$23 Million YouTube Royalties Scam

Scammers were able to convince YouTube that other people’s music was their own. They successfully stole $23 million before they were caught.

No one knows how common this scam is, and how much money total is being stolen in this way. Presumably this is not an uncommon fraud.

While the size of the heist and the breadth of the scheme may be very unique, it’s certainly a situation that many YouTube content creators have faced before. YouTube’s Content ID system, meant to help creators, has been weaponized by bad faith actors in order to make money off content that isn’t theirs. While some false claims are just mistakes caused by automated systems, the MediaMuv case is a perfect example of how fraudsters are also purposefully taking advantage of digital copyright rules.

YouTube attempts to be cautious with who it provides CMS and Content ID tool access because of how powerful these systems are. As a result, independent creators and artists cannot check for these false copyright claims nor do they have the power to directly act on them. They need to go through a digital rights management company that does have access. And it seems like thieves are doing the same, falsifying documents to gain access to these YouTube tools through these third parties that are “trusted” with these tools by YouTube.

Posted on August 15, 2022 at 9:14 AM13 Comments


Frank B. August 15, 2022 11:05 AM

Yet another example of why anti-social media is a cancer on society. It’s long past due time for all the players in the field to be regulated and reigned in. Civilization depends on it.

artist soul August 15, 2022 12:41 PM

Not a surprise. I have seen this happen 4-5 years ago with a rather famous youtube guitarrist from UK.
For me the worst thing is how this allows big media companies to deliberately steal creator’s money in a very simple way: the claim everything they can (as long as there is something related to any of their copyrighted material). Then you claim that is wrong, but they ignore you. Next step would be going to court, but small creators can’t afford that, not to mention they should do that for every video that has been claimed.
So, if you upload a cover, a video explaning how to play a song, or even a common chord progression that is used in hundreds of songs, chances are that all income from youtube ads is going to end to Sony, Universal, WB, or some of the other few.

And those greedy */%?~&! still claim “we do it to protect the artists”.
Somebody kill me please.

Frankly August 15, 2022 3:08 PM

YouTube makes $5 billion a quarter just from ads on videos. Facebook makes far more. That is why 23 million can be taken in a scam. It is difficult to notice out of the total revenue. And note that the IRS is the one that found the scam, not YouTube.

E.R. August 15, 2022 4:06 PM

A lot of, eh, “features” of society depend on the participants acting in “good faith” (with honest intentions).

I saw in the news recently about how someone who normally lives in Massachusetts had lost their home in Florida to a scammer. The scammer had apparently watched the house for some time and noticed that no one lived there, and then filed a “quitclaim deed” to get the house transferred to themselves. Quitclaim deeds are apparently not scrutinized to the same degree as other title transfers.

There are probably a lot of open attack vectors like this in the world. Unfortunately. Made me wonder what would happen if all morals disappeared? Is it possible to have a “zero trust” society?

Ted August 15, 2022 4:09 PM


And note that the IRS is the one that found the scam, not YouTube.

I don’t entirely know how the IRS got looped into this, but a Billboard article says that a dogged whistleblower set up a Twitter account (@FuckMediaMuv) whose posts frequently tagged local news outlets in Phoenix and Miami, along with the IRS.

MAc's Opinion August 16, 2022 1:23 PM

YouTube is terrible when it comes to copyright claims. They keep dinging me for my OWN content that I created from scratch. The worst part is trying to convince them that whoever is claiming the claim is lying and that I am the owner of the content.

As far as music on YouTube, it sucks when they ding you if something is played for 3 seconds in the background destroying the video you spent hours creating! Yet you have these F’n TicTockers playing copyrighted music all through the platform.
YouTube only looks out for its highest revenue makers IMO.

SpaceLifeForm August 16, 2022 3:22 PM

@ E.R.

re: quitclaim deeds

It sure smells of forged signatures and outright fraud.


Florida law requires that the grantor must sign the deed in the presence of two witnesses and a notary public. The witnesses must also sign in the presence of the notary.

With sufficient cash, one may be able to control Mar-a-Lago via this method.

fib August 17, 2022 8:05 AM

@ FrankB.

Yet another example of why anti-social media is a cancer on society. It’s long past due time for all the players in the field to be regulated and reigned in. Civilization depends on it.

I second every word. But I’m afraid we are past the returning point.

Just about every society woe nowadays can be traced back to social media. I’ve got a feeling that missiles will start flying soon [as a result of this corrosion of the common ground]. Then no electricity, no internet.

As I see this sad spectacle not a single ounce of optimism is left in me.

In the end we’ll find that the social media problem was self-correcting – in a radical way.

JustAThought August 17, 2022 10:20 PM

I am bombarded constantly by advertisements for “Have you been injured at work?”, “Have you been exposed to Asbestos?, etc. Radio, TV, magazines, internet, billboards, etc. A seemingly limitless number of ambulance chasing lawyers.

Why aren’t there any lawyers going after blatant theft of copyright royalties? Seems like such an open and shut legal case, with provable financial damages…

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