The hashtag #WhoLetsPlay is currently spreading like wildfire around Twitter after the recent events concerning content claims on tons of YouTube videos. Several YouTube content creators see their livelihoods potentially endangered by automated content claims. Apparently, some of those are even coming from the now-defunct THQ, which is pretty strong proof that something is definitely not working as intended on YouTube’s end. To make matters worse, the current system allows for abuse, as the recent shuffle between TotalBiscuit and Wild Games Studio demonstrated. The developers of Day One: Garry’s Incident tried to remove TB’s less than flattering first impressions video of their game by invoking a copyright claim on it. Considering that it doesn’t take much to shut down any given YouTube channel this way, this is quite dangerous.
All of this led Level Up Labs’ Lars Doucet to create a wikia of developers who explicitly allow “Let’s Plays” of their games to be created, shared, and monetized. Let’s Plays are responsible for a lot of the exposure indie games get nowadays, so actually reaching out to work together against potential copyright trolls seems like the sensible thing to do. Right now, Twitter is awash with both developers and Let’s Players, spreading the love and supporting each other. If you’re a developer, taking part is easy – on Twitter, you can go and tweet your permission with the hashtag #WhoLetsPlay. Adding a linkable statement to your homepage is actually the better way to do this, so be sure to add that as well. Then, you can edit the wikia. Finally, let people know about it! If you’re someone who benefits from monetized YouTube videos… well, you have just found a veritable treasure trove of games, ready to be featured without repercussions. Dig in!
Recently, there has been a major influx of erroneous copyright claims made against YouTubers who rely on advertising revenue to survive. A new content ID matching system was devised by Google which automatically flags unauthorized uploads. However, the algorithm used mistakenly removes legitimate content due to matched audio, or cutscenes. Google is renowned for its lack of transparency and slow response times to individual cases. As a result, Professional Youtubers and their careers are bound by the decisions at Google’s Head Office without any consultation or discussion. Google must adopt a new approach which gives content creators the confidence and freedom to produce enriching material without the constant uncertainty which exists today. A Google spokesperson has released a statement to Gamespot on this imperative issue. ”We recently enabled Content ID scanning on channels identified as affiliates of [Multi Channel Networks],” the YouTube representative said. “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.”
There is a legal ambiguity when discussing the monetization of Let’s Play videos. Who owns the content rights? Is it a YouTube personality or the original Publisher? This thorny issue is quite complex with no legal precedent. One theory is based on the idea that an audio commentary track alters a game from its intended purpose. A YouTuber who spends hours recording each episode and editing to a loyal audience has invested enough time to make their videos unique and worthy of monetization. Unfortunately, this is a problem which has the potential to ruin professional video creation and forge a distrustful relationship between YouTubers and major publishers.
There has already been a number of high profile publishers who have distanced themselves from Google’s ham-fisted approach. For example, Capcom recently outlined their reaction via Twitter which stated, “YouTubers: Pls let us know if you’ve had videos flagged today. These may be illegitimate flags not instigated by us. We are investigating.” Deep Silver also clarified their position which said, “If you had any THQ claims on Saints Row/Metro videos, dispute them and tweet us the links. We’ll favorite the tweets to take care of it <3.” Hopefully, these new and extensive guidelines created by Lars Doucet will instigate change and simplify the copyright process. YouTubers shouldn’t have to worry about policy updates or obscure legal frameworks. Their job revolves around content creation, not content preservation. Vocal action must be taken to pressurize Google into reforming the broken and opaque system.
For more in-depth information on how erroneous copyright strikes directly affect content creators, please read our interview with NukemDukem.