Tidal Wave Of YouTube Copyright Claims Underway
Update: YouTube has responded to our request for comment, defending the recent wave of copyright claims. The company explains the event as having to do with a change to multi-channel networks (MCN).
"Nothing illustrates the incredible growth and evolution of YouTube better than the enterprise class of businesses being built on the platform today," a YouTube spokesperson told Game Informer via email. "As these networks grow, we’re making product and policy updates that will help them operate at scale. We are also rolling out tools that will provide more transparency for creators and networks alike. This is part of our commitment to ensure that all enterprise partners can continue to thrive and be successful on YouTube."
Furthermore, the spokesperson shared details about how these new copyright claims were issued. "We recently enabled Content ID scanning on channels identified as affiliates of MCNs," the representative told us. "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."
Earlier this year, when Nintendo asserted its copyright and monetization rights over YouTube videos with its gameplay, there was an outcry. What is happening right now on YouTube makes Nintendo’s action feel like the first drop of rain in a category five hurricane.
YouTube video creators, Game Informer included, have been receiving a flood of copyright claims via YouTube’s automated Content ID mechanism. You can see an example of one we’ve received below.
A number of YouTube personalities have shared screenshots of their email inboxes showing dozens of claims that appeared in quick succession (again, we’ve shared some of ours below). Unfortunately, YouTube hasn’t said anything yet.
YouTube Let’s Player (LPer) TetraNinja (over 480,000 subscribers) says that over 350 of his videos have been claimed. User TheRadBrad (over 2 million subscribers) and others report that a company named Independent Distribution On Line (IDOL) is initiating some of the claims.
A search online reveals that this group has been involved in smaller scale video claim instigations in the past. We found a report from December 2011 that sounds very similar to the issues happening now. We’ve reached out to IDOL for comment.
It also seems that some of the claims are being filed in error. Ubisoft, Deep Silver, Capcom, and Blizzard are asking users to contest the claims.
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
YouTubers: Pls let us know if you've had videos flagged today. These may be illegitimate flags not instigated by us. We are investigating.— Capcom-Unity (@Capcom_Unity) December 10, 2013
Ubisoft told CVG that users should leave videos live and share the URL and the information about who initiated the claim. The publisher is hoping to clear claims as quickly as possible.
It’s important to understand the legal issues surrounding the YouTube copyright claims. The gameplay content displayed during Let’s Play videos is owned by the creators. While commentary and criticism is layered on top of that, it likely won’t pass muster for fair use.
Fair use doctrine states that some of the copyrighted material can be reproduced in service of critique or commentary. Playing an entire game, which is different than including self-captured screenshots or a brief clip of play, would likely not fall under the fair use umbrella.
We’ve reached out to YouTube for a second time in hopes the company, which is owned by Google, can shed some light on this issue. This issue is still evolving, and we’ll update as we know more.
I see a lot of misunderstanding online about fair use and the rights of YouTube LPers. Put simply, they don’t have any. Playing an entire game and capturing footage infringes on the rights of the content creator. Instead of pulling the videos entirely, those copyright holders are choosing to divert the monetization to themselves.
Content holders must vigorously defend copyright. That’s the way our laws work. There are other ways to deal with this, though. Some publishers have issued blanket licenses to LPers, allowing them to monetize.
YouTube and Twitch are important vehicles for word of mouth. Some publishers, like Deep Silver, Devolver Digital, Ubisoft, and others have embraced this community, even providing them with advance copies (just like traditional outlets).
The law often plays catchup to technology. In this case, content creators can intervene to cultivate a communication channel that has a different reach than traditional PR and marketing. What’s going on right now with YouTube Content ID claims is a solution, but it’s not the right one, especially as YouTube crowed about its rapid game content growth just a few months ago.