Viral videos are big business. Therefore it’s no surprise that specialized companies emerged to help the lucky few to monetize their viral content.
These companies typically take care of licensing and legal issues. This is also the case with Videohat, which uses the ‘catchy’ tagline “Rights = Money”.
Unfortunately, however, getting paid isn’t always straightforward. When a video goes viral, thousands of copies are made without permission, even by mainstream news outlets, other licensing companies, and some of the world’s largest copyright businesses.
Viral Gum Video
This is also what Youssef Abu Bakr noticed when he uploaded a TikTik video of Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti, sharing one of his ‘trademark’ chewing gums. This gesture generated millions of views on TikTok and was reposted thousands of times without permission.
Bakr licenses his videos through Videohat and the latter found out that rights don’t always equal money, not directly. In addition to thousands of smaller accounts, mainstream companies including ESPN also copied the clip, as shown above.
Hoping to get rewarded, Videohat reached out to ESPN with a licensing deal but that didn’t get the desired result. This eventually prompted the company to file a formal case at the U.S. Government’s Copyright Claims Board (CCB) which was launched last year to deal with these types of smaller disputes.
ESPN Hit With Copyright Claim
According to the claim, ESPN is a renowned network that should be quite familiar with copyright law and licensing requirements. Despite this, ESPN reportedly failed to cooperate when Videohat reached out.
The alleged wrongdoing isn’t limited to the TikTok video either. Similar posts appeared on ESPN’s Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube accounts. The latter pair had been removed at the time of writing.
Instead of agreeing to license the video, or reaching out to the original creator, Videohat says that ESPN continues to show the clip without permission to this day. How would ESPN act if the tables were turned, the licensing outfit questions.
“The question is: if we or one of our clients has uploaded a sports event owned by ESPN, would it be ok? Of Course not. Same should apply to ESPN distributing our content without permission,”
“We are asking for a relief of 1500USD per license per URL. (Total of 4500USD),” Videohat’s claim adds.
ESPN wasn’t the only sports network hit with a copyright claim, beIN received the same treatment. In a nearly identical complaint, Videohat accuses beIN’s American arm of copying the video without permission and posting it to Facebook and YouTube.
Interestingly, Videohat demands a higher damages figure from beIn, namely, $2,500 per URL for a total of $5,000. At the time of writing, the Facebook post is still online.
Whether the Copyright Claims Board will get to decide on the issue is unknown at this point. The board provides a relatively cheap option to resolve copyright disputes but it’s not mandatory; the accused party has the right to opt out of the proceeding. If that happens, Videohat can still choose to go to federal court.
Copyright Claims Progress?
Thus far the Copyright Claims board hasn’t led to a wave of rulings. On the contrary, of the 383 cases filed, only one resulted in a full decision.
Plagiarism Today reports that in this pioneer case, the board awarded $1,000 to a photographer who discovered that his work was used on the website of a California-based law practice. This is significantly lower than the $30,000 that was initially requested.
More than half of the CCB cases (198) have been closed for other reasons. This often happens when a complaint is not fully compliant and, as expected, there’s also a significant percentage of defendants who opt out.