You wouldn’t usually think of a YouTube copyright claim as being high stakes. Sometimes there’s a few dollars on the line… Or a few million. But usually the only thing at stake is whether their videos stay on YouTube. However, for these creators, a copyright claim has literally put their lives on the line.
The YouTubers that run a German-language YouTube offshoot of Arabic television network Al Hayat TV are facing death threats after being forced to reveal their personal information, including names and addresses, to keep their YouTube channel.
The network, which is notoriously critical of Islam, has been the subject of false copyright notices sent by a group calling itself “FirstCrist, Copyright.”
When YouTube receives such notices, they will usually take down the video immediately without any proof that copyright infringement has actually taken place. This may sound extreme but it has become the norm under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)’s ‘safe harbor’ protections, which frees websites that host content for users (like YouTube) from any responsibility for the content users upload so long as they have a system that allows offending material to be reported and quickly removed.
The only way to fight these claims is to send a counter notification; which includes providing your personal details to the person making claims against you.
When they received a copyright strike that resulted in the closure of their YouTube channel, Al Hayat employees contacted YouTube to express their belief that Islamist terrorists may be behind “FirstCrist, Copyright.” However, German-language newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (English translation) reports “the concern was ignored by the YouTube staff.”
Their worst suspicions were confirmed when, just two days after an Al Hayat employee submitted a counter notification containing their personal information, they received a death threat.
“Thank you for your personal information,” an email from “FirstCrist, Copyright” read. “Watch your head on and worry now that your house is placed under police protection!”
Counter notifications are intended to kick the ball out of YouTube’s court and into an actual court of law. However, for what may be the first time, terrorists have abused this system to get the name and location of a potential target.
The Al Hayat employee’s name and address are now on an Al Qaeda black list, and Al Hayat’s office building and television transmitters are being considered for the terrorist group’s future attacks. Police are currently investigating the threats, but the group is believed to have used measures that make them difficult to track down.
If left with the option of submitting your personal information to terrorists or having your YouTube channel deleted, what would you do?