Video Nikola Motor Company has demanded the removal of videos posted by the embattled electric vehicle maker's critics that incorporate its ridiculed promotional footage of its Nikola One truck.
Last month, financial analysis firm Hindenberg Research published a report questioning claims made by the automaker and founder Trevor Milton about Nikola's products and prospects.
The report noted how the company had released a promotional video called "Nikola One in Motion" that made it appear that a prototype of a promised electric semi was travelling under its own power when in fact it had merely been rolling downhill – "showcasing the power of gravity," as the analysts later put it.
In a rebuttal that accused Hindenburg Research of trying to depress company stock in order to profit from short selling, the vehicle maker insisted it never said the prototype could move under its own power.
"Nikola described this third-party video on the Company’s social media as 'In Motion,'" the firm said. "It was never described as 'under its own propulsion' or 'powertrain driven.'" You can judge for yourself; the video in question is below.
The US Justice Department and the US Securities and Exchange Commission then began looking into whether Nikola had perhaps misled investors and a week later, Milton stepped down as executive chairman.
The scandal has become fodder for finance-oriented YouTubers, and now it seems Nikola is no longer interested in being hoisted with its own petard – damaged by its own marketing.
As noted by the Financial Times, various YouTubers have received takedown requests that Nikola has submitted through the largely automated content removal system YouTube provides to avoid liability under US copyright law. Nikola suggests it did so because YouTube reported unapproved use of its material.
"YouTube regularly identifies copyright violations of Nikola content and shares the lists of videos with us," a Nikola spokesperson said in a statement emailed to The Register. "Based on YouTube’s information, our initial action was to submit takedown requests to remove the content that was used without our permission. We will continue to evaluate flagged videos on a case-by-case basis."
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Nash managed to convince YouTube to undo the strike but he argues the system is fundamentally unfair because it assumes guilt.
"Here's what's going on right now," he says in his video. "We have large multinational corporations ... using and weaponizing the DMCA copyright system to assault, allegedly, YouTubers, to get them to shut up, to silence criticism. And they get to do it without any real consequences. There are no real consequences to abusing the system."
Sam Alexander, another YouTuber who incorporated the Nikola One demo footage into his own commentary, reports receiving a YouTube copyright strike that cites four of his YouTube videos for using the Nikola One footage.
YouTube spokesperson Alex Joseph made clear in response to an inquiry from The Register that the video site didn't on its own "[identify] copyright violations," as Nikola put it.
“Nikola has access to our Copyright Match Tool, which does not automatically remove any videos," said Joseph. "Users must fill out a copyright removal request form, and when doing so we remind them to consider exceptions to copyright law. Anyone who believes their reuse of a video or segment is protected by fair use can file a counter-notice.”
YouTube creators in the YouTube Partner Program have access to the Copyright Match Tool, which simply makes note of the user's uploaded videos and reports when a matching video is subsequently uploaded from another account. It doesn't make any determination about whether a copyright violation has occurred.
The interface shows where matches have been detected, allowing the account holder to ignore the match, request removal, or contact the uploader. The decision to take action, in other words, would have had to come from Nikola rather than YouTube.
Nikola evidently had second thoughts after the backlash. A company spokesperson told The Register that the removed videos had been restored as of 21:06 GMT on Friday. ®