A couple of weeks ago, YouTube released its YouTube Rewind 2018 video. It quickly became the most-loathed video in the entire history of YouTube: 14 million down-votes. Not good.
But then came Christmas Day, and YouTube apparently managed to top its own blunder.
How? By uploading a promo video wishing viewers a Merry Christmas on Twitter. The problem: YouTube allegedly didn't own the video. Instead, it copied a YouTube user's video and reposted it as its own, without so much as offering credit.
The video itself is impressive: one of those "falling domino" videos that looks like it took a long time to create.
The only real difference between the version of video that YouTuber Lily Hevesh created and uploaded to YouTube, and the one that YouTube reportedly passed off as its own work in a post on Twitter is that YouTube's version on Twitter skipped the opening 20 seconds.
That would be the part in which Hevesh, who describes herself as a "domino artist," shared her logo and a short clip of herself setting up the dominoes. (I'll embed both versions at the bottom of this article and you can see for yourself.)
Hevesh caught what YouTube had apparently done about 14 hours after the post, and tweeted a response:
"Very glad to see that my Christmas domino e-card is getting good use. However, I'm a bit disappointed that YouTube would take my video and re-upload it with absolutely no credit. People rip off my work everyday and it's honestly saddening to see this happen by YouTube itself."
I have to say, that's an extremely diplomatic way of reacting: "I'm a bit dispappointed... honestly saddening." She'd be within her rights to sound a lot angrier.
very glad to see that my Christmas domino e-card is getting good use!-- Lily Hevesh (@Hevesh5) December 26, 2018
however, I'm a bit disappointed that YouTube would take my video and re-upload it with absolutely no credit. People rip off my work everyday and it's honestly saddening to see this happen by YouTube itself. https://t.co/TZzMVAyy0u
It's not just a matter of pride. As The Verge points out in reporting on this, for Hevesh and creators like her, this kind of "freebooting" is a matter of money:
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.
Even if money weren't involved, YouTube's own terms of service and copyright page seem to ban exactly what it looks like was done here. It's a mess.
In the end, YouTube owned up to its mistake -- well, partway anyway. It tweeted a follow-up on the day after Christmas, acknowledging that they "forgot to credit @Hevesh5 for this video!" and linking to Hevesh's YouTube page.
YouTube still got skewered by many video creators and others for the whole thing, and for not actually apologizing even in the acknowledgment tweet. As one Twitter user put it: "'Forgot' is a funny way to spell 'completely missed rule one of our own website'."
Now, there could be a silver lining here, which is that Hevesh and her videos got a lot more publicity and views out of this whole debacle than she perhaps would have if YouTube have never reposted her video to begin with. But that doesn't make any of it right.
And in fact, freebooting has apparently been a problem for Hevesh for a long time. In fact, her pinned tweet on her Twitter page for more than a year apparently is a video compilation that she made, in response to the fact that other people constantly rip off her videos and create their own compilations.
People always steal my domino videos to make their own "compilation" videos... so I made my own I'm proud to present to you the most ODDLY SATISFYING domino video in the world! https://t.co/O4NT7ejXvC (please RT to support the rightful owner of these domino videos!) pic.twitter.com/3GkRbDiiYw-- Lily Hevesh (@Hevesh5) December 2, 2017
Here's Hevesh's original dominos video, and the YouTube version. Is YouTube's response sufficient? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Here's Hevesh's version...
And here's what YouTube posted on Twitter: