YouTube Copyright Chaos Continues. Game Publishers To The Rescue?

YouTube Copyright Chaos Continues. Game Publishers To The Rescue?

Many gamers who upload footage of video games to YouTube are still getting troubling “content ID” matches that threaten to upend YouTube’s gaming content as we know it. But on day three of this controversy, some game publishers appear to be taking steps to help these gamers out.

This story is unfolding rapidly as so-called Content ID notices continue to fill the inbox of big and small gaming YouTubers. Meanwhile, YouTubers and a bevy of game creators are taking to Twitter to talk about it, posting helpful videos to YouTube explaining the situation and talking directly to reporters like me.

Content claims do keep coming in, as YouTube’s copyright-sniffing bots continue to crawl any monetized videos — videos on which the uploader is running ads — in search of matching content that might infringe on someone’s rights. Those bots are claiming videos on behalf of game publishers, music rights holders and, in some cases, seemingly random parties. Once the bot sniffs out the content match, the gamer who uploaded it loses the ability to run ads and the supposed rights-holder can begin to collect money by running their own ads unless they release their claim.

“They’ve gotten worse,” YouTuber Zack Scott told me, a day after we first talked about the torrent of claims he’s received. “Music publishers are not releasing claims, but Capcom has so far. The third parties seem to not be releasing them either.”

Capcom is one of several gaming publishers to publicly state that they’re not behind this and don’t want YouTubers to get wrongly caught up in this. Technically, each game publisher can choose to let these videos go or claim them. Today, there have been numerous signs that game companies want to be lenient here.

The most impressive statement from a publisher came from Deep Silver, the company behind Metro Last Light, Saint’s Row and Dead Island, which Tweeted a statement the shows just how complicated and messed up this situation has been:

We have been working with YouTube to resolve various issues that have plagued the YouTube gaming community this week, as soon as we learned about what was going on.

1. A channel named “4GamerMovie” has been claiming reviews, Let’s Plays, and Walkthrough videos for our games, including Metro: Last Light. We raised this issue with YouTube late last evening (CET) 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 to @deepsilver.

2. Claims on titles like Saints Row IV, Dead Island Riptide, and Metro: Last Light have also been made by two companies involved with music: IDOL and Shock Entertainment Pty. Some claims are even about visual content. At the time of writing, this has not been resolved yet. However, we have made YouTube aware of this issue and the two companies in question do not seem to be restricting their wave of copyright claims to just Deep Silver titles. We hope that this situation will also be resolved quickly for all involved.

3. If you have received any claims by THQ for videos containing footage of Deep Silver titles, please dispute this claim and send us a tweet to @deepsilver including a link to the video in question. We can help with that.

Deep Silver has no intention of preventing players, who like to create gaming content on YouTube using our games, from doing so. Nor do we seek to block any videos of the kind. This includes Let’s Play, Walkthrough, Review, or other edited or commentated videos that are monetised by a player.

Whether your opinion of our games is positive or negative in your YouTube video, it is not our right as a games publisher to infringe on your basic right to voice your opinion freely using a public platform.

We will be monitoring the changes on YouTube and any other online medium that lets our fans share their common passion for games, and react and adapt to facilitate our communities wherever they are.

You will not be alone in this, whatever changes may come. Within the games industry, including at our competitors, there are many who share this vision. Adapting to change may sometimes take time, so we hope that the gaming community will be patient with not just us, but others as well, as we collectively strive to resolve any issues that arise.

Videos of the game The Last of Us have been flagged left and right, but the game’s development studio, Naughty Dog, like others, has expressed concern on behalf of content uploaders:

Seeing stories regarding @YouTube & video game videos. Are people with @Naughty_Dog #Uncharted or #TheLastofUs content having issues?

— Naughty Dog (@Naughty_Dog) December 11, 2013

A YouTube spokseperson confirmed that content sweeps have intensified this week, but did not address my questions about whether the video service was aware of the widespread concerns of gaming YouTubers about the changes.

“We recently enabled Content ID scanning on channels identified as affiliates of MCNs,” the spoksesperson said, referring to YouTube channels that are tied to bigger multi-channel networks. “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.”

YouTube has a system for allowing its users to push back against Content ID claims, but gamers who could use that system tell me that it is severely flawed.

“As soon as you receive a content ID notification, it immediately comes into effect, there’s absolutely no disputing it,” a gamer named Nathan who runs a small channel called Analogue Reviews told me. “The monetization feature is immediately removed from that video and it’s impossible to ever add it again. There is the option to dispute the claim but Youtube can take months to get back to you. When they actually respond, they’re generally not helpful at all.”

Some YouTubers also fear that disputing a claim could get their channel killed on YouTube. A Content ID match alone doesn’t penalise a channel, but disputing a content claim and having that claim rejected can result in a copyright violation notice. A few of those and you lose your channel.

The best way to dispute a Content ID claim, it turns out, might be to go to the press. The Analogue Reviews review of Tomb Raider got hit with a claim by… Tomb Raider.

I asked a PR rep for Tomb Raider publisher Square Enix about this one and was swiftly notified that the studio behind the game removed the claim — a claim, it should be noted, they never actively made, since YouTube’s bots made it for them. The rep said that each Square Enix studio sets their own policy regarding what kind of videos and monetization they’ll tolerate on YouTube. The standing Tomb Raider policy suggests that Analogue Reviews’ Tomb Raider piece might have technically crossed a few lines, but not in any severe way that seems outside the bounds of a standard game review.

Analogue Reviews has had many other reviews flagged. These are reviews that Nathan has spent hours putting together, editing footage, scripting and delivering voiceover, all for not much money.

Most of the time, it seems to Nathan, the claimant seems to have rights to music in the game. It’s unclear whether that’s a proper objection, though, given that the music itself is part of the game or licensed to it. But as soon as the content ID match is made, Nathan can’t make more money. For a blocked Last of Us review, he figures he’s only made $US50 but can’t make more until this is resolved. “I realise it’s not a lot of money but it’s more the principle of it. If that video were to go viral in the future or if we continue to grow as a channel, it has absolutely no potential to make anything now.”

Some of the content ID matches that gamers have been hit with are baffling. YouTuber NukemDukem (real name Doug), for example, is still wondering why his video of Beyond Two Souls got flagged by content supposedly claimed by Hearst Magazines UK and BAFTA:

Watch the video yourself at the listed timecodes and see if you can figure it out.

“I did not change the video,” Doug told me. “I have no idea what they are even claiming maybe they took a screen shot and put it in their magazine and claimed it? I disputed the claims because it was a press review copy given to me by Sony. No responses, by either Hearst or Sony (I just e-mailed Sony 3 hours ago).”

One of the best explanations of this week’s content ID fiasco was posted to the Force Strategy Gaming YouTube channel. It shows just about everything and may lead you wondering whether footage of a game that is used in part of a longer YouTube piece should really be claimed in its entirety by the firm that has rights to the game’s boss battle music.

“We don’t really bring in that much money from monetization but when we spend about 10 hours playing through a game to record footage and then another 10 hours writing a script as well as editing the video, having someone take 100% of the ad-revenue is a slap in the face,” Nathan from Analogue Reviews told me. “I don’t see why publishers would be doing this, considering a review is just more exposure/advertising. I would also be completely fine with the studios maybe taking 20% but 100% is ridiculous for having relevant game music in the background or showing a piece of gameplay that happens to be flagged.”

It seems that some game publishers might actually agree with him.

Some publishers, such as Paradox and Ubisoft, are already on the record about supporting gamers’ ability to post footage of their games to YouTube. IGN spotted a statement from Ubisoft that addresses this week’s incidents in greater detail:

“As you’re probably aware, many YouTubers this week have suddenly been hit with various copyright claims related to in-game audio. In June last year, Ubisoft set out its policy opening the door for channels to make videos using game content and to monetise bespoke content.

“If you happen to be hit with claims on any of your Ubisoft content, it may be that some of the audio is being auto-matched against the music catalogue on our digital stores – it might show up as being claimed by our distributor ‘idol’. In such cases please take the following steps and we can get it cleared for you.

  • Leave the video live for now.
  • Send us the URL of the affected video and let us know who flagged it.
  • We’ll get it cleared hopefully same day.

“Hope this helps, thanks for all your support over the past year and for all the amazing videos! Look forward to working with you in a very exciting 2014!”

Ubisoft’s mention of idol music is key. It seems that a lot of these Content ID matches are tied to automatic claims by companies in charge of large music libraries. Ubisoft is in the position to tell their music partners to let this fly. But, until they do, YouTubers won’t be able to run ads and will see their own business hurt. I’ve heard from YouTubers who have been waiting months for claims to be cleared, even after they’ve been told by claimants’ lawyers that they’ll do so quickly.

There are certainly arguments to be made that people who create games and music should make money off of the use of those games and music, especially if someone else is. But many YouTubers make convincing arguments that they’re adding to the conversation about games, performing traditional criticism of games that you’ve seen in print for years and that they’re even giving games free advertising. They find YouTube’s way of policing content lacking. It certainly raises a lot of questions. And so I’ll be following this story, I’m sure, for days and weeks to come.


  • The more I read about this, the more I think it’s purely YouTube’s system that’s at fault.

    The truth is, the gaming publishers probably don’t have the rights to let the music be used for other uses, unless they paid extra for it. So the companies are in the right to protect their IPs.

    However, in reviews and other copyright exempt pieces they have no right to claim it. Their work is part of the whole being critiqued.

    YouTube’s system is designed so people can’t edit in songs from these people into their own unrelated videos, it seems they didn’t anticipate this situation with music holders having rights so diversified. Whilst the system is designed to cater for some incorrect IDs it requires a trail of paperwork and permissions that don’t exist (And aren’t necessary) for these kinds of videos.

    I applaud the publishers who are stepping up, they’re going above and beyond for their community and those who make a living supporting their business.

    The music companies making the claims should be stepping up to help the situation, but they have little motivation to, it would be a fair bit of man hours on their part to deny themselves funds. As I mentioned, they do generally own the music rights and deserve compensation if it’s used unfairly without their permission.

    So I blame YouTube, who needs to listen to it’s content creators who are the core of their business and help them to process any issue which should be covered under fair use laws. They should be the ones working to fix this mess they created.

    (I should add my usual addendum, that the legality of Let’s Play videos are much more undefined than reviews. Most of the arguments I’ve made aren’t so ironclad when referring to those.)

    • unfortunately content creators do not have armies of lawyers they can send marching to Googles door on a whim, most big IP holders do, and have in the past (Nintendo), so what is easier for Google? Preempt these lawsuits by uniformly applying these rules accross the board and allowing the IP owners to decide, or wait for the dozens to hundreds of lawsuits slowly roll in.

      Google is covering their own ass which any SMART company does, its up to the IP owners to make the call and say it is ok.

      • but at the same time they removed the decision from the hands of the owners, what youtube has done is make the decision themselves and given the owners the option to DISPUTE youtube decision (basically they said “I don’t care what you want, mother youtube knows best and if you don’t like it get in line”) causing potentially months long issues for the company to deal with, from legal to communal/marketing (good luck getting your game reviewed or advertised by third parties when youtube is automatically shutting down all incentive to do so regardless of our stance).

        the SMART thing for youtube to do would have been to use this automated system to alert them to possible issues, then internally review it (to make sure it isn’t covered by any preexisting law or policy) and then inform the owner to see if they would like to take action because then not only would their asses be completely covered and exempt from and legal ramification but they also get brownie points from the owners for helping effectivly facilitate the managment of their content in accordance with their own actual policies, and ultimately youtube isn’t the IP holder and it isn’t up to them to decide how the content can and can’t be used.

        in an attempt to empower the content owner they have succeeded only in empowering themselves, and now many content owners have to jump through hoops just to get youtube to let them deal with their own damn IP the way they want.

      • They can cover their own asses all they want, if content creators keep getting attacked and YouTube refuses to defend them then they’ll eventually leave the platform and make it unprofitable.

        All they need to do is alter their system slightly to allow a sense of review to contentID matches. Instead of immediately cutting off monetisation put it into an escrow for a few days until the claim can be verified or appealed.

        Create simple tools that let the content creators simply come back and say it’s under fair use, then have a human verify that this is the case.

        Alternatively, if someone contests a contentID match let YouTube put the creator and copyright claimant in touch. Either to officially license the offending material under some agreement, or if the case isn’t black and white for the courts to decide.

        The IP owners aren’t impartial, leaving it up to them to decide isn’t exactly a strong solution.

  • If I was a developer I wouldn’t have a problem with it as long as the gamer put up big spoiler warnings before hand. I think some game makes just want their stories absorbed properly and enjoyed they way they are supposed to be.

  • ContentID is a joke. No real recourse against it, and it’s got so many false positives anyway.

    I put up a Witcher vid using the title song from the Polish Witcher TV show. They decided it was some obscure dance music track o_0

  • Well written article. This is just some more bullshit from Google. I hope this convinces more channels to leave YouTube and go to dailymotion or blip. Maybe that will affect Google’s precious monopoly.

    First YouTube gets rid of video responses, crushing any sort of debate on YouTube.

    Then they force Google+ integration into YouTube, punishing anyone who doesn’t link their profile. They got rid of the inbox, making keeping track of old comments nigh impossible. They keep emailing me about comments and I can’t figure out how to disable it.

  • Just goes to show that google is scummier by the day, and all companies will sell out thier fans for a quick buck. Except of course the smart game companies (Ubisoft and Paradox) <3

  • It was only a matter of time before this kind of thing started happening on a larger scale. ContentID takedowns and companies putting out DMCA takedown notices on fair use content is nothing new, but it wasn’t anything too high profile (except for a few instances such as the Mitt Romney political campaign video) and most of the time it was against people who didn’t have the legal clout to fight back (except for things like the Dancing Baby case). What’s going to be interesting is seeing how long it takes before Twitch gets affected, especially now that it has a record number of subscribers due to the PS4 and upcoming XBOne integration. Though the key here is monetisation, so companies may ignore anything that doesn’t get them a quick buck (as I think the ContentID hits actually divert the cash to the claimant until the dispute is resolved).

  • What about copyright law’s provisions for fair dealing for the purpose of news/review/satire etc?

  • It doesn’t really matter if it’s a copyright issue or not. It’s the game developer’s business, not YouTube’s to shut down people abusing their games. YouTube and Google, sticking their nose in where it doesn’t belong, as usual.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!