“Last week our channel got attacked hard,” extreme sports filmmaker and YouTube star Devin Graham (a.k.a. Devinsupertramp) wrote in a blog post last month. “It got attacked in a way we have never experienced and we had no way of defending ourselves.”
Graham — who has two popular channels, Devinsupertramp (3.85M subscribers, 711M views) and Devingraham (748K subscribers, 76.9M views) — wasn’t referring to an anonymous hacker with criminal intentions. He was talking about YouTube, which he said removed his video “People Are Awesome 2015 — ULTIMATE DevinSuperTramp Edition in 4K” at the request of viral video specialists Jukin Media because the company said the title infringed on its trademark for People Are Awesome, a British online video brand it acquired last year.
“This was the first time in the 200 videos we have uploaded over the last 5 years that we had no option to edit it. It just said: ‘Video Removed: Trademark Issue,’” Graham wrote in his blog. “We had no idea why it had been removed. We owned 100 percent of the video content, we had release forms for the people in it and the locations… Since we had full permission on every front, we had no idea where this was coming from.”
Complaints about YouTube’s process for flagging and removing videos are neither new nor rare, and Graham is not the only big time influencer to get broadsided by a copyright claim or a community strike. For example, YouTube temporarily took down a video by Philip DeFranco (3.6M subscribers, 1.448B views) in which he called out fellow YouTubers including Roman Atwood for their allegedly fake pranks.
Last month, Eli Etherton’s channel Eli the Computer Guy (634.7K subscribers, 42.7M views) was hit with a community guideline strike for a video about hacking HTML password boxes. He appealed to YouTube, and his appeal was rejected. His punishment included the loss of the ability to upload videos longer than 15 minutes for six months. After uploading a series of rants about the issue, YouTube relented, rescinding the strike and assigning him a real human partner manager that he can contact directly via phone or email regarding future issues.
“They told me that the partner will not only help me with things like stats and views and all that kind of thing, but will also be an advocate, so if this kind of issue happens in the future the idea is that they can bypass the system, they can figure out what’s going on,” said Etherton in a vlog.
In Graham’s case, he contacted YouTube and his multi-channel network Fullscreen about the video takedown.
“Fullscreen was shocked that [Jukin] had been so aggressive with instantly taking down our video,” Graham wrote. “They had a good relationship with the company, so that’s why this was such a surprise. When they reached out to Jukin, there was no compromise with the video, since we had titled it a phrase which they owned, which we had no idea. It was simple [sic] in the title, never appearing on screen in any way.”
“After spending the rest of the week to try and get an appeal, their legal team wouldn’t give us any leeway,” Graham continued.
Graham said he asked Jukin if he could simply change the name to “People are amazing — Devinsupertramp edition” or keep the word “awesome” and change the word “people,” but to no avail.
Finally, “after a full 7 days of going back and forth Jukin agreed to remove the copyright strike as long as we removed the video,” Graham wrote.
VideoInk reached out to Jukin for comment, and a spokesperson gave its side of the story:
“We responded to Devin on Twitter, and we worked with YouTube and Fullscreen to rescind the action that we took.
Legally speaking, trademark holders are obligated to protect unauthorized use of their trademark, otherwise they risk losing it.
In this case, which was an exception, we apologized for not having gotten in touch first. There was a breakdown of protocol internally; we try to resolve these types of things before taking action whenever we can.
We have not had much (if any) previous interaction with Devin, so it’s difficult to see how he’s in a position to discuss what we may or may not commonly do. Jukin has never used his video before for any reason, and we hold no ill will toward Devin.”
In the end, Graham simply changed the name of the video to “My Life Sucks! Best of Devinsupertramp 2015!” But, this time, he felt obligated to take precautions.
“We actually had to look into the phrase ‘My Life Sucks’ to make sure no one had trademarked that phrase so this video didn’t get taken down either,” Graham wrote.