Today, I want to discuss a topic that is known as Copyright and how the spiritual community demands that infringing the copyright of authors is an acceptable thing to do. It's such a diverse topic that I honestly do not know where to begin on how to start explaining this. So, let's begin by sharing the story of what has transpired just this past week.
This experience blew my mind open with just how severe the copyright game is within the Spiritual Community, the emails that I've received from these channel owners all believe that infringing copyright is their divine right, and if it doesn't impact them on their income stream from YouTube advertising, Sponsorships & Memberships, then they don't care.
So let's begin explaining how this began...
How It All Began
This experience of researching into copyright began on July 12, 2021. A friend of mine, who is an author, came to me after being advised by a customer of theirs that an article belonging to the author had been converted into a video on a YouTube channel.
This video had no reference to the author at all, no name, no website to link back to them and there was no way to communicate with the channel owner. I suggested that we lodge a copyright strike on the video, as the way the music industry does, and we see what unfolds from there.
My friend asked me to continue looking to see if there were more of her videos that had been in the same situation and found a small number of them. When searching for videos, if there was no reference back to the original source (referencing matters) then we strike it down.
After I verified that this is the course of action we're going to take, I began my intensive search for videos that belong to this author that did not meet their specific requirements for publishing. What I began to discover was something bigger than what I had originally thought as I spotted published videos from another author, who I am friends with and knew that they would not have approved the distribution and publication of their content and asked if I could have their permission to represent them regarding filing of these copyright violations on their behalf.
Why is this an issue?
Copyright for Publishers & Authors
To understand what is occurring, we need to understand what is happening first and how they're infringing on copyright. Copyright is a complicated beast to understand and the lawyers that deal with it all day, kudos to you because it became very time consuming. Let's explain the basics of copyright.
Copyright is a form of intellectual property law. It grants exclusive rights to the copyright owner to enable them to determine how their work can be used. - The University of Melbourne1
When a person creates a piece of art, poem, photo, and other pieces of content, they are granted the ownership of copyright immediately. For example, the moment a photo is taken with a camera, that photographer is granted the copyright and it is owned by the creator of the works, usually.
In what we're discussing with right now, these authors are the creators of the content, they have written the literary pieces of work, they are the owners of the generated content. The content does not have to be published either to be protected by copyright. In most countries, the copyright applies immediately as the content is created (for example, taking a photo) and it does not need to be part of a register.
Although, these authors are publishing the content to their website with the relevant metadata, therefore becoming an official register of published works.
When these YouTube channels are publishing content, they are responsible for compliance with these copyright laws and should have an agreement with these authors to publish their content and how it should be published.
Authors and publishers will have a publishing agreement (sometimes referred to as an author or a license agreement) in place when a work is published.2
These publishing agreements cover things such as how it will be published, what work will be published, where it will be published, the format of it being published and if/how and when the author will be paid for the use of their content.
It also must be noted that the author has the entitlement to negotiate certain rights with a publisher and can stipulate the terms & conditions with the publisher and an author needs to be fully aware of the terms & conditions that they have agreed too so that they don't violate their own license.
Publishers should also take care to have warranties in place to protect them if the contracted author is not the owner of the literary work.3
There are also several types of licenses that can be made available, and they too differ one another and we will not discuss that here. If you are an author looking for information on copyright, it might be practicable to contact a copyright lawyer as we are not a lawyer, only sharing what our experience has been.
The Copyright Background Story
Now with the basic understanding of how copyright works for authors and publishers, we can now talk about what these YouTube channels have been doing and there are MANY! I did not realise how deep this rabbit hole was until I kept digging and the research revealed more than I could have imagined. Firstly, let's explain what is happening.
What are they doing?
These YouTube channels are obtaining the materials from these authors, the text of the full published article (ignoring the copyright disclaimers) and generating video content. They are branded with their logos, with their channel names, removing all references to the authors and claiming that the content is theirs and theirs alone.
As their channel is filled with videos of this nature, they have reached YouTube's requirements to monetise the content, to accept payment for memberships on their platform and receive donations to support their channel.
These YouTube channel creators are then receiving a significant amount of money from the distribution of content, and you'd be surprised as to how much they receive from the advertising royalties alone.
According to the Influence Marketing Hub4 Google pays, on average, $68 for every $100 earned in advertising royalties with the actual rate per view varying between $0.10 to $0.30 per view. When I did my own rough calculations, I used the rate of $0.10 which is an average rate for what musicians get paid for when their music is used or played on streaming platforms.
In just one channel alone, three videos by one these publishers generated $10,000 USD in advertising revenue within the space of a month and none of the revenue went back to the actual owner of the content that's being used to generate this income. In fact, the publishers that I'm working with had no idea that their content was being monetised.
Why is it an Issue?
I must state, that for some authors, they're not worried about these YouTube channels publishing their content. One author has said that if they put their name on the video and then link back to their website, then they're happy for the copyright to happen as they see it as advertising & promotions. The channel owner is putting in the time and effort to generate these videos, they are the one's promoting and generating a following and the author is gaining exposure that they would not have been able to reach. Thus, they're fine with it. These channels that have received the copyright strikes had not done this at all for the videos we struck down, they branded the content as their own. In fact, had they not done this in the first place, this would not have surfaced.
Another author has been a victim of copyright violations for many years she and when I attended a business in Fremantle, Western Australia in 2016. I was guided to open a local magazine publication, opened to a section, and found an entire page of content written by the Author on the topic of Enlightenment. I took a photo of the article, send it to the author to congratulate them on being published and the response was. I've never heard of the magazine before, that's been published without my approval. yet, this magazine charges for subscriptions and advertising, taking money from unauthorised publishing of content.
Is this form of publishing legal?
These YouTube channels, blogs, magazines are all different forms of publishing and are in the business of publishing content. As these publishers have not gained a publishing agreement, a license agreement from the author or management company, then these acts of publishing are not legal, and they're not legally allowed to monetise content.
These YouTube Channels & Magazines are Publishers and are taking the Intellectual Property from the author and making financial gain from it.
YouTube states that for videos to be eligible for monetisation, they must own all the rights to commercially use all visuals and audio elements and their guidelines5 states that the publisher must clear the rights to use and monetise the content on YouTube.
Therefore, in accordance with YouTube's own policies, as they have not obtained permission from the Authors to both publish the content on their channels, they also did not gain the authority from the Authors to monetise their authors content, and this creates multiple infringements for copyright theft.
Copyright theft is when these creative works that are protected under copyright are used without permission from the copyright holder. In this example, their written content, their artwork, their intellectual property is used without permission.
Is Spiritual Literature Copyrighted?
Can spiritual/religious texts be copyrighted? The answer is YES!
They claim that Religious/Spiritual works is a divine message and should be shared but unfortunately this is not true. Whilst the original scriptures from the world's major religions that have been practiced for over a thousand years and their original scriptures (the Torah, the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita) are in the public domain. Any new spiritual messages, translations of religious text do in fact come under copyright protection6.
Religions often claim that their works were created by God, higher powers, or divine beings. Works created by such beings are not eligible for copyright and churches can't claim copyrights on their behalf. However, courts have upheld such copyrights under the argument that humans put enough creative work into compiling these divine statements to own a copyright ~ Wikipedia
The Spiritual Community, not to be confused with religious organisations, believe that divine messages should be freely shared, that they have the right to publish anyone's content that they seem fit and that it is perfectly acceptable to conduct theft of Intellectual Property and infringe on an author's copyright. This belief system has been seen throughout my years of observing and surfaced within the correspondence of dealing with these copyright strikes being issued on YouTube.
So let's look at some of these beliefs, responses, and correspondence.
The Videos, The Strikes & The Stories
As mentioned above, this entire experience started with one single video, a single enquiry that led to this research, this development and so far, seventeen copyright strikes have been issued from content that has been published without any agreements from the authors.
YouTube has three strikes in 90 days, and you are struck out policy7 and some of these channels have been hit multiple times with strikes with the commercial publication of content that has not been licensed to them by the author and these channels have large numbers of followers. Here's a list of the channels with the number of strikes of content that I was easily able to uncover.
|Channel No.||No. of Subscribers||Strikes|
|Channel 1||10.9 thousand||5 issued|
|Channel 2||6.4 thousand||2 issued|
|Channel 3||5.3 thousand||2 issued|
|Channel 4||22.9 thousand||3 issued|
|Channel 5||4.0 thousand||2 issued|
|Channel 6||401.0 thousand||3 issued|
|Channel 7||5.83 thousand||1 issued|
The table above is just a small list of the channels that I've caught stealing intellectual property from authors and publishing their content illegally. This table is to demonstrate just how well established these YouTube channels are.
We now know how many strikes I've lodged so far, and trust me, it takes A LOT of work just for one video because we do not want to make an incorrect claim. Lodging an incorrect claim can be harmful towards the status of those lodging the claims (but mistakes do happen all the time) and personally, I'd rather be deadly accurate in the claims lodged.
I search YouTube for a specific keyword and scroll through the videos, if I find a video that might be one that belongs to a person I am assisting, then I listen to the video. If I match the voice to the video to the content on the article post, I then lodge a claim. I may have lodged eighteen copyright notifications to date (and lodged another one whilst writing this post) but it has taken days of research.
So, what have the responses been like?
Spiritually Manipulated & Augmented Beliefs
As mentioned above, this community that's constantly posting spiritual content have this belief that the distribution and monetisation of content is perfectly acceptable, and it can get very confusing too for these home publishers who are clearly uneducated in copyright laws. These are some of the responses I've received.
You got my account strike for sharing divine messages to fellow gods, they will close my account hence giving the dark side a win but am love I send you love.
Both emails above came from the same source and as you can see, there's a belief structure where this publisher believes that theft of someone's work and the illegal distribution of someone else's work is the Divine Law and that because the author of the content has said "enough is enough, stop disrespecting me, stop stealing from me" is considered to be a win for the dark. This is a terrible and sad belief and one that many are hooked into.
This mannerism is unethical, disrespectful, criminal, not with integrity. It goes against the very morals of what these YouTube channels are sharing.
It's mostly my original content
After filing five strikes against one channel (can lodge more too), I received an email from the owner claiming that I had lodged copyright strikes against them in error and how that the content is mostly their original content. That the content on their channel is mostly original editions on free transmission and re-transmissions of spiritual messages.
An hour later, I received another email stating that as a community of light and the distribution of spiritual message that the strikes should be retracted and, in this email, they referenced the author's name of who they were stealing the content from and claiming that they had channelled the information. They also insisted that the spiritual community must support each other in the distribution of spiritual messages.
In this example, they are commercially distributing content for their own financial gain, claiming that they are the original creator of the content that was taken from another author and confessed to doing so. This is not the spiritual way.
This is not the spiritual way
This is where I will leave it, but you can begin to see that these spiritual YouTube channel owners, who have signed a contract with YouTube declaring that they have all the necessary licenses, approvals, contracts, and publishing agreements for the commercial distribution of content are lying to YouTube, are being unethical and are pushing messages of a New Earth and a New Reality.
How can you talk about a New Earth when you commercially publish stolen content?
Whilst I understand that certain authors do permit their content to be distributed with attribution, they may not understand that they're making their content available under a license agreement called "Creative Commons" and if they don't specify whether their content can or cannot be used commercially. I believe I will need to author a new article on this topic because of how big of an impact this can have on them.
In summary, a lot of these spiritual websites and publishers (as that is what they are doing) are not verifying whether they have permission to distribute the content commercially and/or whether they are eligible to monetise it the content. They're not obtaining licenses or publishing agreements with the authors and when the author writes to them and says "Please remove my content from your website" they will refuse to remove them.
It is vitally important as a publisher to work in integrity, to work ethically because what these channel owners are not aware of, they have the rights to negotiate how much money they can receive from you and these channel owners are stripping these authors of that right.
FINALLY! All this content has been taken from my own research to understand that nature of the beast that is copyright. Each country has different laws, and this is not legal advice in any manner. If you are stuck dealing with copyright, learn your rights as an author but, if necessary, do see a professional as copyright is complicated.
- The University of Melbourne. (n.d.). What is copyright? : Copyright. Retrieved August 2, 2021, from https://copyright.unimelb.edu.au/information/what-is-copyright
- The University of Melbourne. (n.d.-a). Understanding publishing agreements : Copyright. Retrieved August 2, 2021, from https://copyright.unimelb.edu.au/information/copyright-and-research/understanding-publishing-agreements
- Bentley, L. (2020, May 21). Five frequently asked questions about copyright for authors and publishers. Sladen Legal. https://sladen.com.au/news/2020/2/10/five-frequently-asked-questions-about-copyright-for-authors-and-publishers
- Geyser, W. (2021, June 21). How Much do YouTubers Make? – A YouTuber’s Pocket Guide [Calculator]. Influencer Marketing Hub. https://influencermarketinghub.com/how-much-do-youtubers-make/
- Google. (n.d.). What kind of content can I monetize? - YouTube Help. YouTube. Retrieved August 2, 2021, from https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2490020
- Wikipedia contributors. (2021, June 4). Copyright on religious works. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_on_religious_works
- Google. (n.d.-a). Community Guidelines strike basics - YouTube Help. YouTube. Retrieved August 2, 2021, from https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802032