It’s pretty common to see long, elaborate videos show up in your YouTube recommendations — I’ve found myself watching multihour takedowns of obscure foreign series I’ve never watched before. One particular video, clocking in at just under four hours, has taken off on the platform, and is a hot topic of discussion on social media. Plagiarism and You(Tube), by Harry “Hbomberguy” Brewis, digs into several important topics: reaction content, AI-generated media summaries, and of course, plagiarism.
In the YouTube video, Brewis digs into not just the definition of plagiarism, and examples of it across popular channels, but the incentives that drive creators to pull content from other sources and quote it extensively without credit. These include ad revenue, lucrative sponsorships, and platforms like Patreon, which incentivize fast and consistent video production.
The video is very good, and definitely worth watching if you can carve out the time. Many people can’t or won’t, so they won’t uncover the mid-video twist: a concerted takedown of James Somerton, a YouTuber and filmmaker who focuses on queer content and media interpretations. Brewis systematically goes through Somerton’s content, calling out multiple instances in which he plagiarizes — or heavily lifts from, without proper crediting — authors from other outlets, academics, and documentaries.
Brewis wasn’t the only YouTuber to check Somerton’s content. Music channel Todd in the Shadows, run by Todd Nathanson, posted a video that clocks in at one hour and 42 minutes. Nathanson focuses on rigorously fact-checking Somerton’s content, combing through his video essays to debunk claims about Nazi Germany and aesthetics, queer discrimination, and critical responses to media.
These videos raise questions about standards on YouTube, modern perception of plagiarism, and the collective debt creators owe to those who came before. Brewis’ video also makes an excellent companion piece to another video he posted one year ago in which he investigates the origin of the Roblox “oof” sound, and ends up uncovering a similarly fishy situation around video game composer Tommy Tallarico and his history of tall tales.
Polygon reached out to Somerton for comment, and will update this article if we receive a response.