A grand jury has indicted two men for orchestrating a large YouTube Content ID fraud that garnered them more than $20 million. Webster Batista Fernandez and Jose Teran persuaded a YouTube partner that they controlled the rights to over 50,000 music, then unlawfully monetized user submissions over four years.
Sad YouTube Copyright holders must be protected. YouTube has a sophisticated pirate detection system that highlights videos or music that has been used without authorization on users’ channels.
Infringing content can be banned or monetized by funneling ad income to copyright holders, which can be highly lucrative for the rightsholders in issue, thanks to this ‘Content ID’ mechanism.
YouTube has previously stated that it has paid rightsholders $5.5 billion in ad income from material claimed and monetized using Content ID, however, the system does not always perform as intended.
Countless YouTube customers have reported over the years that their videos have been alleged and monetized by entities that appear to have no right to do so, but many have opted to withdraw from fights they feared they would lose because they were afraid of what a complaint would do to their accounts’ status.
The scope of the problem has been unknown until recently, but a scandal exposed in court filings unsealed in Arizona sheds light on the murky realm of Content ID misuse.
Indictment by Grand Jury
United States of America vs. Webster Batista Fernandez and Jose Teran uncovers a large Content ID fraud that netted the 36 and 38-year-olds from Scottsdale, Arizona, and Doral, Florida, more than $20 million.
The foundations are simple. Fernandez and Teran began selling music on YouTube for a massive collection of over 50,000 songs, none of which they held the rights to, beginning in 2017 and continuing until at least April 30, 2021.
The two fraudulently claimed to be the proprietors of the song and were entitled to “royalty payments” from its usage on YouTube to YouTube and an intermediate firm known only by the letters A.R. In certain cases, the defendants utilized fake artist documents claiming that they possessed the rights to commercialize their songs.
The Defendants’ Deception
Batista is a Dominican Republic citizen who serves as the president of Musika LLC, the CEO of MediaMuv LLC, and a member and statutory agent of Elegre Records LLC. Teran is the proprietor of MuveMusic LLC and the registered agent of Musika Inc LLC. He is also the agent of VA Music Inc (a member of MediaMuv LLC) as well as the registered agent of Musika Inc LLC.
On or around April 21, 2017, Batista and Teran (through MediaMuv) signed a contract with A.R., a company that manages and pays people who claim songs on YouTube. MediaMuv claimed to be the “writer, author, publisher, copyright holder, and originator” of a vast collection of musical compositions in their contract. The firm also stated that it will not infringe on any third-party rights in any way.
MediaMuv claimed the 50,000+ track musical library its own and got it posted to YouTube after promising not to provide any content to A.R. if it thought any of the supplied content was not approved for commercial use and monetization.
After then, A.R. was in charge of enforcing MediaMuv’s content claims on YouTube and making the necessary “royalty payments.”
Scam Claims and Payments totaling $20,776,517.31
According to the indictment, A.R. paid the defendants a total of $20.77 million over the course of roughly four years, but the artists who created the recordings received nothing. J.L.P ($132,702), L.C. ($128,339), and C.P. ($102,626) are among the artists who should have earned recompense but were only identified by their initials.
Since Batista and Teran appear to have pocketed everything, the real payments to these artists were $0 in total. The indictment lists $546,000 in property purchases, over $130,000 on a 2017 Tesla, more than $92,000 on a BMW i8, and $62,500 on jewelry as expenditure events carried out by the defendants.
Given the contract’s false character, YouTube paid the couple a large sum that should have gone to the legitimate artists and producers. The indictment names thirty of the highest-grossing musicians by initial, but many more are affected. Huge numbers of YouTubers were also duped by Batista and Teran, who had their uploads marked as infringing by YouTube and A.R. and then monetized by Batista and Teran.
Complaints are easy to come by. Many victims of the fraud have submitted videos to YouTube dating back years, while a dedicated Twitter account and a popular hashtag have been protesting about MediaMuv since 2018.
Complaints began to appear on YouTube/help Google’s boards as early as 2017, with one generating more than 150 responses.
“I’d want to submit a claim through this site since a firm named MEDIAMUV has been stealing content from my channel and other users for a few days now, does anyone know anything about this company?” one reads.
“I looked into it, and there is nothing in this regard.” I only discovered a channel claiming that some people are being scammed and that when they submit their tracks, MEDIAMUV recognizes the videos as theirs.”
The Indictment’s Charges:
Thirty charges of conspiracy to conduct wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft have been filed against Batista and Teran.
The indictment also asks for the confiscation of all property linked to the pair’s crimes, including a home in Phoenix, Arizona, the contents of two bank accounts, and a Tesla and BMW.