YouTube’s biggest royalty rip-off in history is just a highlight of a much bigger problem.

Need an easy way to make $23 million? Have you ever thought about claiming music uploaded to YouTube by other users as your own and collecting royalties?

That’s basically all two men from Phoenix did to swindle Latin artists like Daddy Yankee and Julio Iglesias out of millions of dollars in royalties, as detailed in a new story from Billboard last week.

According to Christine Robinson of Billboard, Jose “Chenel” Medina Teran and Webster Batista created a media company called MediaMuv and claimed to own the rights to various Latin American music songs and compositions. In total, MediaMuv claimed to own more than 50,000 copyrights since 2017, when Teran and Batista began their scheme.

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In order for MediaMuv to claim these copyrights and receive royalties through YouTube’s Content ID system, the fraudulent company needed to work with AdRev, a third-party company that has access to YouTube’s CMS and Content ID tools and helps artists manage their digital copyrights. MediaMuv created several fake documents and provided AdRev with these documents to prove ownership of the music it claimed. From there, AdRev not only helped MediaMuv collect royalties for those copyrights, but also gave Terana and Batista direct access to the YouTube CMS so they could claim the copyright themselves.

Teran and Batista’s four-year royalty heist came to an end late last year following an investigation by the IRS. According to Billboard, they were charged with “30 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft.” Teran pleaded not guilty. His trial will take place in November. Batista, on the other hand, took a plea deal to one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. As a result, Batista provided a lot of information about how they implemented their scheme.

as Billboard notes that the case of Teran and Batista was particularly “insolent”. It’s said to be one of the “biggest YouTube music royalty scams in history.”

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 identification system, designed to help creators, has been exploited by unscrupulous actors to monetize content that isn’t theirs. While some false claims are just mistakes made by automated systems, the MediaMuv case is a great example of how fraudsters also purposefully exploit digital copyright rules.

Because of how powerful these systems are, YouTube tries to be careful about who it gives access to its CMS and Content ID tools. As a result, independent creators and artists cannot verify these false copyright claims and have no authority to directly act on them. They need to go through a digital rights management company that has access. And it appears that thieves are doing the same, falsifying documents to gain access to these YouTube tools through third parties that YouTube “trusts” with these tools.

The Billboard the piece you should check out to learn more about this over-the-top scheme mentions how Content ID fraudsters typically claim a piece of a song, hoping that with so many songwriters and such, a small percentage of ownership in the music might go unnoticed. MediaMuv, however, had the courage to claim copyright for the songs in their entirety. While it’s incredible that these two scammers took this long, just think how many more careful scammers are still skimming royalties from countless artists.

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