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Both CNN And Vagabond Journey Ripped Off By Fake Youtube Channel

Update, July 2013- After talking with CNN it became clear that the Youtube channel that this video was posted on was a fake. It was not a genuine CNN channel. So both CNN and myself had our content used without permission.

In December I did a report on the New South China Mall — aka the World’s Largest Ghost Mall — that garnered a good deal of media attention. Business Insider, The Daily Mail, Yahoo, Jyllands Posten, and many other media sources utilized my video footage and images and/ or used my article as a reference. On the heels of this surge, CNN rolled out their own article on the mall.

Immediately after they published the report, a friend contacted me to call it to my attention, thinking they may have churned my work. I read article and thought at the time that it was another case of run of the mill churnalism — where one news source rewrites the news of other publications. Nothing I can do about that, I couldn’t even ascertain for sure whether or not they even referenced my article.

More on Vagabond Journey: A Journey to the World’s Largest Ghost Mall

Then a little over two weeks ago a reader sent me a link to a video published on the CNN Exclusive Youtube channel together with the ominous comment, “How do you like CNN using your video as their own?”

What? I never gave CNN permission to use my content.

I checked out the video, and found that it was a two minute long clip taken directly from the 9 minute video I had previously published about the New South China Mall. To add insult to injury, there was a logo in the upper right hand corner that said “CNN Exclusive,” as though this was their original report. But this wasn’t a CNN exclusive, it was my exclusive.

What far gone juncture of journalism are we in that one of the largest and most successful news agencies on the planet has to take content from an independent blogger?

Screenshot from the Youtube page

Screenshot from the Youtube page

Though they did run the URL of my Youtube channel in the upper left hand corner of the clip for the first ten or so seconds of its airtime, this is not the proper way to compensate a freelance journalist for their work — especially when permission was neither requested nor granted for the reuse.

This is content theft, copyright infringement, whatever you want to call it. Rather than sending their own reporters on-site, my work was plucked and repurposed. I suppose the overhead is far cheaper this way.

My videos on Youtube may be embedded freely on other sites, but they may not be downloaded, edited, and republished without permission and compensation.

My original video about the New South China Mall went viral two times so far this year. England’s Daily Mail and Denmark’s Jyllands Posten asked permission to use it, and they compensated me adequately. Yahoo and Business Insider embedded the video on their sites, and I was compensated monetarily for their usage though advertising revenue. CNN seems to have just downloaded the video and used it as though they owned it without even contacting me.

What is worse is that CNN’s ripped-off version was monetized with advertising, thus allowing them to profit off of my work without me receiving a single penny or even a thank you.

As of now, I have no idea what other mediums this video was used in, as I only saw it on the CNN Exclusive Youtube channel. Though the other videos on this channel were previously published on CNN’s television news broadcasts and elsewhere through their network. My South China Mall video conceivably could have been aired in various other mediums in their vertical without my knowledge and then later dumped on one of their Youtube channels for archival purposes.

I expect small time bloggers and sites of dubious repute to reuse my content without permission — that’s the breaks of publishing on the internet — but a big news agency should abide by the rules a little closer than this. CNN should at least try to finagle free content with the “You’ll gain exposure” routine rather than outright taking it. Or when they screw up they should jump to the fore and attempt to compensate the parties whose toes they stepped on.

More than likely, this was some kind of mistake or error — something that could have been quickly cleared up through simply responding to one of my emails.

I’ve been trying to contact CNN about this for the past two weeks, but my emails go unanswered and my calls are entrapped in a dragnet of secretaries. I’ve been directed to their legal department, their photo sales agency, and the copyright office of Turner. All three just ignore me. Left with little other recourse, I went public with this on Monday when published a video on Youtube which outlined the situation:

Seemingly within mere moments of putting up this video, not only was the infringing content removed but the entire CNN Exclusive channel was axed. The evidence was removed as though it never existed, which makes me have a fleeting suspicion that there may be more to this story.

The now removed rip off was at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8WitBOWL0M.

The original video:

Filed under: Digital Nomad, Internet, Media Analysis

About the Author:

Vagabond Journey has been featured on MSNBC.com, The Daily Mail Online, Business Insider, Gizmodo, the Des Moines Register, CBS Phoenix, NBC LA, and numerous other international and local publications. has written 2687 posts on Vagabond Journey.

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Vagabond Journey is currently in: Xiamen, ChinaMap
  • http://twitter.com/onceatraveler Turner Wright

    I think the fact that the channel was taken down is a good sign that YouTube is taking your claim seriously. Will get CNN’s attention now.

    • VagabondJourney

      I hope so. It’s not looking like it though. I will keep calling. . .

  • http://twitter.com/onceatraveler Turner Wright

    I think the fact that the channel was taken down is a good sign that YouTube is taking your claim seriously. Will get CNN’s attention now.

    • VagabondJourney

      I hope so. It’s not looking like it though. I will keep calling. . .

  • David Jacobs

    Hope you make stiff bucks off this… For my own selfish reasons, of course, of reading wonderful travel tales from all over the world… :D

    • VagabondJourney

      I will try :-) It’s probably not likely though. I’ve contacted a professor who teaches a copyright law class designed for journalists, and even he is unsure about what law I can seek compensation through.

  • David Jacobs

    Hope you make stiff bucks off this… For my own selfish reasons, of course, of reading wonderful travel tales from all over the world… :D

    • VagabondJourney

      I will try :-) It’s probably not likely though. I’ve contacted a professor who teaches a copyright law class designed for journalists, and even he is unsure about what law I can seek compensation through.

  • Steve O

    No, no way would a reputable news channel do something like that, psshhhh, sheeesh, pshhh…. /endsarcasm

  • Steve O

    No, no way would a reputable news channel do something like that, psshhhh, sheeesh, pshhh…. /endsarcasm

  • the candy trail …

    Greetings from Egypt, Wade.

    What a cheek those pricks have … “CNN exclusive”

  • the candy trail …

    Greetings from Egypt, Wade.

    What a cheek those pricks have … “CNN exclusive”

  • http://twitter.com/TheCityLane Paul

    Good luck with the furtherance of this claim. Such poor form for someone like CNN to do this.

    • VagabondJourney

      Good luck is right :-) Haha, I’m going to have to hire a lawyer to get anywhere with it. No money and no time to do this though. Thanks for the support!

  • Paul

    Good luck with the furtherance of this claim. Such poor form for someone like CNN to do this.

    • VagabondJourney

      Good luck is right :-) Haha, I’m going to have to hire a lawyer to get anywhere with it. No money and no time to do this though. Thanks for the support!

  • http://artofbackpacking.com/ Michael

    WTH!! I really hope you’ll at least get some money out of this.

  • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

    WTH!! I really hope you’ll at least get some money out of this.

  • qiranger

    That really sucks. It’s the reason why I watermark my videos. However, as much as I hate to say it, I don’t believe this is copyright infringement. CNN exercised poor judgement in not contacting you, but they did attribute the clip to you and included it within a news report. I’d say that’s within the fair use guidelines.

    • http://artofbackpacking.com/ Michael

      It depends. If it’s copyrighted, not even attribution is allowed. If it’s licensed under creative commons, then they did fine.

      • qiranger

        It really depends on if the use of the clip would be considered “Fair Use.” 2 Minutes is a bit long. However, CNN clearly violated YouTube’s TOS by downloading the video.

        • VagabondJourney

          Thanks for the feedback.

          The principles of fair use really don’t apply here. It’s like how you can’t republish someone else’s photos w/o permission. My videos are published under standard copyright, and whether or not the source is acknowledged in a watermark or not is irrelevant, as they can’t be reproduced in any capacity without permission. Also, a watermark is an incredibly weak and just about insignificant form of attribution. If it were otherwise then I would be able to republish videos from CNN, watermark them with their logo, and then claim fair use. I can’t do this. I would be receiving letters from lawyers in no time.

  • qiranger

    That really sucks. It’s the reason why I watermark my videos. However, as much as I hate to say it, I don’t believe this is copyright infringement. CNN exercised poor judgement in not contacting you, but they did attribute the clip to you and included it within a news report. I’d say that’s within the fair use guidelines.

    • http://artofadventuring.com/ Michael

      It depends. If it’s copyrighted, not even attribution is allowed. If it’s licensed under creative commons, then they did fine.

      • qiranger

        It really depends on if the use of the clip would be considered “Fair Use.” 2 Minutes is a bit long. However, CNN clearly violated YouTube’s TOS by downloading the video.

        • VagabondJourney

          Thanks for the feedback.

          The principles of fair use really don’t apply here. It’s like how you can’t republish someone else’s photos w/o permission. My videos are published under standard copyright, and whether or not the source is acknowledged in a watermark or not is irrelevant, as they can’t be reproduced in any capacity without permission. Also, a watermark is an incredibly weak and just about insignificant form of attribution. If it were otherwise then I would be able to republish videos from CNN, watermark them with their logo, and then claim fair use. I can’t do this. I would be receiving letters from lawyers in no time.

  • Jane Ruiz

    That’s some fuckshit.

    • Jane Ruiz

      Anyways, I sent their copyright infringement dept. a reprimanding email. I hope this gets published elsewhere, it really needs to get out there that this sort of stuff can’t be allowed. Maybe start a petition? I wonder if there’ll be more of a response after a couple hundred readers email them.

      • VagabondJourney

        Thank you, Jane. Could you post the email for the copyright infringement department that you sent your letter to here so other readers could do the same?

        • Jane Ruiz

          Sure. Although I’m certain someone could rephrase it better:

          http://www.vagabondjourney.com/cnn-may-have-aired-my-content-without-permission/

          On behalf of this article, it must be said that just quietly removing the video isn’t a sufficient way to pardon yourselves — it’s just a sneaky way to get away with it. Whoever wrongfully used this freelancer’s content without permission or compensation should be reprimanded, and as a leading news icon, you guys should have stood up and publicly apologized.

          Lead as a role model, not as a bad example.

          • VagabondJourney

            This is excellent! Much appreciated.

        • Jane Ruiz

          Ah, you may have meant the email address!

          copyrightagent@turner.com