Thousands of game videos have been deprived of revenues by YouTube administrations in a copyright crackdown that threatens the grassroots advertising many game developers depend on.
The new copyright claims center on a new system called Conent ID that identifies video and audio content as protected and flags duplicate content for removal or strips monetisation rights from the video's uploader.
These monetisation rights are then transferred to the copyright holder of the orgininal work, which means that companies like Nintendo that have elected to stand by the decision are actually being paid for work created by fans.
For the rising breed of YouTube journalists this is potentially catastrophic, since it means they might not get revenue from let's play videos and trailer commentary – two of the most popular kinds of game videos on YouTube.
These videos have become so important to games marketers that several publishers have issued statements in support of professional YouTubers trying to keep their monetisation rights.
Deep Silver has succeeded in lifting claims made by a company called 4GamerMovie against videos featuring the publisher's games.
“A channel named 4GamerMovie has been claiming reviews, Let's Plays, and walkthrough videos for our games, including Metro: Last Light,” said Deep Silver in a statement.
“We raised this issue with YouTube late last evening and from the reports we've gotten in the past hours, it seems that claims by this channel have been lifted. If this is not the case, please dispute the claim and link us your video in question via Twitter."
Some of the copyright claims are from other sources; Deep Silver names two companies involved with the music in its games as the source of a few claims, and YouTubers have noted that videos containing cutscenes are particularly vulnerable to copyright claims.
Deep Silver isn't alone in this stance: Capcom, Ubisoft, and Blizzard have all joined the ranks of those in support of YouTube uploaders.
The problem is that YouTube's new Content ID system doesn't follow the same rules copyright holders have used to prevent violations by websites in the past, Mona Ibrahim explained in a blog post on Gamasutra.
Let's Play and other videos that take a good portion of content from a video game are technically “Derivative Works” under US copyright law and get their own protections – but only if created by consent from the original work's copyright holder or within the rules for nominal or fair use.
Traditional DCMA take-down procedures require a rights holder to submit a notice of infringement to the website, and in most cases the site will take the offending content down without much review.
The uploader can then file a counter notice claiming their work was either non-infringing or constitutes fair use, and if granted then the creator of the original work will have to pursue legal action to take the content down again.
The Content ID system on the other hand doesn't remove offending content, it simply means that monetisation rights are transferred to the claimant.
It's a weird system that means even works that should be protected as derivative are being monetised without the consent of the creator.
This isn't illegal, but companies like Nintendo are risking a lot of negative PR if they don't change their policy, which currently adds video advertisements to any fan-created content they claim – monetising user-created content because it has gameplay footage or audio of a certain length.
Image Credit: Polygon