If you’ve visited YouTube in the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed countless “recommended” livestreams promising free Rick and Morty episodes 24/7.
Click on any of the videos and you’re bound to see the same kind of format spread across a variety of channels: Rick and Morty episodes playing, an active chat conversing with fervor off to the side and an indistinct channel name. In the case below, “Rick and Morty Live HD” gets straight to the point.
The hottest show on YouTube is illegal Rick and Morty live streams pic.twitter.com/Qy7OlPKm03
— Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) September 11, 2017
Rick and Morty isn’t the first time that YouTube has been host to videos that infringe on copyright. Since YouTube began, the website has been vigilant with issuing takedown notices anytime a full-length movie or TV show appears on its website. At some point, we’ve all come across a message after trying to play a specific video on YouTube that claims it violates the company’s copyright policies or is deceptive.
Why, then, are Rick and Morty livestreams not only allowed to run on YouTube, but are featured prominently on the front page and as recommended content? According to a YouTube representative, it’s up to the owner of the content to inform YouTube of what to keep an eye out for.
“When copyright holders work with us to provide reference files for their content, we ensure all live broadcasts are scanned for third party content, and we either pause or terminate streams when we find matches to third party content,” a representative told Polygon.
YouTube isn’t a mediator in copyright situations; as a company, it does not decide who owns the copyrighted material. While the company does work with rights holders to ensure that inauthentic material is taken down once uploaded, YouTube isn’t vigilantly keeping an eye on what videos are infringing on copyright and what videos aren’t.
When it comes to livestreams, YouTube’s team expedites the process of reviewing copyright infringement claims to ensure that those streams can be taken down. As a YouTube representative told Polygon, once those reference files are provided to YouTube, it’s easier for teams to keep an eye on what is being uploaded illegally and what’s not.
That means it’s up to Adult Swim to work with YouTube on ensuring livestreams of the series aren’t appearing on the site. When asked whether Adult Swim is working with YouTube to upload reference files so this doesn’t happen in the future or if takedown requests had been sent, the network had no comment.
This isn’t the first time that Rick and Morty livestreams have come into question. When the third season of Rick and Morty premiered in July, Adult Swim made the first few episodes free on its website, airing them simultaneously with the broadcast versions. By the time the fourth episode rolled around, however, viewers were disappointed to learn Adult Swim wasn’t livestreaming the episode as it had been doing.
Adult Swim did give fans a heads up on Twitter, acknowledging that the network understood this would mean more people finding illegal ways to watch new episodes.
When asked by Polygon if Adult Swim had any plans to bring back the free livestream option, a representative confirmed the network did not.
“Adult Swim livestreamed the first two episodes of Rick and Morty to kick off the new season and will continue to offer episodes to view online after they have aired on the network,” they said.
At the time of this article, Rick and Morty livestreams were still available to watch on YouTube.
New episodes of Rick and Morty air Sundays at 11:30 p.m ET on Adult Swim.