was generating) through the scammer's fake email address. YouTube gave him no other recourse and refused to provide more information.
It got sorted out only after he went public and got lawyers involved.
In this enraging video, Büttner explains what happened with remarkable calmness and professionalism, exposing in detail just how awful and broken ContentID is — and how grossly vulnerable it is to bad-faith exploitation by frauds, scammers and wannabe censors.
One trick that Büttner misses, however, is that ContentID isn't copyright law. The scammer probably didn't issue a fraudulent DMCA takedown, so won't end in trouble for that.
ContentID is exactly the thing YouTube claims it doesn't do: it privately mediating ownership of content without involving the law. ContentID is an internal, opaque policy framework and technical platform crafted from top to bottom to mollify the media industry when it was contemplating crushing YouTube the way it did Napster years earlier. And now everyone has access to the crude, badly-designed tools originally designed for music industry lawyers.