Need an easy way to make $23 million? Ever thought about simply claiming music others have uploaded to YouTube as your own and collecting the royalties?
That’s basically all two Phoenix men did to scam Latin music artists like Daddy Yankee and Julio Iglesias out of millions of dollars in royalties, as detailed in a new piece by billboard last week.
According to Kristin Robinson of billboard, Jose “Chenel” Medina Teran and Webster Batista formed a media company called MediaMuv and claimed ownership of the rights to various Latin music songs and compositions. In total, since 2017, when Teran and Batista started their program, MediaMuv claimed to own more than 50,000 copyrights.
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In order for MediaMuv to claim these copyrights and collect royalties through YouTube’s Content ID system, the fraudulent company had to work with AdRev, a third-party company that has access to YouTube’s CMS and Content ID tools and artists in administration of their digital copyrights. MediaMuv created some fake documents and provided these documents to AdRev to prove ownership of the claimed music. From there, AdRev not only helped MediaMuv collect royalties for these copyrights, but also gave Terana and Batista direct access to YouTube’s CMS so they could claim copyrights themselves.
Teran and Batista’s four-year license heist ended late last year after an IRS investigation. Corresponding billboardThe two were charged with “30 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft.” Teran pleaded not guilty. His trial is in November. Batista, on the other hand, settled a plea deal in a wire fraud case and a conspiracy case. As a result, Batista provided a lot of information on how the two went through with their plan.
As billboard points out that the case of Teran and Batista was particularly “brazen”. It is believed to be one of the “biggest YouTube music license scams in history”.
While the size of the heist and the breadth of the scheme might be very unique, it’s certainly a situation that many YouTube content creators have faced before. YouTube’s Content ID system, designed to help creators, has been armed by malicious actors to monetize content they don’t own. While some false claims are just mistakes made by automated systems, the MediaMuv case is a perfect example of how scammers also purposefully exploit digital copyright rules.
YouTube tries to be careful who it gives access to CMS and Content ID tools because of how powerful these systems are. As a result, independent creators and artists cannot verify, nor have the authority to directly respond to, these false copyright claims. You need to contact a digital rights management company that has access. And it seems like thieves are doing the same thing by forging documents to gain access to these YouTube tools through these third parties that YouTube trusts with these tools.
That billboard Piece – which you should check out for even more details on this over-the-top scheme – mentions how Content ID scammers typically claim part of a song in hopes that with so many songwriters and the like, a small percentage of ownership of the music can go unnoticed. However, MediaMuv was bold enough to claim copyright for the entire songs. While it’s certainly incredible that these two scammers have been able to pull this off for so long, just think how many more cautious scammers are still siphoning off royalties from an untold number of artists.