Let’s Play’s – a genre of videos on YouTube – have reached a critical mass over the past couple of years. Channels like Pewdiepie, RoosterTeeth and TheYogscast have hugely capitalised: getting several billion views and millions of subscribes between them. But how much longer before the critical mass blows up in their faces?
Copyright claiming has always been a problem for Let’s Players. To a certain extent Let’s Playing comes under fair use in copyright law, but early in 2013 videos of Sega’s Shining Force starting be unceremoniously taken down, even if they were years old. Later Nintendo would begin to put ads surreptitious into videos and snag all of the revenue.
This was just a precursor to the avalanche of content claims that was about to be unleashed. YouTube made another policy change and the automated content ID check started blowing channels to pieces. With little to no interaction with the creators, videos are being flagged for copyright infringement and channel owners are missing out on their precious ad revenue. YouTube has always been a slightly dodgy and unreliable mistress, with videos taking hours to process or not appearing in subscribers sub-boxes, but this has taken it to a whole new level.
The most interesting thing about the whole debacle is that the claims aren’t even coming from the publishers themselves in some cases. Capcom quickly responded via Twitter asking to ‘Pls let us know if you’ve had videos flagged today. We are investigating.’ A few other publishers jumped into the fray to defend the much subjugated YouTubers. Almost all of the claims are coming from more vague 3rd party claimants, who are automatically matched with the – supposedly – infringing content.
It’s a mess. But who can we point the finger of blame at? Is it the fault of the Let’s Players and reviewers? Infringing copyright and annoying the publishers. Could it be the fault of YouTube? Trying to cover their behind against the old guard of publishing, who could turn around and sue them for hosting copy written material. Or is it the old guard? Not understanding that YouTube is a fantastic medium for advertising and showing off their titles, to an audience that is evidently more than willing to watch.
Personally I think it’s a little of each and because of this it’s the law surrounding fair use and copyright that needs a stern talking to. We need more carefully and clearly defined lines around what is copyright infringement and what is fair use. Once we have this it will be much easier for the old guard of publishing to see the value in YouTube promotion. As it stands, it’s Indy studios who are going to benefit from this in a big way: they are much smarter and much more savvy to the ways of the internet, making them able to benefit much more from Let’s Players.
Who do you think – if anyone – is to blame? Please let me know what you think down below.
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On my next instalment I will be looking at Indy publishing and how it’s changing.