Some of the most impressive Super Mario creations took years to make — and now they're gone, at least on YouTube.
Earlier this month, speedrunner Alex "PangaeaPanga" Tan tweeted that his YouTube channel had been "wrecked." Taking a closer look, I noted that even the popular video titled Item Abuse 3 — which was billed as the "hardest Super Mario World level ever" — was taken down from the service after accruing over a million views. Tan says there's a reason for that: Nintendo is becoming more aggressive on YouTube when it comes to tool-assisted speedruns (or, in other words, playthroughs of Mario games that utilise emulators.)
Tan says that he was sent the following email by Nintendo:
We wish to inform you that the videos in question infringe Nintendo's copyrights. As the owner of the copyright in the games: Mario Kart 8, Super Mario World, and Pokémon, Nintendo has the exclusive right to perform the games publicly or to make derivative works based on the games. By making a derivative work using Nintendo's IP, and then displaying Nintendo's IP on your YouTube channel, you have violated Nintendo's exclusive rights.
Nintendo understands that its fans are the reason for its success, and we are always happy to see people share their passion for Nintendo's games. At the same time, Nintendo's intellectual property constitutes its most valuable assets, and the unauthorised use of these assets jeopardizes Nintendo's rights. Because of this, we ask that you please remove the video in question from your channel, and confirm that you will not post any videos using unauthorised software or copies of games, distribute or continue work on the modification, or take any other steps that would infringe Nintendo's rights.
Nintendo encourages fan engagement on YouTube through the Nintendo Creators Program. Under the program, participants are granted a licence to use Nintendo's characters, games, and other intellectual property, subject to the Code of Conduct included with the agreement. However, please note that this Code of Conduct prohibits you, among other things, from posting any content using unauthorised software or copies of games. This includes videos featuring tool-assisted speedruns, which require making a copy of a game's ROM file, and running the copied ROM through an emulator. If you are interested in learning more about the Nintendo Creators Program, please see: https://r.ncp.nintendo.net
Thank you for your understanding.
Nintendo Anti-Piracy Team
"I'm not actually 100% disappearing from the scene," Tan told me over email, "but this whole situation does hinder my ability to be involved. It just hurts to see how two very active communities that I participate in, the hacking community (SMWCentral, a site dedicated to SMW hacking) and TASing community (TASVideos, a site dedicated to TASes) are being targeted.
"It is also sad to see how these works that I have made throughout my childhood (including the Item Abuse series) are now being removed from YouTube (80% of my videos were removed), and that goes for people from these communities, not just me."
To wit, other Super Mario fans on TAS forums are noting that some of their favourite Super Mario speedrun videos around the web are disappearing, too. We've reached out to Nintendo to ask about the situation regarding tool-assisted Super Mario videos online, and will update this post should we hear anything back. In the past, Nintendo's approach YouTube has been criticised by prominent YouTubers such as Pewdiepie for not being mutually beneficial enough.
This new wrinkle is tricky because, well, Nintendo is within their full right to take down videos of this nature, especially if they involve games that were never purchased. At the same time, players like Tan have devoted years to showing off what makes classic Nintendo games great, sometimes even raising money for charity at speedrunning events. Entire communities have formed around tool-assisted speedruns, and video is one of the major ways these communities show off their work.
"Yes I respect Nintendo, and yes I still plan on playing Mario Maker and making ridiculously hard levels there," Tan said. "But it is a shame that if us content creators do want to showcase and display our levels to the public, then we are restricted to do it on Super Mario Maker instead of the way we have always done."