In a reactive move, many more developers and publishers are coming out of the proverbial wood-work to defend content creators seemingly every minute. In a clear and concise statement issued by developer Deep Silver, (The Metro series, Saints Row) a line in the sand seems to be being drawn. The developer stated “We have been working with YouTube to resolve various issues that have plagued the YouTube gaming community this week, as soon as we learned about what was going on.” The statement continues on, “Deep Silver has no intention of preventing players, who like to creating gaming content on YouTube using our games, from doing so, nor do we seek to block any videos of the kind.”
The statement went on to specifically name all forms of video content, Let’s Play, critique, etc., that the company supported. This blanket statement is also being echoed by countless other developers like Capcom, Ubisoft and Blizzard, (some of whom even already have legal blanket copyright statements on record) putting some now out-of-commission video makers a bit more at ease.
More troubling, however, is that it seems more evident many of these Content ID claims being issued by YouTube aren’t in fact coming from the parties that own the rights to the content. Third part companies, or even now-defunct companies like THQ, have been named in these claims, which begs the question how creators are supposed to clear claims when there is no longer a company to clear it with. With the quoted time for a dispute to be cleared being 30 days for companies who are still operating, tracking down new copyright owners may be an even larger uphill battle.
Unfortunately, as more YouTube aficionados now find themselves reading up on copyright laws, it is painstakingly clear that a defense of Fair Use (using the content in small amounts for the purpose of critique/review) is incredibly difficult, if not impossible when it comes to Let’s Play’s, even when the voice is creative and unique. To make life even more interesting, copyright laws state that if copyright holders do not actively defend, claim, or approve their content for use, they could lose essential copyright protections for the content. This forces the hand of some companies to at the very least make life more difficult for content creators (even if they support those creators) if they wish to retain rights to their own games, music, cut scenes, etc.
It seems as though this is has the potential to be a much more long-term battle between creators, YouTube, and third party copyright holders. However with many developers actively seeking to help those who like to show off their games via YouTube videos, once the claims slow down (it seems the volume of claims in the last 24 hours have greatly subsided, but some are still appearing) many of those dependent on the income from these videos may have an opportunity to catch up, or even get ahead of the curve with these claims. After all, many YouTube channels deal with this regularly, just not to this volume.
I leave you with this from Deep Silver’s statement, to ease your nerves.
“You will not be alone in this, whatever changes may come. Within the games industry, including at our competitors, there are many who share this vision”
If you make let’s plays, or just any gaming videos for monetization on YouTube, chances are over the last 24-48 hours, you’ve received plenty of emails notifying you that an automated Content ID mechanism has flagged your videos, essentially for violation of YouTube’s content policy regarding the monetization of content not copyrighted to you.
Earlier this year Nintendo’s clear cut opinion (that was later quietly retracted) that they would not, under any circumstances, allow non-copyright holders to show Nintendo content for monetization purposes (I.E. Let’s Play’s, etc.), created plenty of outcry from content creators and consumers alike. YouTube seems to now be mirroring Nintendo’s sentiment and cracking down on violators of their long-standing policy of disallowing the re-distribution of copyrighted content for personal monetization.
The good news so far, is that the emails from YouTube seem (for now) to be mere notifications, and not penalization of user’s accounts, which is a small silver lining, since many users have received hundreds of emails regarding the subject. It also seems no-one is immune, with the likes of GameInformer even broadcasting their receipt of these emails.
In an email response to GameInformer, an official YouTube representative stated that “We recently enabled Content ID scanning on channels identified as affiliates of MCNs,” going on to say, “This has resulted in new copyright claims for some users, based on policies set by the relevant content owners. As ever, channel owners can easily dispute Content ID claims if they believe those claims are invalid.”
“Multi-Channel Networks (MCNs) are entities that affiliate with multiple YouTube channels, often to offer assistance in areas such as product, programming, funding, cross-promotion, partner management, digital rights management, monetization/sales, and/or audience development.
These companies are not affiliated with or endorsed by YouTube or Google.” (YouTube.com)
It seems as though YouTube won’t be backing down anytime soon, but they still make it clear that these claims can be disputed. Also, a fair amount of developers have encouraged customers to continue broadcasting, and notify them of any violation notices, so they can approve them as soon as possible. Also it’s worth noting that it seems the company that began the wheels turning on this, and is in a majority of the claims, is called Independent Distribution On Line, and had participated in a much smaller scale version of this in 2011. They have yet to respond for comment.
If anyone is curious, PLEASE make YouTube videos of our games and monetize them. Seriously, we’re so lonely! #monetizeus
— DrinkBox Studios (@DrinkBoxStudios) December 11, 2013
If you’re a YouTuber and are receiving content matches with the new changes, please be sure to contest them so we can quickly approve them.
— Diablo (@Diablo) December 11, 2013
It will be interesting to see where the legalities of these videos go from here, as fair use notates that while creation with the purpose of critique or commentary is a justifiable and legal reproduction of copyrighted material for monetization, it seems to imply that simply broadcasting the entirety of a material, (much like a Let’s Play) even with voice-over, is not protected under fair use copyright. Many developers and publishers, however, make sure to treat this area of the community with blanket approval to redistribute their content in this form, so long term effects should be largely mitigated with little pain and suffering.
If you want to know this writer’s opinion on the entire situation, head here.