YouTube Sues Alleged Scammer Over DMCA Extortion Scheme
Obtaining multiple unresolved copyright complaints on a YouTube account can prove fatal to those who rely on the platform to make a living.
For those obtaining “three strikes”, it can mean the closure of an entire channel and along with it, access to potentially hundreds of otherwise revenue-generating videos.
Back in January, it was reported that a YouTuber known as ‘Obbyraidz’, who focuses on Minecraft content, was having this system turned against him.
After receiving two bogus strikes against his account, he took to Twitter to complain that he was being extorted by a scammer identifying as ‘Vengeful Flame’, who threatened a third and debilitating strike unless money was paid via PayPal or bitcoin.
A second YouTuber, known online as ‘Kenzo’ was also given similar treatment, with the scammer demanding money not to file complaints that could terminate his account.
Now, however, the tables are being turned after YouTube itself filed a complaint in federal court against Nebraska-resident Christopher Brady, the person who allegedly attempted to defraud both Obbyraidz and Kenzo.
“Defendant, Christopher L. Brady (‘Brady’), has repeatedly attempted to harass and extort money from YouTube content creators through bogus allegations of copyright infringement,” the complaint filed Monday begins.
“This lawsuit seeks to hold him accountable for that misconduct, and for the damage he has caused to YouTube.”
Detailing the DMCA takedown process in general and noting that notices can be used “maliciously to secure the removal of content that was not legitimately claimed to be infringing”, YouTube states it’s in a position to bring an action against a sender of bogus notices for damages.
“This is such an action,” the complaint reads.
According to YouTube, Brady sent the video platform dozens of DMCA notices falsely claiming that content posted by YouTube users infringed his supposed copyrights. He did this as part of a scheme to “harass and extort” innocent users, YouTube continues, in order to pressure them into payment and the avoidance of account closures.
Citing the work of three YouTubers – Obbyraidz, Kenzo and Cxlvxn – YouTube notes that between them they have uploaded around 1,000 videos related to video gaming. All are members of the YouTube Partner program, earning revenue from their work.
Brady allegedly targeted Kenzo and Obbyraidz “among others” by sending false DMCA notices to YouTube, claiming that he was the original creator of their videos, certifying as much “under penalty of perjury.” YouTube said it acted on these false claims, removing the videos.
However, when Kenzo and Obbyraidz went public with the extortion attempts, YouTube launched an investigation, restored the videos, and removed the strikes against their accounts.
The complaint alleges that in June and July 2019, Brady sent four more fraudulent notices, this time targeting Cxlvxn. However, this appears to have been an attempt to have Cxlvxn file a DMCA counter-notification, something that exposed his home address to Brady.
On July 10, 2019, six days after the counter-notification was filed, Cxlvxn reported he’d been ‘swatted’, something which YouTube describes as “the act of making a bogus call to emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address.” YouTube believes Brady was responsible.
As a result of the above actions, YouTube states that Brady is responsible for violations of 17 U.S.C. § 512(f). The company says it successfully traced back at least 15 online identities to the man, an investigation which caused it to expend “substantial sums” in an effort to bring the behavior to a halt.
The company is demanding preliminary and permanent injunctions against Brady, compensation to be decided at trial, costs, attorneys fees, and any further relief the court deems proper.
The YouTube complaint filed in Nebraska can be downloaded here (pdf)