How to profit from piracy on YouTubeYouTube, its users, and shady certified “aggregators,” partner together to make money off pirated TV shows, movies & music

YouTube’s life-blood is advertising and by now it’s become pretty clear that Google doesn’t give a hoot about what videos it slaps ads onto.  After all, why should vetting content BEFORE putting advertising on it get in the way of company profits right?

I wrote about Google’s tainted income scheme last December (Piracy for profit-YouTube’s dirty secret), but it’s a tale is worth revisiting at a time when Google faces more anti-trust allegations in Europe and embarrassing revelations that rather than take action, U.S. authorities at the FTC prefer to bury investigations that shine a light on Google’s sleazy, anti-competitive business practices.

youtube-profitOf course Google continues to publicly deflect criticism of its business practices by repeating the tired mantra that anything goes in the name of innovation.  Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s CEO penned a panegyric for Google’s thinkwithGoogle newsletter, The Eight Pillars of Innovation, in which she waxed on about Google “striving for continual innovation, but not perfection.”   She also makes this observation about Google’s mission:

Google’s mission is to ‘organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’ We use this simple statement to guide all of our decisions.

Sounds nice, but a more honest (and accurate) observation about what really guides (all) their decisions would read:

Google’s mission is to ‘organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful and profitable for us.

Sure, Google is great at making stuff more universally accessible and useful, but its success comes with a heavy price tag….and Google isn’t the one paying.  All these platitudes about innovation–and serving the common good–provide cover for what drives Google–the almighty dollar.  The ongoing search for innovative income has given rise to a company all that too often operates in a shady, often illegal sphere, dancing delicately along the edge to create a dubious morality built amid prevarication and platitudes.

In Google’s world, tainted profits acquired through illegal acts are OK as long as one doesn’t get caught red handed.  It’s all just innovation right?

A glaring example Google’s innovative profiteering was on display when news broke that YouTube slapped beer advertisements on ISIS recruiting videos uploaded onto the site. Outrageous yes–but it’s only one particularly jarring reminder that Google has a corporate habit of placing profits above all else.  Remember too, that not only was Google placing ads on ISIS videos, but by doing so was putting money into the pockets of terrorist and its own coffers.

Dive deeper into the cesspool that is YouTube, moving past the beer advertisements on ISIS recruiting videos and you’ll witness an entrenched, well-oiled (and oily) business model that enables Google to rake in millions, perhaps billions, by creating partnerships with cash-seeking YouTube users and shady middlemen who routinely monetize content they don’t own.

  • Who are these YouTube “certified” aggregators who are approved to work with Google who pave the way for users who knowingly make money off infringing content?
  • Why is it OK for YouTube to earn money off stolen goods?
  • Why don’t advertisers know (or care) where their ads are placed?

Let’s take a look at how this works.  Let’s say I want to make some money by putting ads on YouTube videos.  It doesn’t matter whether I own actually own them….what’s required is a way to get put my uploaded video onto YouTube, put ads on it and get paid based on the number of views it attracts.

How do I do this?  I could try to get approved as an individual, but the easier way, if the pirate uploads I’ve checked our are any indication, is to partner with an aggregator.  These entities are YouTube approved and give users an easy way to upload infringing content and get paid for it.

Sign up with them, upload a popular (pirated) TV show or movie via your aggregator account and ta-da!– you’re on your way to earning some easy money.  Of course the aggregator will take a slice–as will YouTube–but hey, it’s free money right?  Zero risk, and some reward–what could be better?

As is typical for YouTube, there don’t seem to be any safeguards to make sure these “certified” partners are on the up and up.  After all YouTube isn’t so why would the company ask partners to behave better?  As long as these partnerships bring in profits it’s best to look the other way right?

What it means to be YouTube Certified

YouTube Certified exists across several specific subject areas called “certification tracks.”

  • An individual may become YouTube Certified by successfully completing an in-depth training program and passing a final exam to demonstrate expertise.

  • A company ​may become YouTube Certified if a minimum of 3 employees have attended the training program and passed the exam. Company certification is valid for 12 months from date of issue. See below for a list of current YouTube Certified companies.

Note: YouTube does not make any promises or representations about the performance or quality of any YouTube Certified individual or company. YouTube does not guarantee you will get any specific results from working with YouTube Certified individuals or companies.  It is always important to evaluate the companies you may work with and decide for yourself what makes the most sense for your business.

Taylor Schilling Hmmm, I wonder if that special “in-depth” YouTube training includes any mention of copyright law and/or ethical business practices? Doubt it… Ironic too that YouTube doesn’t do a better job “evaluating” these companies once they’ve been certified.

It seems that episodes of the Netflix hit starring Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black,  is a popular show to upload and monetize.  Below are four different episode uploads and FOUR different owners who claim worldwide rights.


Looks like Orange is the New Black has lots of different “owners” making money off episodes uploaded to YouTube.

Unfortunately this example is not the exception on YouTube, it’s the rule.

These YouTube approved aggregators pretend to have standards.  Music Nations, a “certified” YouTube partner that has claimed one of Orange is the New Black episodes shown above, has an online application includes this disclaimer: Also please tick this box to confirm that you understand that uploading copyright material will cause your partnership to be cancelled.  Of course they don’t vet the actual uploads…it’s only if you get caught.  Meanwhile, uploaders get 70% of the revenue received from YouTube while Music Nations gets 30%.  Of course in this case Netflix would receive ZERO.

Of course paying lip service to copyright doesn’t mean anything is actually done ahead of time to vet ownership or enforce compliance.   In the graphic below is an example where a different Music Nations client, utmun dossa, has also uploaded and monetized multiple  OITNB episodes (an ad for Secret adorns this playback, Pampers another). They’ve been online for more than a month.  Google/YouTube makes money, Music Nations makes money and the user makes money but the rights holder gets nothing.  For Google, this is innovation…


When I used the online customer “chat” at Music Nations to ask whether they required uploaders to prove ownership the agent I was chatting with didn’t know responding, “I don’t know if that is part of the process before a channel gets accepted but there is a team that reviews the application before they get accepted.”  Seems like a pretty basic question, but there’s a reason customer support doesn’t have an answer.


Music Nations isn’t the only aggregator I’ve run across that seems to monetize stolen goods.  Another “certified” YouTube partner is the Russia-based QuizGroup.  I wrote extensively about their enterprise in my earlier blog post.  They’ve also acted as the intermediary for monetized pirate uploads of Orange is the New Black, claiming worldwide rights.  Note that all these uploaded episodes are altered  (via letterbox or smaller frame size) in order to bypass any safeguards Netflix may have in place via Content ID.

If these were legit content claims, why would Netflix use multiple aggregators?

If these were legit content claims, why would Netflix use multiple aggregators?

Another question worth asking is why do these aggregators stay on YouTube’s approved partner list?

QuizGroup remains on YouTube's list of certified aggregators despite monetizing pirated content

QuizGroup remains on YouTube’s list of certified aggregators despite monetizing pirated content

One has to imagine, given the relative ease with which I discovered these examples, that both aggregators have had clients reported (repeatedly) for copyright violations.  Why are they still allowed to do business YouTube?  The answer is simple–because YouTube, and parent company Google, make millions.  Go ahead FTC, look the other way and ignore Google’s bad business practices.  Perhaps the Europeans will do the work you should be doing.

Part II-YouTube’s dirty money game continued, coming soon…