Simple Steps To Protect Yourself Against Blatant YouTube Theft…

The following guest post comes from Ryan Born, the CEO of AdRev, a YouTube asset administration service and Multi-Channel Network (MCN).  AdRev operates, a do-it-yourself platform for music monetization and copyright enforcement on YouTube.  

First, my disclaimer… 

“I’m not representing the views or opinions of YouTube.  AdRev does not in any way feel that YouTube encourages its users to perform any of the actions depicted in this post.  In fact, it is our opinion that each of the four scenarios listed here would violate YouTube’s Terms of Service.  This post is not about YouTube as a company, YouTube personnel, or any policy of YouTube. Any references to YouTube’s guidelines are based on publicly available information and comments made by others.”

Now, my post…

At AdRev, we currently manage over 3 million music assets and have claimed 10 million YouTube videos.  At, which is our newly-launched, self-service YouTube monetization platform for musicians, labels, and publishers, we pay out 80 percent of earnings to our partners.  AdRev is a YouTube-certified company and we are 100 percent dedicated to YouTube monetization.  Our clients include the largest production music libraries on the planet, as well as independent labels, publishers such as BMG, and songwriters such as Jossua Mosser (co-writer of “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons).

We’ve been administering music copyrights within YouTube for nearly 3 years and in that time, we’ve seen YouTube users do lots of bad things.  When it comes to copyright, YouTube feels like the Wild West.  Every time we think we’ve seen it all, YouTube users (aka “YouTubers”) will surprise us and do something more egregious and absurd than we’ve ever seen before.

What follows are 4 examples of naughty things YouTubers may be doing with your music…

1) Uploading videos containing your music and encouraging others to rip out the audio.

Our clients regularlyfind HD YouTube videos with their music, encoded in a higher bit rate format than can be legally streamed online.  Now if that doesn’t bother you, because let’s say “you’re cool with fan uploads,” what if I told you clients have found YouTube users (by way of the video description fields and in the comments to their own channel subscribers), encouraging viewers to download YouTube audio ripping software such that they can extract and download your recordings in high fidelity without having to purchase them at retail.

YouTube is the #1 music discovery platform in the world and the #2 search engine (behind Google).  Therefore, you can bet your bottom dollar that before buying your content at retail, fans are likely going to first find it and stream it on YouTube.  Unless you want potential buyers to be encouraged to download full length, hi-res mp3s of your music for free, it would be a good idea to start tracking use of your music on YouTube and determining which usages to allows and which to shut down.

2) Reselling your original recordings as if they were their own.

Getting people to “shoot the lock off their wallets” and purchase your music with their hard earned money is tough enough.  But it only makes things harder when you find some hack reselling your recordings as if they were their own.  I’m not even talking about remixes or derivative works (which we’ll get into later), but literally reselling your original, unmodified recordings as if they were the copyright holder, and driving viewers of their YouTube channel to a personal digital storefront where they sell your recordings without your permission and keep 100% of the money. 

A variation of this scheme is when a YouTuber will build an audience with your recordings (which they may even claim are their own) and then send the YouTube traffic (by way of the video descriptions and comments) to websites where fans complete surveys and trial offers (e.g. sign up for Netflix to unlock this download) that generate affiliate advertising income for them while your music is given away in exchange.  Ugh.

3) Creating unauthorized derivative works based on your original music and reselling the new recordings as their own.

In case it’s unclear on what I mean by “derivative work” here, for purposes of this post let’s simply define it as follows: “taking your original recording, singing over it or remixing it, and claiming the new, slightly modified recording as their own”.  Yep, it happens, and I’m not talking about a more detailed legal matter like Robin Thicke / Marvin Gaye here.  I’m taking about literally rapping over your original music (looped) and calling it their own.

The YouTuber may then go and resell/redistribute the derivative work in iTunes by way of a digital distributor.  We’re aware of at least one case where an estimated $200,000 was earned by the “unauthorized derivative work” and the copyright holder of the original, underlying work would never have known about the existence of the scheme had they not signed up to be a client of ours.  This client is now in the process of collecting what is rightfully theirs.

4) Posting pirated films and TV episodes that contain your music (and even monetizing these videos)

Ever placed your music with a music library or synchronization/licensing agent?  Do you own / operate a music library?  Has your music been placed into a single television commercial, TV episode, promo, trailer, or film?  If you answered YES to any of these questions, then there is a very high likelihood that your music is on YouTube and synchronized, copied, and performed within unauthorized/unofficial uploads.

For clarification, I am not talking about legitimate, authorized licensees posting official videos to YouTube (e.g. Sony Pictures Entertainment posting trailers of their latest movie).  I’m referring to ripped off, unauthorized and unofficial versions of any and every popular television commercial, trailer, TV show, film that can be found on network and cable television, Netflix, etc.  YouTubers have been known to rip and upload this content to unofficial YouTube channels – both in short form, mash ups, and even full length (i.e. entire episodes).

If your music has ever been legitimately licensed, then it’s likely on YouTube illegitimately via unauthorized/unofficial/unlicensed uploads. Just search YouTube for your favorite shows and you’ll see what I mean.

Don’t shut them all down; there’s good money to be made.

YouTube continues to explode in popularity.  Barclays recently estimated YouTube’s 2013 revenue at $3.6 billion and growing at 20 percent annually.  A great deal of that revenue is being shared with both channel partners and music rights holders that monetize videos containing their content.  There are two main ways to participate in YouTube’s cash flow stream, which are as follows:

(a) Upload to your own channel and monetize (by way of ads) content that either (i) you own 100% or (ii) have permission (i.e. a license) to monetize.  Such monetization can be done directly via partnership with YouTube or via a 3rd party Multi-Channel Network (MCN),


(b) Find videos that have used your content (sound recordings, compositions, or audiovisual – i.e. footage, films, TV shows, etc.), claim those videos, and collect the advertising revenue generated by those videos either (i) through direct access to YouTube’s system or (b) though an MCN / administrator such as AdRev or via a self-service product like by AdRev.

Getting access to monetize via method A above appears simple.  Pretty much anyone with a minimal view count and an AdSense account in good standing can sign themself up for the YouTube partner program.  If you have any sort of traction on your official channel, you can join an MCN, like the one we operate at AdRev, where today we manage around 1,500 channels and administer 3 million music assets.  To quote YouTube’s guidelines:

“MCN services could include dedicated partner management, technology/tools, production facilities, promotion, channel optimization, advertising sales support, and/or other services”.

So it seems that there are good reasons why the majority of the top YouTube channels have partnered with MCNs.

We believe that it’s because the partners get much more value from the MCN than the MCN takes via any revenue share.

Based on previous posts and comments here at DMN, there seems to be some confusion about the difficulty in getting access to monetize your music (via method B above) and how easy it is to operate optimally.  Some say that direct access (method B(i) above) has been reserved for larger, well established rights holders.  Maybe that’s true, but even if it were, then why would nearly all of the major music publishers choose to place some of their assets with an MCN / administrator like AdRev ?

Could it be possible that we provide many of the value-added services depicted in YouTube’s guidelines?  Or that direct access alone isn’t good enough for everyone?  Are there opportunities to make more money and reduce costs by utilizing a network than by going at it alone?

There is real money at stake on YouTube.  Accordingly, it’s not a place to set it and forget it.

At AdRev, we have plenty of clients making over $100,000 per year on YouTube and there are many individual songs that generate upwards of $100 per day.  We’re on pace to pay out $4 Million in annual YouTube related earnings.

It doesn’t take a big name / big label to have big money potential on YouTube. Sometimes all it takes is a viral cat video mash-up with your song running in the background, or one popular moment from television where your music was legitimately sync’d. You should be ready for when that day comes.

While you may want to shut down YouTube videos that cross the line, consider monetizing those that don’t, and please do your homework – talk to potential partners and determine what’s best for you.

22 Responses

  1. Visitor

    No thanks, I prefer TuneStat to do the tracking and my wembaster to issue DMCA notices.

    • Visitor

      “No thanks, I prefer TuneSat to do the tracking”
      There’s no need to pay anybody to track anything on YouTube, but I’d love to hear how TuneSat works out for you in other areas (i.e. the rest of the web, TV, etc.)?

    • Visitor

      TuneSat is great for TV monitoring. TuneSat web detection doesn’t get anythng close number of videos your music is in when you have actual YouTube data and direct YouTube monitorings. There are like billions of videos on YouTube and no service other than YouTube’s own CMS can crawl YouTube and takedown all the videos automatically or run ads on them.

        • Visitor

          Don’t patronize me. I’m a user and have lots of good info from a former employee. I know.

  2. Visitor

    “a do-it-yourself platform for music monetization and copyright enforcement on YouTube”
    The good news is that artists don’t have to pay a cent for copyright enforcement on YouTube.
    Why not?
    Because of a clever thing called, um… ContentID.
    ContentID is easy, available and free to use for everybody who needs it:
    And if you want to know exactly how easy it is for individual, independent artists to use ContentID without any middle men, you should read Zoe Keating’s posts in the comment section of this article:
    If you want ContentID and keep all of your money, this is where you want to go:

    • Visitor

      Pauls and Jeff point was that getting access isn’t open to everyone just apply and see and if you do get access there could be permissions, experience, technology and staff, and things like premium advertising that MCN’s bring to the table and benefits are greater than u may be able to do w/ your own access but how would you ever know if you just think you do it right but the bigger talent and companies use services like this to increase earnings. These networks are monetizing most of the top vids so their scale may have advantages.

      • Visitor

        “These networks are monetizing most of the top vids”
        Please provide documentation.
        “getting access isn’t open to everyone”
        ContentID is free and available to everybody who needs it:
        “This program [ContentID] is designed for exclusive rights holders whose content is frequently uploaded to YouTube by the user community.
        If no one is uploading content you own, you don’t need this program. For content owners with only occasional content management needs, or who seek a simpler solution, YouTube’s other copyright tools may be more appropriate.”

        • Visitor

          See which network any channel is with on . Click the top 100 channels listing to see that in the top 20 channels, all but 7 are with a network and 3 of those 7 are youtube owned channels so don’t count that leaves 4 out of 17 of top 20.
          You can see MCNs dominate YouTube views by looking up Comscore here

          And for the language pasted here and on the othe youTube posts recently, if you read what you pasted, it even says the system isn’t for everyone and that link it only to apply, not to be accepted – apply and see. Will they ever get back to yous?. It’s like iTunes too you apply but not everyone gets accepted and they funnel you to a distributor / administrater. But if anyone can go direct, big or small, why do the big and small YouTube use MCN?
          “Some say that direct access (method B(i) above) has been reserved for larger, well established rights holders. Maybe that’s true, but even if it were, then why would nearly all of the major music publishers choose to place some of their assets with an MCN / administrator like AdRev ?
          Could it be possible that we provide many of the value-added services depicted in YouTube’s guidelines? Or that direct access alone isn’t good enough for everyone? Are there opportunities to make more money and reduce costs by utilizing a network than by going at it alone?”

  3. Music Publisher

    I’ve talked to BMG about YouTube issues before and they definitely aren’t represented by AdRev. Could you please clarify?

  4. Visitor

    “I’m not representing the views or opinions of YouTube”
    That’s for sure. YouTube does not recommend MCN’s.

  5. Room, Elephant In

    So why doesn’t YouTube prevent the MP3’s that are illegal from appearing in the first place?
    Why doesn’t YouTube prevent all four of these from happening in the first place?
    Why doesn’t YouTube prevent the illegal upload from happening in the first place?
    The technology exists.

    • Visitor

      “So why doesn’t YouTube prevent the MP3’s that are illegal from appearing in the first place?”
      It does — IF the owner wants it and signs up for YouTube’s free ContentID (NOT to be confused with AdRev’s!).
      The real ContentID is free and easy to use, and everybody who needs it can learn more here:

    • bandit

      I did not know the technology exists to prevent someone from uploading material that they don’t own the copyright for.
      Also, the way that copyright law and the DMCA is written, it is upto the copyright owner to enforce their copyrights. youtube doesn’t have to prevent someone from uploading content. In fact it is an integral part of their business model and part of the sytem they have set up to monetize content that the has been uploaded without the owner’s permission

  6. JTV Digital

    Hi there,
    I think this post is missing the point…
    The more your music is shared/viewed on YouTube, the better it is.
    As explained multiple times in various posts here, there are 2 ways to generate some ad revenue on YouTube as an artist:
    1/ on your own channel
    2/ via UGC (User Generated Content)
    You can monetize your own channel yourself by activating monetization on your videos after creating an AdSense account.
    You can monetize UGC yourself as well on your own after applying for a YouTube ContentID account, if you are the exclusive right holder.
    Or you can monetize 1 and 2 above via your distributor, which will give you a convenient way to aggregate your revenue with your other digital income from retail stores.
    We do this with a 90% pay out.

    JTV Digital

      • JTV Digital

        That’s correct.
        However it’s not always easy to manage and follow YT monetization, and we offer convenience by aggregating YT revenue with all other digital sales from downloads and streams.
        Remember most MCNs take a 30% cut, and Audiam gets 25% on UGC…

  7. David

    To make $100,000 from YouTube requires about 40 million plays. (I’m assuming a payout of about a quarter of a cent per play.) To make $100 a day from one song requires about 40,000 plays per day, or over 14 million per year. I’m sure there are some songs that achieve this level of plays – e.g. Katy Perry’s new video has had around 14 million plays in a few days – but for most artists it is fantasy land. For example, I just checked the numbers for Goldfrapp – not a Katy Perry style pop idol, but not a struggling beginner either. The video with the highest view count has had about 3 million plays over a 4 year period. A few others have had over a million plays, but most have had much less. I would be surprised if the total plays per year for all of Goldfrapp’s videos are more than about 5 million, which would generate about $12,000 income. I think that for most ‘middle class’ artists this is a more realistic expectation than the figures mentioned in the article. For less well-known artists even that would be optimistic.

    • Visitor

      Why would you want to help Google (NSA) enhance its audio/video recognition algos for free?!
      Are you all American musicians that stupid or just the ones who frequent on DMN?
      (yes, I insult you – it looks to be the only way the rest of us non-US citizens have to show you that the tech companies are fucking us up the ass and you are sitting there, cheering about pennies!)

      • Leon T.

        The majority of US citizens are well aware of the wealth and power that tech companies posess.
        These citizens are also comfortable with exchanging cetain civl liberties for new gadgets and services that make life seem more enjoyable.
        Now, I don’t know where you are from, but if you believe that your own government is NOT right now talking with tech and telecom companies about surveillance, data sweeps, location tracking etc. then you are living in your own fantasy world.
        The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.

        • Visitor

          There is only one YouTube on the planet and it is based in the US. So it is your responsibility to crush this mafia gang. We can’t do it for you from our countries. We are too far away from the thieves to kick their asses. Your artists, your engineers, your producers, give credibility to YouTube. If they stopped doing that, YouTube would beg for negotiations.

          • Leon T

            Did you read the comment? Because you have missed the point entirely.
            US citizens don’t want to “crush this mafia gang” and they certainly don’t want some pathetic foreign country or citizens from that country to “do it” for them.
            US citizens like youTube and you are certainly free to not visit youTube and only use whatever site that was developed in your country by the citizens in your country.
            Why don’t you get off the internet and experience life for awhile or is the country that you are from so lame that you would rather spend time on youtube?