I know its every person’s dream to have a video go viral on YouTube, but what if it starts to go viral and you need to stop it for one reason or another?

That’s what happened to me last week. Since I have an active YouTube audience, my brother gave me a funny video of his son crying when he got a bike for his birthday. I put it up over a month ago and it got 5,000 views in about a day and a half before we decided it would be best to take the video down due to some privacy concerns we didn’t think through at first.

I didn’t think it would be a big deal. There where a couple people who were bummed that the video wasn’t available to show to their friends, but that was it. We went on with life.

Apparently during the brief period of time that the video was posted, someone downloaded it, held on to it for a month, and last week distributed it to several popular hollywood gossip websites. Thankfully one of my YouTube subscribers saw it and tipped me off that our video had been stolen and redistributed. I checked it out and was shocked how many sites were linking back to the sites who were hosting it. It had only been up for a few hours!

Getting most of the websites to cooperate and take our video down was not easy. A few were cooperative, but the video had already reached several thousand views on each site hosting it. A friend of mine in another state even text messaged me to saying she was in a restaurant and saw our video on a popular TV show! Not only was the video going viral fast, but it was totally outside our control and someone else was benefiting from our content.

Other people started to upload it to YouTube and thus started an ordeal of submitted copyright infringement claims, contacting webmasters, and trying to remove the video’s privacy concern from the Internet. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Both Bing and Yahoo picked up the video and featured it and after that we pretty much gave up.

We considered uploading a longer version of the video to try to pick up some of the remaining views of people searching for it and to prove that it’s our content, but ultimately decided to ignore how virally our video spread outside our control and to let it die off. Unfortunately, that wild fire took off without us. Neither my brother nor I ever earned a dime from it nor did he ever receive credit for his content.

The lesson here is clear: once you post something online, you can never take it back. It’s almost somewhat of an Internet cliche, but it is oh so true.