Terrorists have been able to use false copyright claims to obtain the personal details of their critics on YouTube, a German newspaper reports—and the critics have subsequently received death threats and had their details shared online.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), content-hosting websites can not be held accountable for copyright-infringing content hosted on their sites so long as they have a system in place whereby offending material can be reported and removed. YouTube’s implementation of the DMCA has previously been criticized as overzealous and open to abuse by those trying to shut down legitimate criticism—but the German-language report by FAZ marks a far more serious abuse of the system.
The German arm of Al-Hayat, a YouTube network critical of Islam operated in part by former Muslims has been subjected to false copyright notices by a group calling itself “First Crist, Copyright.” Under YouTube’s implementation of the DMCA, the reported material was taken down proactively, without proof required that it infringed upon the complainant’s intellectual property.
In order to contend such claims, Google’s policy allows the defendant to respond to the complainant, but in doing so, even anonymous account holders must provide their personal details, which will then be “[forwarded] to the user who submitted the original copyright claim,” and that “by submitting a counter-notification, you consent to having your data be disclosed in this manner.”
Given the nature of the material flagged up, it was distributed largely pseudonymously, with the creators reticent to show their faces publicly. In negotiations with YouTube Al-Hayat expressed their fears that “First Crist, Copyright” could be a front for Islamist terrorists—but FEZ reports (per translation) that “the concern was ignored by the YouTube staff and the channel [was] locked.”
Finally, an Al-Hayat employee decided to provide their data—and the response was exactly as they’d feared.
“Thank you for your personal information,” an email sent by First Crist, Copyright. “Watch your head… and worry now that your house is placed under police protection!” The email also promised to share the information with Al-Qaeda and European jihadists.
It’s unlikely that the identify of whoever was behind First Crist, Copyright will be readily ascertained: The details are for “Edward Samuel George,” and the personal address points to a Woolworth store in Sydney, Australia.
YouTube told FEZ that the company “can not intervene in the dispute” if more than one person is alleging ownership of copyright, and that the parties “need to speak directly to each other to find a solution.” The Daily Dot has reached out to YouTube for comment and will update if we hear back.