While millions of users upload videos to YouTube every day without expecting any reward, it’s possible for popular content to generate plenty of revenue through YouTube’s account monetization program.
New York resident Alfonzo Cutaia used the program last year when he sensed he had a hit video on his hands, but allegedly some news organizations didn’t play by the rules and now things have become messy.
Things began in 2014 when winter storm ‘Knife‘ buried parts of New York and surrounding areas under several feet of snow. On November 18, Cutaia was watching the storm coming over Lake Erie from his Buffalo office window when he decided to record events on his mobile phone.
Recognizing the potential for interest in his video, Cutaia uploaded his 32 second clip to YouTube. He gave it the title “Buffalo Lake Effect” and opted to generate revenue via YouTube’s monetization program. Cutaia selected “Standard YouTube License” and watched the hits roll in.
The recording did very well indeed. By the end of day one Cutaia’s video had been viewed more than 513,000 times. On day two things blew up with an additional 2.3 million hits and soon after the New York resident was receiving requests from news outlets – CBS, ABC, CNN, NBC, Reuters and AP – to use his footage.
But according to a lawsuit filed this week by Cutaia in a New York court, around November 18 Canada’s CBC aired the video online without permission, with a CBC logo as an overlay.
After complaining to CBC about continued unauthorized use, last month Cutaia was told by CBC that the company had obtained the video from CNN on a 10-day license. However, Cutaia claims that the video was used by CBC and its partners for many months, having been supplied to them by CNN who also did not have a license.
In his complaint, Cutaia seeks injunctions against both CBC and CNN to stop further unlawful use of his video. He also accuses the news outlets of “intentional and willful” copyright infringement and seeks appropriate damages.
Interestingly, the lawsuit also claims that both CBC and CNN violated the DMCA when the companies ‘liberated’ it from the YouTube system and offered it for viewing elsewhere.
“In order to infringe the Storm Video, CBC [and CNN] circumvented Cutaia’s technological measures limiting access to the Storm Video, without authorization, in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)(a),” the lawsuit reads.
“By its reproduction and alteration to the Storm Video, CBC [and CNN] intentionally removed and/or altered the copyright management information of the Storm Video, without authorization, in violation of U.S.C. § 1202(b)(1)”
CBC and CNN are also accused of distributing the video despite knowing that the copyright management information had been removed.
In closing, Cutaia seeks permanent injunctions against CBC and CNN, accuses them of varying degrees of copyright infringement, while demanding a jury trial to determine damages.
In the meantime “Buffalo Lake Effect” continues to perform well on YouTube. By July 2015 the video had been viewed more than 3.68m times.