James Somerton’s Fall From Grace: YouTube, Plagiarism, Fraud, and a Fake Suicide?

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  • Alex Lefkowitz
    (Author)

    Alex Lefkowitz is the founder and CEO of Tasty Edits. He holds a BA in Entrepreneurship and is an experienced video editor, having edited hundreds of videos for dozens of creators before starting his own video editing company. Since launching Tasty Edits, he has directly managed thousands of video and thumbnail orders. Now, he draws on his experience working with professional creators to write about video editing, the creator economy, and video marketing. You can also read his work on Hackernoon and Medium. Plus, he's contributed several expert opinions in interviews and articles as a guest on platforms like Jotform.

    View all posts

Over the years, many YouTubers have been embroiled in scandal and ended up deleting their channels. However, few have been more contentious than the case of James Somerton

Formerly a famous YouTube essayist, Somerton fell from grace after it was revealed that he committed flagrant plagiarism. Many of his video essays were stolen from authors and academics without any credit. His chaotic response that followed recently culminated in a fake suicide

But what exactly happened? And what has the fallout been? 

Here’s everything you need to know.

Quick Facts

  • James Somerton is a former YouTuber from Canada, who specialized in video essays and queer takes on popular media. 
  • He fell from grace after it was revealed that much of his content was plagiarized in a video by Hbomberguy. 
  • In March 2024, he posted a fake suicide note on his Twitter account, which was exposed when it emerged that he was still posting on his alt accounts.

Keep reading for the full scoop!

Contents

Who is James Somerton?

James Somerton, who also goes by James of Telos, is a former YouTuber based in Toronto, Canada. He launched his channel in 2011 and rose to YouTube fame thanks to his video commentary on comics, books, and film

A member of the LGBTQ+ community himself, many of his analyses centered around queer readings of popular media. This included “The Campy Queer Sensibilities of Barbie”, “Neil Gaiman & Queering Fantasy” and “Gay Happiness and Mainstream Media”.

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Somerton's YouTube channel in early December 2023.

In late 2023, his channel could boast 336 K subscribers and channel members. He also had an active Patreon account, with over 4,000 members. 

Furthermore, Somerton also raised funds for Telos Pictures, a production company claiming to specialize in LGBTQ series and films. On the funding platform IndieGoGo, Somerton raised over $86,000 for this project from 900 backers. 

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Somerton's Patreon in late 2023.

The Plagiarism Scandal: What did James Somerton do?

Throughout the years, Somerton had already faced multiple complaints from individual authors and creators. They claimed that he had used passages from their works without their consent and without credit. However, his rapid fall from grace only started in December 2023

Videos by Hbomberguy and Todd in the Shadows

On December 3, YouTube essayist Harry Brewis (aka Hbomberguy) released a four-hour video taking a deep-dive into plagiarism on YouTube. During two of those hours  he exposed Somerton’s extensive theft of ideas in his video essays.

Hbomberguy showed how Somerton had lifted many sections of his videos verbatim from essays, books, and articles. All without credit. 

One day later, Todd in the Shadows, a YouTuber who usually specializes in music reviews and retrospectives, released his own video fact-checking many of Somerton’s claims and exposing his lies.

Telos Pictures: A Scam?

Furthermore, complaints also surfaced about Telos Pictures.

Despite claiming to have several projects in production, the company never released any updates, leave alone any movies or series. Increasingly, it began to look like a scam.

Investors complained of fraud and IndieGoGo suspended the project from its fundraising platform.

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Did James Somerton Respond?

Somerton had been accused of plagiarism or faced criticism prior to December 2023. Back then, his default response was to claim that he was being attacked because of his sexuality. He also claimed to have received death threats as well as threats of sexual assault. 

Furthermore, he had deflected some of the blame for his plagiarism to Nick, a friend of his that he had brought on as co-writer for his channel. 

However, following the one-two punch of the videos by Hbomberguy and Todd in the Shadows, Somerton released a longer and more detailed response. In fact, he released two – the second after deleting the first.

In these responses Somerton – often on the brink of tears – claimed that not all of his content was plagiarized. He also insisted, that much of the plagiarism he’d been accused of was a simple failure to cite properly. And that an explanation for the inactivity of Telos was upcoming. Finally, he explained that he would keep the plagiarized videos on his channel and donate the proceeds to the victims.

Apart from that, he emphasized that the scandal was ruining his friendship with Nick, and that part of the reason he was keeping these videos up was to help his portfolio. He also alluded to the fact that the stress of the scandal had led him to do “something stupid”, hinting at self-harm. 

Hilariously, Somerton attempted to benefit from his apologies, monetizing the videos, first closing then reactivating his Patreon, and creating a new Patreon under a pseudonym. 

During this period, he also first set several videos on his channel to private, changed his handles on Twitter and YouTube, and eventually deleted multiple profiles across several platforms

However, as far as is known, he never offered any amends or compensation to the victims of his plagiarism.

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Fake Suicide and Alt Accounts: Where is James Somerton?

The most recent twist in the Somerton saga came in on March 5 2024, when Somerton posted what was effectively a suicide note on his private Twitter account.

He claimed that if the post was live, it meant that he had “ended things” and that the videos that remained on his channel would stay up for the sake of “Nick’s portfolio”. He also said that he had “left directions that any money from those videos be donated to The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention”. This organisation, he claimed, had “tried very hard to pull [him] back”, but failed, since “there [was] simply no life for [him] anymore”. 

This message triggered a storm of concern among his remaining followers, as well as among observers who now came to believe that Somerton had been harassed too severely.

In a severe backlash, the YouTubers who had originally exposed his plagiarism were now even accused of murder.

However, not only did his friend Nick reassure people online that Somerton was alive and well. It was also revealed that after posting his “suicide note” and ceasing all activities on his personal account, Somerton continued to post on Twitter. For this, he used pseudonyms on alt accounts: The Gay Raconteur (later changed to “Will” and “thatgayyouknow” and “The Achillean Boy”) and “Mikey JB”. He’d created the latter in 2017 and formerly used it to share stolen Grindr pictures. 

As Mikey JB, Somerton stoked fears about his suicide and accuse the people who had criticised him, saying that they “drove him to it”. He furthermore contradicted Nick’s reassurances that he was OK, claiming that “they [hadn’t] spoken in months”. 

Simultaneously, Somerton used  The Achillean Boy, to post sexually explicit content and comments about Ryan Philippe. 

This was revealed by Lady Emily, one of the co-writers for Canadian YouTuber Saraz Z, who had been keeping track of his alt accounts. 

The Bottom Line

While Somerton is alive and well, his career as a content creator and entrepreneur is not. Not only did he actively and knowingly plagiarize content and monetize it for his own gain. He also misled his investors in Telos Productions and failed in his response to accusations against him. The latest twist in the story, centered around his fake suicide, simply shows the lengths to which he is prepared to go in his denial to accept that things are over.

FAQs

James Somerton is a former YouTuber from Canada, who specialized in video essays and queer takes on popular media. He fell from grace after it was revealed that much of his content was plagiarized.

After it was revealed that Somerton had plagiarized much of his content, he posted two apology videos and eventually deleted his channel. He later reuploaded some of his content but was criticized again after releasing new videos that were merely paraphrases of other creators. In March 2024, he posted a fake suicide note on Twitter, which was exposed when someone pointed out that he was still active on his alt accounts.

In response to the accusations against him, Somerton first made several of his videos private, then changed his URL, deleted his channel, and reuploaded some of his content under a different handle.

James Somerton plagiarized extensive sections of his video essays from other creators and authors without any credit. He was eventually exposed and deleted his channel. In March 2024, he posted a suicide note on his private Twitter account, which was soon revealed to be fake because he was still active on his alt accounts. 

Before his channel was deleted, Somerton had 336,000 subscribers. 

Author

  • Alex Lefkowitz

    Alex Lefkowitz is the founder and CEO of Tasty Edits. He holds a BA in Entrepreneurship and is an experienced video editor, having edited hundreds of videos for dozens of creators before starting his own video editing company. Since launching Tasty Edits, he has directly managed thousands of video and thumbnail orders. Now, he draws on his experience working with professional creators to write about video editing, the creator economy, and video marketing. You can also read his work on Hackernoon and Medium. Plus, he's contributed several expert opinions in interviews and articles as a guest on platforms like Jotform.

    View all posts