YouTube, game publishers and video creators have always had something of an uneasy relationship. Video content creators, those who make gameplay videos or review games on YouTube, have gone through approved services like Machinima to make games content for years now. They can often make lots of money doing so, and have been usually protected under fair use, or the idea that their work helps sell the product they’re talking about.
The problem is that yes, technically they are using copyright footage and/or music in their videos, content owned by those make the games. Usually, publishers have been content to let this idea slide, knowing how important essentially free press can be when it comes to selling their games, and how influential some of these content producers are.
That’s all changed this week, however, as something has finally snapped. YouTube has sent out thousands upon thousands of copyright notices on gameplay videos to content creators both famous and amateur. YouTube staples who have made hundreds of videos with few copyright complaints are now suddenly drowning in them, as part of YouTube’s new crackdown on previously unenforced gameplay video restrictions.
What’s going on here? It’s hard to tell, and details are still trying to be sorted out. The common notion is that YouTube is trying to cover themselves in case these game companies ever do try to enforce their copyright laws, and end up suing YouTube, which has all the money, as opposed to the content creators, who don’t.
But this copyright notice storm is especially bizarre when you examine the details. YouTubers are reporting that at least half the notices they’re getting have nothing to do with the companies who make the games they’re talking about. Some developers like Capcom and Deep Silver have already issued statements saying that they’re investigating “false flags” of their content, and saying they didn’t request any such takedowns. YouTube itself hasn’t yet responded to request for comment on the situation.
What’s likely happening is that YouTube or Google GOOG -0.7% have implemented some sort of new algorithm which is detecting this stuff automatically, and issuing notices accordingly. But understandably, this is deeply problematic for an entire legion of content producers who make a full time living on monetized YouTube videos with this kind of content.
The problem is that Google and YouTube have the right to do whatever they want, and you can’t really argue with that. They could simply not share any ad revenue with any YouTubers, and there would still be millions of videos on the site. When you rely on one site alone for income, any policy change can instantly destroy you. See how Zynga has crumbled after Facebook more or less banished them from news feeds.
With this said, gaming companies should be the ones doing everything in their power to fight against this wave of copyright notices which are decimating their biggest fans and most effective promoters. While it’s perfectly understandable why something like a full episode of a TV show or a movie should be taken off someone’s private YouTube channel, it’s different for gaming.
Oftentimes, YouTube gaming content creators are some of the best viral advocates for games companies can ask for. They’re organic, honest, funny and, most importantly, free. Allowing someone to broadcast gameplay from your game costs you nothing, and if someone with 5,000 to 5 million YouTube subscribers is making a video about your product, whether they like it or hate it, you will sell more copies.
While YouTube and Google can do what they want, it should collaborate with the content creators and game developers to ensure that whatever is going on right now is some sort of bizarre, automated fluke rather than an officially enforced new policy. Content creators draw more people to YouTube, move copies of games, and get compensated in the process. All three parties come out ahead, and this shouldn’t even be a debate.
Article by Paul Tassi