Earlier this year someone stole my work and claimed it as their own on YouTube. It wasn't my Demo Reel, but a tutorial I made about comping render passes in Nuke. Someone had downloaded the YouTube video, and uploaded it on their channel, which was filled with tutorials stolen from other people. What was really annoying was that the stolen video had five times the views as the one on my channel.
If this happens to you with your Demo Reel or a personal project, the good news is that YouTube and Vimeo will respond to takedown requests. It's a simple process.
On YouTube they have a Copyright Infringement Notification page. There are a few questions you have to answer, but it doesn't take long to go through. Once I submitted the takedown request, it did take much longer than I thought it should, about three weeks. The offending video was taken down.
Vimeo has a similar page, their Vimeo DMCA Claim Form. You have to answer similar questions, although they really stress that you have to be truthful UNDER PENALTY OF PURJURY!!!!
While the odds of this happening to you are very small, there are steps you can take to protect your work. You can make your Demo Reel a 'unlisted' video on YouTube. This means it will not show up in searches, but if you give the link to someone they can watch it with no problems. Vimeo has an option to password protect your videos, which is probably the ideal solution. Private videos are also not included in Vimeo's Copyright Match that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, but only for the Plus/Pro accounts.
Hopefully this never is an issue for you, but if it does come up, know that there are steps you can take to correct this annoying situation. Any questions or comments, hit me up in the box below.