WARNING! RANT AHEAD!
Let’s play a hypothetical situation here:
You are a game developer. You come out with a game that you hope is going to be the next big thing in gaming. You go through the normal advertising and hype that leads up to the release date, spending millions of dollars promoting your game. Release day comes and, hey, not bad…but could be better.
Gamers around the world start playing your game and, although your initial release was pretty good, your game hasn’t yet become the hit that you had hoped. A few months goes by and, all of a sudden, you start seeing a rise in your sales. You start seeing more and more people playing your game, and getting excited about it. You haven’t run any new ad campaigns, you haven’t offered anything special that wasn’t available before, but inexplicably the sales are going through the roof. The reason isn’t immediately apparent but the results are strikingly obvious.
Some time goes by and you find out that the gamer community has embraced your game and has begun uploading recorded sessions and streaming live game play videos of your game on sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch, JustinTV. The gamer community has fallen in love with, and become obsessed with, the content from your game. Videos and streams are going viral on a daily basis with millions upon millions of views. THIS finally explains the sudden, unexplained, boon in sales and popularity of your game.
This is FREE publicity for your game my friends.
Unfortunately, there are video game producers and organizations out there that don’t see it this way. They see it as a way to make more money for themselves. Wait, what? Yes, that’s right. They want to make money off of consumers when their content is being advertised. I guess the old model of paying for advertising is out the window and now companies are expecting to get paid to advertise their product. Wait, what?
To a point, I understand the mindset. Corporations are, by definition, for profit. Their entire goal in existence is to make money. If that motivation wasn’t there, most corporations would not exist. I get that. However there comes a point of ridiculousness, and I think that that point has been reached and surpassed many times over in a lot of cases. To the point that we have sites like YouTube being extra strict on copyright claims that cater 100% to the corporation and don’t even give the proper avenues for copyright claim dispute to the people that make YouTube happen…the users.
Every morning when I get up, I stumble out of bed and sit down in front of my computer. I log into my Facebook account to see what new and interesting (oh and useless) things my friends have posted, I jump on Twitter to see the latest posts from the people I follow, and I get on YouTube to check out my subscriber numbers and video views. This morning, I went through the exact same regiment. Imagine my surprise when I logged into my YouTube account and looked at my video manager. Wait…matched third party content? What third party content?
Yes, that’s right. I got a copyright notice for my streaming event. So, I thought it was going to be something that I didn’t notice (like my GTA V streaming video) like someone playing a song in the background. Nope.
YouTube’s system identified “Visual content administered by: Major League Gaming” as the copyright violation. Wait, what? I don’t have anything to do with MLG! Never have. I don’t think I have ever even visited their website. I know who they are and I know what they do but really? So, I watch the video from the point indicated. I discovered 2 things. First, I messed up my live stream because I forgot to mute my YouTube window while I was playing, messing up the audio. Oops. Second, there is nothing in the video that has anything to do with MLG. The image on the screen for the next 2 minutes and 32 seconds is the multiplayer lobby while I was waiting to see if a friend was going to connect his headset. He never did. This is what was on the screen the entire time:
Alright, so I need to dispute this because this has obviously been a mistake by YouTube’s automated system…yes, I said automated. There are no humans involved. So, of course, I click on the dispute button. Obviously, there has to be some option for “your system sucks and made a mistake,” right? Wrong. When you dispute a copyright notice, these are the options that you get:
- I own the CD/DVD or bought the song online
- I’m not selling the video or making any money from it
- I gave credit in the video
- The video is my original content and I own all of the rights to it
- I have a license or written permission from the proper rights holder to use this material
- My use of the content meets the legal requirements for fair use of or fair dealing under applicable copyright laws
- The content is in the public domain or is not eligible for copyright protection
That is it. There is no “other” or “another reason” or anything else that would allow me to say hey, you guys messed up. Here is a screen shot of what I saw…specific to THIS video:
So, what avenue do I take? First, lets go over the options we do have.
I own the CD/DVD or bought the song online. IT’S A TRAP! This isn’t even a legitimate claim, never has been and, I am sure, never will be. It is common knowledge now a days, since Napster and all of the P2P music sharing sites, that you cannot use copyrighted music online without express permission from the copyright holder. I do acknowledge that there are some people out there that would think this is alright but come on YouTube. This option leads you to a page that explains that you can’t do that.
I’m not selling the video or making any money from it. Alright, this could apply but this is also a trap. As with the previous option, this too is not a valid claim.
I gave credit in the video. Although there are times that will cover you, that is set forth in the terms of a written license or permission to use. So, giving credit alone does not meet copyright use requirements.
The video is my original content and I own all of the rights to it. Well, this one is pretty straight forward…or is it? YouTube doesn’t seem to respect your content. Unless you have some kind of documentation that you DO own all the content, and the copyright to it, well, they are going to just say that it is a violation and you are screwed. Take for example my photography. I have had numerous arguments with YouTube regarding MY photography and THEIR claim that I don’t own the rights to it. They told me I had to provide PROOF that I owned and produced the images. Well folks, that is a lot harder that you would think. I asked them if I needed to send them my camera or if I needed to send them a video of me taking photos. They just removed my video.
I have a license or written permission from the proper rights holder to use this material. This is the option that should be used most of the time. However when it comes to content like video games, good luck getting EA or Infinity Ward to give you permission. Unless you are VERY influential in the gaming community, you will NOT get the time of day. Most YouTubers that make money off of their gaming videos do so through a partnership with one of the major outlets. Organizations like Yeousch, TGN, Machinima, and others negotiate with the developers for rights use for their partners. Again, unless you have pretty much blown up in the community, good luck. You have to be special.
My use of the content meets the legal requirements for fair use or fair dealing under applicable copyright laws. This one is tricky. Fair use or fair dealing is subject to a lot of controversy. What one person considers fair use, another considers a violation. The generally accepted use under this section would include things like reviewing the game, tutorials, or tips/tricks. Even these, however, are subject to violation claims more often than not.
The content is in the public domain or is not eligible for copyright protection. Long story short here, video games haven’t been out long enough to get into the public domain for the most part. The way copyright works today, video games will never reach public domain unless there is a major change in the copyright laws.
So, what do I choose? Well, I honestly don’t know. I have spent several hours thinking about the options and am still up in the air as to what I am going to do. Do I risk a copyright strike and dispute the claim? If I do enter into dispute, what avenue do I take? After thinking about it, I would take the fair use route but I don’t think that would be successful. If the organization making the claim, in this case Major League Gaming, wishes to pursue the issue, the burden is on me to prove that there was no violation. Not on them. So, is it a loosing battle? Probably.
There are a couple of other choices beyond those on the list. First, simply remove the video. Taking down the video completely removes the issue and it all goes away. Second, acknowledge the third party content. This choice will place ads all over the video which, in theory, the revenue goes to the copyright holder.
None of these choices are optimum. Again, if the organization or person making the claim were required to show proof of the claim, a lot of YouTubers would save copyright strikes and life would be a lot less stressful for many. Having an option to receive more information about the claim would allow someone like me to be able to dispute the claim armed with the information required to mount a valid argument.
Unfortunately, my choice at this point is to simply remove the video. For someone that is trying very hard to grow a new channel, removing any video from the library is a step backwards. YouTube has is a difficult medium to be noticed in due to the overwhelmingly large number of videos. It is like trying to find one single atom of a needle placed in one of 20,000,000 haystacks. It is possible but very difficult.
So, this will not discourage me. I will continue to upload content. I will continue to share what I love with others that share that love. If the world of YouTube (not YouTube itself) finds what I do entertaining, I will succeed. If the world doesn’t find what I do entertaining, then I won’t fail because I don’t upload videos to impress anyone or with the goal of becoming famous. I upload videos because I like sharing what I do. If one single person watches one of my videos and enjoys it, then I am happy. Even if that one single person is me.
So, I think I am going to move my live streams to another service. I have used UStream and JustinTV but both have their issues. Many are using Twitch, so I may check that out to see whats up. I will keep everyone informed on that front.
What do you think about YouTube’s copyright policies? Have you been caught with your pants down? How have your battles gone? Make sure you visit my YouTube channel and check out my videos. Subscribe, comment on and throw a thumbs up to the videos you like…or just enjoy.
Cheers for Now
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