Two men steal $ 20 million from YouTube with a simple copyright scam

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Photo: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV (Getty Images)

Two men have been charged with the theft of $ 20 million in music royalties. The victim is a company identified as “YT”. Federal prosecutors do not name explicitly to “YouTube”. However, we can deduce from the court documents that “YT” is a website that hosts videos and uses exactly the same monetization and content identification mechanisms as YouTube. And hey, there’s really only one site like YouTube.

A public affairs spokesperson for the United States Attorney’s Office did not confirm the identity of the company, and YouTube did not respond to a request for comment from Gizmodo.

According to court documents (first reported by MarketWatch), Webster Batista, alias “Yenddi,” and Jose Teran, alias “Chanel,” fraudulently claimed the copyright of more than 50,000 songs through record label companies. A grand jury has charged them with conspiracy, wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering.

According to court documents filed in the US District Court of Arizona, the men simply claimed to be the copyright holders, and that was it. They told “AR”, the company that manages “YT” royalty payments, that their company “MediaMuv” owned the copyright to a library of more than 50,000 songs. They signed a contract with AR, who tagged and uploaded the music for MediaMuv. They began to collect income. This continued to occur from 2017 to April 2021.

“YT” approved them in Content ID, YouTube’s automated system that hypothetically identifies matching songs from uploads from other users and allows the owner Claim revenue from your ads, if you wish. They also signed a license for sound recording and audiovisual content (this), that hypothetically allows Google to offer music to users in exchange for monetization revenue.

The first song mentioned is “Friday Without Your Love”, from which they allegedly raised $24.000. To that It was followed by “La Quise Tanto”, which raised more than $30,000, and “Me Llamamas”, which made them earn more than $100,000. (Various artists have titled songs with the name “You call me”, but the most outstanding is he big success from 21st floor with more than 700 million views in Youtube).

Prosecutors allege that, over time, the money moved between companies with similar names: Elegre Records, Musika Ink LLC, MuveMusic LLC. The bank accounts of those companies were allegedly used to buy a $550.000, a $ Tesla130.000, a $ BMW92.000 and $62.000 in jewelry. Batista obtained a document of identity from Pennsylvania under a false name.

In 2018, someone claiming to be the holder of the rights (“DH”) realized and denounced MediaMuv, andl administrator of royalties. Teran upped the ante and hinted that that person was simply running the same scam, claiming he deserved royalty money “just because it says who has the right”.

IRS agents arrested Batista at his home in Florida on November 18. According to the Office of the Prosecutor of America, each of them could face conviction 37 years in prison and up to $250.000 for each felony conviction.

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