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Bad Actors and Petty Vengeance II: Caught in the Crossfire

I had an odd experience this week, which while not uncommon on the internet or in the course of my duties, surprised me with its cruelty and irony.

I looked up from monitor to find one of our team-members with an urgent look on his face.

“Did you see the death threat?”

“Yep.” My tone was fairly dry. These come in from time to and I’m sorry to say that I’ve grown somewhat immune. “Odd that it was on YouTube.”

“Well,” he continued, “did you see it was from us?”

This prompted my full attention. After a brief glance, I realized that our kill crazy, youtub-er (U Tuber?) of vengeance was using a handle that was a close variation on our own. This person had created an account that resembled our company name, with our logo, and issued a death threat against our group on one of our own videos. I grudgingly gave them points for “Obfuscation”, shrugged and started the process of removing the imposter.

Over the next hour or two, he or she proceeded to use the youtube system to try and remove videos that we had created and posted about our services.  This is certainly an annoyance, but little more than that. I issued the appropriate responses, called the appropriate people, alerted our legal department and carried on with my day.

Later that evening I was checking my email, much to the aggravation of my wife, and discovered that our blood-lusting, video vigilante had issued removal notices against a third party’s videos using the fake company name. The videos happened to belong to a dedicated third-grade teacher who had recorded his class reading chapters of a literary classic out loud. I received an email from the teacher in question requesting an explanation of our actions. I apologized, explained that the removals did not originate with us and offered my support to help reinstate his videos. To his credit, he was polite and understanding.

In reflecting back on this, I can’t help but wonder at the mindset of the person who carried out this act of petty vengeance. They were clearly angry. We had removed something they had made from the most popular tube site on the planet. Perhaps, it was something they used to promote their product, sell a service or make money with. A video that took time, thought and effort to compress and post, but unfortunately did not belong to them and promoted a product which made money through exploiting the works of others. I can only hope they  paused to appreciate the irony before attacking an innocent bystander and attempting to blame it on us.

Time and time again, I realize that piracy tends to be “really cool” when you’re not the one being stolen from. Once it’s a pirate’s effort, time, thought and livelihood being interfered with, they experience the anger and frustration that is currently being felt by artists of every stripe, medium and dedication.

Creators don’t steal.

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