How to Find YouTube Videos in Violation of Copyright

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As far as online video is concerned… if it’s not on YouTube, then it’s not a video. I publish all my videos to YouTube, along with a few other places. I’ve been publishing videos for several years, but never found a place that offers me more than YouTube does. I definitely have to give a shoutout to Kat, who does all my video encoding and uploading for me. She makes my job a heck of a lot easier, definitely.

What happens when a video is yanked off of YouTube, due to alleged copyright infringement? Does it disappear forever? Being that it’s digital media, it will just crop up elsewhere. If you kill one, three others will pop up in its place. This is what sparked the YouTomb project.

YouTomb is a research project by MIT Free Culture that tracks videos taken down from YouTube for alleged copyright violation. More specifically, YouTomb continually monitors the most popular videos on YouTube for copyright-related take downs. Any information available in the metadata is retained, including who issued the complaint and how long the video was up before take down. The goal of the project is to identify how YouTube recognizes potential copyright violations as well as to aggregate mistakes made by the algorithm.

When a user-submitted video is suspected to infringe copyright, the rights holder is contacted and given the option to take down the video in question. In addition, rights holders can submit DMCA take down notifications at any time that cause YouTube to immediately remove alleged infringing content. MIT Free Culture became especially interested in the issue after YouTube announced that it would begin using filtering technology to scan users’ video and audio for near-matches with copyrighted material. While automating the take down process may make enforcement easier, it also means that content falling under fair-use exceptions and even totally innocuous videos may receive some of the collateral damage.

These videos are not available for viewing/downloading. Once again, this is simply a research project that seeks to find out more details about how YouTube locates and takes down videos accused of copyright violation. If you believe your video was wrongfully taken down (it falls under fair use, or it contains no copyrighted material), you can file a DMCA counter-claim to have your video restored.

Very cool project.


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118 thoughts on “How to Find YouTube Videos in Violation of Copyright”

  1. Pingback: 1970s
  2. Thank god, some political videos are taken down, with no reason. Now people can see the censorship. (Some do need to be taken down, but the ones i see taken down. Don’t need to be.)

  3. I’ve tried to find alot of Family Guy clips and so on, but all the fun stuff isn’t on youtube. Youtomb, unfortunately, doesn’t actually SHOW the videos, but shows information about them. It’s a cool find if you’re looking for the reason why your video was taken down though!

  4. Sounds like an interesting project. I’m sure it’s impossible for YouTube to control all of the videos on their site, and by the same token, be correct on all copyright violations. I wonder if this will attract any attention from YouTube.

  5. I had no idea such a project existed. I have received an email from YouTube about a few videos that I have uploaded. They were all deemed a copyright infringement because I included an artist’s song in the background. They said that they would keep the video online, but they would show advertisements on the video’s page.

    My friend also got one of their videos taken down for a Village People Parody he and his friends made. YouTube claimed that they did not want people getting their video confused with the original Village People music video. However, I wonder if it is a copyright violation even if you upload the original music video!

    All in all, I think YouTube’s “filtering” is a little strict, but if it keeps copyrighted material out of YouTube, I am all for it!

  6. I find this fun to look at from time to time and see who is taking down what, and how long its been up for. You find some interesting things, props to the guys over at MIT for putting this together

  7. YouTomb… I’ve heard of it before. Still don’t understand how it works yet, since it’s not directly related to YouTube?
    An interesting thing to note is that rarely do any YouTube users report videos simply because they watch them or they uploaded the videos themselves. Apparently a major move is going against the SpongeBob and South Park videos. Lol.
    The counter-claim doesn’t seem effective though, rarely do they admit they’re wrong and put things back up. Tche.

  8. Wow very cool project. Its always fun to see the videos that Youtube has taken off of their site. As I am on the site now, something called triangle wrestling is shown. Very funny and cool!

    Thanks for the blog post Chris!

  9. It’s interesting to see how many videos are taken offline everyday. Too bad you can’t actually watch the videos that have been taken down.

  10. Hmmm Although this is a good innovation, i doubt many of us will ever actually use it to check for copyrighted material??

    After all, we all just want entertainment right?

  11. Thanks for this post. I often wondered why some great videos would vanish from youtube. This site has already given me some answers about a few videos that I was wondering about. A lot of interesting stuff. I saw where one wrestling video was pulled down after 456 days and over four million views for copyright infringement. Wow.

  12. So that explains the thousands of videos that dissapeared from youtube.. Its a good thing that there exists a project or whatever you call it that backup’s the videos under a copyright infringement..

  13. I remember seeing this on your Twitter a few days ago. I do believe it might be a problem if YouTube’s new filtering software decides to take down legit videos. Let me tell you, people would be mad. Still, good research project. As far as I understand it, they are monitoring to see just how great YouTube can write a piece of filtering software.

  14. Freedom of speach is something that is dangerous to the guys who make wars etc. The fact is once the Copywright stuff has been stopped, the laws will also stopp freedom of speech in the way that you’ll get sued for bad-mouthing any particular company etc… This new frontier is almost gone.

  15. I think that one of the issues not really considered is if maintaining such a list may constitute a copyright violation in and of itself, has anyone considered that youtomb itself may find itself under fire for some reason?

    I know it’s unlikely, but then again, lawyers aren’t ones for letting things like that get in their way.

  16. Youtube’s policy of “take down first, investigate when someone complains” has caused far to many legitimate videos to be treated like infringing content. Hopefully this MIT project can shine a light on just how often non-infringing videos are taken down.

  17. Personally I’m of the opinion that anything which keeps information alive and out there and -free- is a good thing. This is one of those. Not often I can say this, but thanks MIT. Information is like air, if you don’t have it you’ll die, and if you have to pay for it, you won’t have it for long.

  18. Yes but it’s the responsibility of youtube which videos are posted on his website and it’s sure that they are very attentive and try to avoid every conflict with the companies and because of that they are deleting every suspicious file.

  19. I personally think that everything on the web should have “tomb” of sorts. There’s alot of software that I would love to use that I cannot seem to find anymore. Maybe more sites will offer such a functionality, I mean after all the internet is for information right? I like to know what is going on with the things I watch and the sites I frequent.

  20. Thats really some great news Chris, i would never know such thing exists if you didn’t publish this post.
    And I think this is really a great project by Youtomb.

    But even now, i am finding so many copyrighted material that have in youtube since some months/years which has not yet been removed.

  21. It’s about time something like this was put into place. I haven’t had many problems with uploading my videos to Youtube, but Esnips’ automated copyright checker rejects anything that remotely SOUNDS like professionally mastered music!

    It would be nice if Youtomb would branch out to other media sharing sites as well and see how they determine copyright infringement.

  22. I find it interesting that there is a video site that hosts videos that were taken down because they are violating copyright laws. I wonder if that site is breaking any laws.

  23. About someone who asked “who would want to check out took down videos?”. I would. My account on YouTube is centered around Gaming, I uploaded a video to YouTube that had GTA IV mission content on it. It had the most views I’ve ever had with one of my videos and… you guessed it! It got took down.

    YouTube thinks simple, they think “we’ll take it down now, and then look into it”, this has caused havoc. One of the people on my friends list even got his channel took down, because one person complained about a video. Turns out the person who complained, complained about the wrong channel!

  24. someday youtomb will have more then youtube itself ! i predict that !

    after which microsoft or google will buy it and delete it all again.

  25. I honestly think this is pretty dumb. All literature that becomes good (or even film) streams off of other “stuff.” I look at it this way… if it went on television… everyone’s going to it engrained in their head now – yes, only those who developed the final product should get paid right?

    But think about this, a lot of scripts and things we see on television go through a long and drawn out editing process. Sometimes the final product isn’t even close to what the original writer created. Often, the first writer sells the script for less and doesn’t even get credit for having any part of it – it’s the final writer (the one in the credits) that gets the moolah. Would it be copywriting still if the original owner uses his/her material?

    The answer is in the law, “yes it’s copywriting,” BECAUSE, they’ve sold the rights to the literature and are no longer the owners of their “masterpiece.” Very good books and stories have been totally botched when they’ve been written for television (i.e. The Sleepy Hollow, or Life’s and Loves of a She-devil). But what can I say… business is business… I think it’s silly to assume copyrights to a degree… especially when our society is so capable of creating copies (even if it’s VCR) and watching it again anyway.

    It all comes down to the scrutiny of a few people making a loud noise in court. *sigh*

    Kind Regards,

  26. I believe that people who upload copyrighted material will get sued for millions of dollars, depending on how much they have uploaded and what it is they have uploaded. For some reason, some people think if its on youtube, they will not get into trouble, where in fact, they will.

  27. As a state-level technology coordinator, this site was an excellent share! I plan on sharing it with our state librarians who can use it as an educational tool when talking about copyright!

    In regards to the question about the parody video…there is a section under fair use that covers a parody of a work, but they were using the original song which violated the copyright. If they changed the song and sung it themselves, that would be different.

    I think it is difficult for people to know who owns what anymore on the Internet and it’s truly and up-hill battle to get people (and students) to understand copyright law and realize that people DO get sued.

  28. Aagh i hate that companies or any one else gets so paranoid about the copyright stuff it just drives me nuts. I recently read some where that USA is trying to have so called “Copyright police troops”, what they will basically do is that they will find people who use music or videos illegally. But the most crazy thing about is that they can take your computer, external, server, etc from your home with out judges permission. I sure will some how rebel against that and they are trying to get those troops all around the world

  29. I was never aware of YouTomb. Thanks for yet another great internet find! I’ve already checked it out and found several interesting ones there!

  30. thats really silly that a company is sueing you tube , its the internet its owned by everyone surely there must be some sort of law that states copy in videos on the net should’nt apply if u are just watching something.

  31. @willschollar: problem is companies can’t exist without money and are trying to get the max profit, which in turns makes them money hungry.

    If they would just mellow out once they got all of the money back with profit on top then they wouldn’t be seen as money grabbing corporations.

    Then again who ever is the biggest will probably survive, unless size is a bad aspect.

  32. That is neat how they identify and take down copywrighted material but there are thousands and thousands of videos on you tube that are copywrighted how do they identify the one’s that the copyright holder has on there page from the ones that are pirated at least i now know that if any of my personal videos are taken down there is a way to have them put back up again I am bookmarking this blog for future use

  33. Never heard of YouTomb.So much thing is yet to learn here on this blog.Thanks Chris.

  34. Great idea, i’m always annoyed when i watch a video thats there one day and then is taken down for ‘alleged copyright’ really helpful thanks!

  35. Great name, and great idea im always so annoyed when i watch a video one day, then the next i cant find it because it was taken down by youtubes copyright team…

  36. i just saw the video on
    funny how in the beginning, YouTube was violating copyrights allowing every tv show to be put up but now they are part of the digital machine they want to be all narrow.

    YouTube needs to make the call themselves rather than let a company assume someone is violating anything.

  37. It’s a good site, but needs some improvements.

    The author of the videos could be stated by it, if you are looking for a specific video, which was what I was trying to do.

    But, why couldn’t YouTube catch the copyrighted material when it is put up, so that it wont be up in the first place. They could briefly view each video when being uploaded, and deleted if necessary, or can be allowed.

  38. That is certainly interesting. I would like to hear what the final results are of the project.

  39. I find it extremely annoying when people copy my videos. And I can understand why big companys are so against it.

  40. Very interesting, and I think that Google can do it. They have the man power to monitor their algorithm’s choices and make manual corrections to find the problems and within a few months have it totally automated.

    PS: I love the new look of your blog!!!

  41. I think it’s a good idea because now you can see why the video was taken down. Before, they didn’t give you any information but now, like I said, you can see what you did wrong and make sure you don’t do it again.

  42. Yes, it is VERY interesting to see what people take down. Sometimes the videos are just ridiculous, and should have never been taken down.

  43. i hate youtube and the stupid copyrights, i have had three of my videos taken down by the NFL do to copyright and it is just annoying, it is not like these videos are harming the companies, it is kind of like free advertising and helps the companies.

  44. yea youtube does do this alot its very frustrating specially when you know you didnt do anything wrong and you video is fine. another good post chris

  45. If its not on youtube, its not a video…. amen! I’m lucky, I’ve never had one of my videos flagged or anything before. It does make me mad though sometimes when I really find a video I want to watch and that dang pink bar shows up saying that this video was removed due to copy right infringement or something like that. It does get annoying after a while.

  46. Maybe companies should pay Youtube to put some sort of copyright license on copyright videos, since it can’t really hurt to have a video on Youtube, since you can link it to your own website for your own purposes. If they do that, then the video can’t be downloaded, and basically that company got someone to make a video for them for free. It’s an idea Youtube could use to make some money I guess…

  47. Many people posted a lot of indecent videos or videos with harmful content.I am glad that there is somebody who’s cleaning the area.

  48. It’s a cool site but it would m,ake even better (and illegal) if they actually showed the banned content.

  49. YouTomb? They’re tracking videos that are being taken down? In my opinion it’s a waste of time. They could be using their time and efforts to do something useful instead like making YouTube videos instead of monitroing ones that are being taken down.

  50. Ive always wondered what happens to them, if they just get deleted or they get put in some secret storage for further review. The audio and image scanners could kill some videos using audio like a song that plays in a movie which could be very bad. Sounds like a fun project to work on, lets see what they can come up with πŸ™‚

  51. They way I see it is that a book can’t solve relationship problems only the two that are having the problem can. But, since the book got a good review I guess I’ll just have to pick one up when and if a relationship problem comes my way later in life. πŸ˜‰

  52. What makes me lafgh about You Tube,take a look at the How To videos 99% of the front page is soft porn.Now you would think with my name i would be into that well no because if i want to see porn i go to a porn site i come here to see You tube stuff not some fat arsed girl shaking her booty,or the latest “mixed” wrestling,just take a look its pathetic but i quess it shows people WILL do anything

  53. That sounds like a cool site. I’ll be checking that out and reading some of the dumb reasons that videos get removed. Some of the reasons can be really dumb and I hate that. For example your video Chris. It had nothing to do with THX but yet they had a problem with it just because it said THX in the title.

  54. This is a awesome idea. I have been looking for something like this for the longest time now! Now I know where to find all my videos that have been taken off. Thanks Chris for showing me this!

  55. I agree with most of the others.

    DRM is lame. Sharing is sharing. The people that want to argue with that. Bring it on. ([email protected]) My question would be Have you ever lent a pencil to someone you know? *nudge That’s sharing. People really need to lighten up about the whole (C) issue. I’m sure that the people who made those videos would love the publicity. I don’t get people anymore. Well at least those people.


  56. Yeah, Youtube seems to be unfair about such things. Basically if ANYONE contacts them and complains about material they’ll remove it to avoid any trouble.

    Since when is “Fair Use” restricted solely to television?

  57. Personally, I hate it (sometimes) when Youtube takes down a video I really want to watch. I know there’s copyright and all that, but if no one complains to Youtube about copyright infringement then they don’t take it down. I also understand why Youtube has all these rules and terms, because people don’t want their currency wasted if you post something that you would regularly have to pay for. I am also glad that Youtube has these because if Youtube didn’t, the site would’ve been taken down due to laws and whatnot already.

  58. What an interesting project at
    I checked out their website (unfortunate that nothing can be viewed =P), and I find one thing very interesting. Many videos are taken down quite literally in a matter of few days. However, there are also numerous number of videos that are taken down after a period of time, whether it’s a month, 2 months, whatever. There’s even one on the front page that was taken down after 810 DAYS! that’s like 2+ years. I can’t help but wonder why it wasn’t found violating the copyright terms till 2 years after the video was posted. I’m guessing the majority of viewers don’t find it a violation. Maybe there’s a youtube officer paid to go around and watch every single video in order to find one that’s violating the infringement =P.

  59. i believe that that youtomb is a waste of time because keeping tract of videos that have been taken down to me seems useless
    . maybe if they played the videos that were taken down it would bee a whole other story but i gues there not and not going to in the near future. but as far as copyrights laws go, i think youtube is going a little to far with it, dont ya think?

    thanks chris for this blog post and i hope to see many more interesting blogs about youtube in the near future

  60. I don’t see what all the fuss is with people getting their videos taken down. When you first sign up with YouTube you accept their terms in which they ask users not to upload video with copyrighted material. Why can’t people read the stuff they accept?

  61. I honestly think that there is way too much constriction on the idea of “Fare Use.” Most people will use a song as background music, or the like, simply to make a video more interesting. Honestly, I don’t see why artists and government organizations see this as a hinderance. Wouldn’t it give the artist almost free publicity if it was used in a video with 2 million views? Wouldn’t that mean that 2 million more people are hearing an artist, and if even 1% of the people watching went out and downloaded that song, that’s more money for the recording industry…

  62. I visitied this site and was amazed at what videos were actually taken down.Some of them needed to be taken down, but others, I was left wondering why.

  63. I just don’t think that it is fair that they have to take these videos down. Some of the videos are so old that there is a small chance that people will find them again. Its a sad world that we live in, that most people are so drivin by profit of old stuff that people forgot about.

  64. yeah I’ve alrready heard of this site, I heard of it on my google reader, can’t remember what subscription was it.

    It’s kinda cool, but I noticed they don’t have like a search feature, so if I like want to show a friend a video, and it’s taken off youtube, I would go to youtomb, but guess it would take me a while to find the video because they don’t have a search bar πŸ™

    But yeah, pretty nice proyect.

  65. This project sounds very interesting. I watch a lot of music videos on YouTube and every so often a particular video gets yanked and I wonder why that one gets deleted but others remain. Thanks for the tip!

  66. This spring here in Finland there was a school shooting where 8 people lost their lives. The shooter was a active YouTube poster and a single day after the shooting all of the videos he had posted were sensured off of YouTube.
    I was suprised to see how easily the authorities can take down videos off YouTube. No one questioned or critisized this take down on numerous videos. This i find odd.

  67. youtomb? isn’t that only description about the videos i thought that you could watch the removed video’s, I’m a bit disappointed.
    Frank Schnyder , just that you know that it was Cat on Call for Help, not to be confused with Kat that makes sure that all text and comments are good and not just some bad/faul language.
    Willscollar, it isn’t that strange that they are suing youtube, no offense to america but people likes to sue each other left and right, Strange.

  68. I’ve never heard of this before, but it sounds like it is probably a good thing. Personally, I’d prefer having copyrighted videos available for me to watch anytime, but the big, bad corporations would hate for people to get what they want without having to pay a fortune for it….

  69. OOOO! That is a really cool project. Truthfully, I (just starting a video podcast) don’t mind if people steal my videos and put them up as long as they give me credit and give a link to my site so my sponsors (none right now) can get some benefit. If they don’t give me credit, however, I would be happy to report them for stealing my video and get their (my) video removed.

  70. I’d say that it’s pretty obvious to anyone posting a YouTube video whether or not they’re violating someone’s copyright. Everyone pretty much knows not to use commercial music, but they do it anyways. I don’t think sites like YouTube will ever be able to police this.

  71. I’ve never heard of this before, but it sounds like it is probably a good thing. Personally, I’d prefer having copyrighted videos available for me to watch anytime, but the big, bad corporations would hate for people to get what they want without having to pay a fortune for it…

  72. Sounds interesting…

    There are probably a lot of great videos if you dig around long enough. Lets hope you don’t have any videos on their Chris Pirillo. =P Just kidding..


  73. Sounds interesting, but I can think of better things to do with my time than look up deleted videos. Still, I’m sure people will like it.

  74. do they have a way to like find your vid if you only use like a clip of like a tv show thats copyrighted?

    also are pictures considered copyright infringement? and how come googlevideos uploads arnt being caught and getting in trouble, cuz ive seen copyrighted stuff on there?!!

  75. I dont think that youtube should be so strict about copyright infringement. i mean theres always gonna be a infringed video out there!

  76. i seen some funny cat videos with music that were taken down cuz of copyright but dam those videos were funny

  77. Honestly, Youtube has gotten worse about this kind of thing. They treat everything like it is in violation of copyright. I wish they would actually take the time out and watch the videos before actually closing them.

  78. Chris, Thanks for covering this. After they put our Indiana Jones review back up I got an email from a human at youtube explaining what happened. I will forward you a copy.

  79. i had a youtube channel terminated for copyright infringement. i had several thousand subscribers and 230 1980’s music videos. i’m kind of glad, it was more work than i wanted it to be.

  80. There is hardly anything that U cant find in internet somehow. So far that its kept in out of light nobody care.

  81. And, do not forget to check your contents for probable copywrite violation; because you can not get good ranking for your page on different search engines, if it contains any sort of plagiarism. You can check them with AAfter Search. You need to paste your document in the search box as follows *** and click the web search button. The search engine gives the result in the form of percentage of similarity between the original document and re-written document so that one comes to know about possible copyright violation, if any.

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