Freshly Brewed

Why is a South African music company targeting Indian journalists on YouTube?

A dozen journalists, including Ravish Kumar and Abhisar Sharma, faced unexpected copyright claims from Ziiki Media on older videos. Most claims were resolved, but the incident sparked accusations of harassment and raised questions about YouTube's Content ID system

Delhi: As independent journalists decoded the general election results on YouTube last month, at least a dozen of them received copyright claims on older videos, rendering those videos ineligible for monetisation. 

Among those who received these claims were independent journalists Ravish Kumar, Ajit Anjum, Abhisar Sharma and Sakshi Joshi, as well as outlets such as Bolta Hindustan, the Probe, Dastak Live News, and content creators like Mr Reaction Wala. 

All of these were sent to their YouTube channels by the same company, Ziiki Media Entertainment – a South African music aggregator, distributor, and production house. Headquartered in Johannesburg, it has a partnership with Warner Music in India, a branch in Noida, and Arun Nagar, Abhinandan Bhardwaj, and Nisha Nagar as directors. Ziiki’s clientele in India includes artistes such as Daler Mehndi, Jasmine Sandlas and J Star. 

All the claims were on videos published a few years ago – most of them for clips sourced from the public domain, such as press conferences. 

Journalists said that the claims were shocking as they “had not used music or any private videos” in their content. 

They received emails from YouTube which said copyrighted claims had been detected and while it would not impact their visibility, they would no longer be able to monetise their channel. However, most journalists who disputed the claims were able to get the copyrights withdrawn. 


Sakshi Joshi, an independent journalist who has close to two million subscribers on YouTube, said she received at least three such claims from Ziiki Media, which meant that she could not monetise those videos anymore. 

On disputing them, the copyright claim was “released”, and YouTube informed her that it was identified as “bad claim”. “The fact that so many of us were receiving so many invalid claims is harassment,” said Joshi.

Abhisar Sharma, an independent journalist with 3.5 million subscribers on YouTube, received four such claims and was able to successfully get all four reversed. 

However, not everyone was able to successfully revert the claim. Bolta Hindustan, which was suspended by the Information and Broadcasting ministry earlier this year, received close to a dozen such copyright claims from Ziiki Media. About four of their claims were resolved, while the rest are pending. 

Mr Reaction Wala, who has 1.29 million YouTube subscribers, told that after receiving the claims, he immediately deleted the videos, to prevent further issues. 

A representative from Ziiki Media told Newslaundry that the claims had gone to thousands of channels, including mainstream media houses and political leaders. 

‘Automatic content ID claims’ 

Representatives from Ziiki Media told Newslaundry that the company also provides CMS systems for content creators on YouTube, including news channels. And a “bug” in one of the CMS systems had generated automatic Content ID claims. These claims are different from copyright strikes, which are defined by law and generated manually. 

Some copyright owners on YouTube use Content ID, a tool to scan the streaming platform and automatically generate claims against matching copyright-protected content. YouTube videos are scanned against a database of files submitted by copyright owners, and in case of a match, the said video may be blocked. 

YouTube specifies in its rules that copyright owners who make “erroneous Content ID claims” can have their Content ID access disabled, and their partnership with YouTube terminated. 

“We have raised the issue with YouTube, which is helping us resolve it at the earliest,” said a senior employee of Ziiki Media. “We have been whitelisting some channels to prevent this from happening to them. Because it is such a large number, it is taking time to manually prevent this, but our team has been working day and night to resolve this.” 

YouTube told Newslaundry that they are “currently investigating the matter” and working closely with their partners to resolve it. It said it works towards balancing the rights of copyright holders with the creative pursuits of the YouTube community, and it was not up to them to decide who “owns the rights” to content.

YouTube also said that they would remove access to certain copyright tools if a partner “repeatedly abuses the system”.


This story was first published by Newslaundry.

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