When Lily Hevesh opened Twitter and saw YouTube’s Christmas video, it looked very familiar. That’s because it was her own.
YouTube’s tweet doesn’t credit Hevesh at all, or mention her YouTube channel. The tweet also cuts Hevesh’s intro, which acts as a welcome to her channel for those who stumble upon the video. Hevesh’s original video, uploaded to YouTube on December 23rd, has just over 60,000 views, but YouTube’s lifted version boasts more than 250,000.
Hevesh, a professional domino artist, uses YouTube as, essentially, a specialized form of advertising for her work. You can see what her creations look like, if you want to hire her. By stripping out the attribution to Hevesh when it brought the video to a broader audience, YouTube’s tweet — sent out to 71 million subscribers — prevents Hevesh from getting the recognition that might lead to jobs.
“Very glad to see that my Christmas domino e-card is getting good use,” Hevesh tweeted on Christmas. “However, I’m a bit disappointed that YouTube would take my video and re-upload it with absolutely no credit.”
The problem is even broader, though. YouTube creators like Hevesh rely on views and subscribers to retain ad deals and secure sponsorship deals — so when YouTube didn’t direct viewers to Hevesh on YouTube, the company cost her money directly. Which may be why Hevesh’s disappointment caught the attention of both creators and the community-at-large.
“Merry Christmas! YouTube just freebooted one of its own creators,” Sabrina Cruz, a YouTube creator with just under 200,000 subscribers, tweeted.
Reuploading video while stripping credit is a practice that YouTube explicitly condemns. YouTube’s community guidelines and policy page specifically states that creators should only “upload videos that you made or that you’re authorized to use.” But YouTube does own a limited license to people’s videos, so legally, the company can take Hevesh’s content and upload it to its Twitter account. The problem is ethical.
“I just don’t get it,” Hevesh followed up. “YouTube created Content ID to protect creators from thieves freebooting their videos, yet here they are re-uploading people’s work for promotional purposes [without] any credit.”
YouTube did acknowledge its mistake in a followup tweet on December 26th, plugging Hevesh’s channel. Hevesh responded, stating that “YouTube came thru.”
YouTube and Hevesh didn’t immediately respond to emails requesting their comments.
Update December 26th, 12:55PM ET: YouTube recognized Hevesh’s channel in a followup tweet. The story has been updated.