Atlus Keeps Hitting Tiny YouTube Channels With Copyright Strikes

Atlus Keeps Hitting Tiny YouTube Channels With Copyright Strikes

Linesneakers runs a YouTube channel with a humble 23 subscribers. A few days ago, they announced the channel was going on hiatus because of a copyright strike from Atlus for a random video featuring Persona 4: Dancing All Night. They aren’t alone. In the past week or so, the company has been on a YouTube tear.

“I’m not exactly sure why the video got removed as it did,” said Linesneakers in a video announcing the channel’s sudden change of direction, “as a reason wasn’t specified. I don’t know the first way to go about fighting the strike, either. I don’t exactly know what’s going to happen with the channel.”

If things stay as they are, Linesneakers’ channel will be in bad standing until April 2016, at least six months from now. That’s a long time. With a single copyright strike, your channel can have video upload limits severely limited, monetisation disabled, and YouTube can decide to totally disable your account.

Last week, a confused and upset Kotaku reader named Craig, who runs the YouTube account Stoneious, asked for help in figuring this out. He’d uploaded several Let’s Play videos for Persona 4: Dancing All Night, when the first one was suddenly tagged with a copyright strike from an account called “atlustube.”

As it turns out, atlustube is the official Japanese YouTube channel for Atlus.

“I do know that the video that got hit with a strike had well over 100 views,” he told me, “which is a lot for me. Maybe that ‘popularity’ was my own undoing.”

Stoneious had a whopping nine subscribers when this happened.

He deleted the rest of his videos, hoping to curb further action from atlustube. So far, he’s seemingly in the clear, but like Linesneakers, his YouTube account is restricted for the next six months, when the strike’s punishment is lifted.

“I could submit a counter claim,” he said, “but that’s when it gets all legal and stuff and I’m not willing to risk that even a little bit to get my tiny channel back.”

Dealing with counterclaims on YouTube is confusing and scary. YouTube warns content creators to be careful about disputing a claim they’re not 100% sure about; there can be permanent consequences, like having a channel deleted.

Curious, I dropped the term “atlustube” into Twitter, wondering if more people had run into similar issues. Unsurprisingly, others had seen strikes from atlustube. The pattern? Targeting videos from small channels. We’re not talking YouTube stars with millions of subscribers, people making careers out of talking over video games. These are fans doing stuff in their spare time to an audience of basically nobody — videos released to the world and seen less than 100 times.

RJC of the YouTube channel The Compendium has been dealing with this issue since July, when Atlus leveraged a copyright strike against him for a Persona 5 trailer reaction video. His videos were limited to 15 minutes, which was a problem; much of what he’d been uploading to YouTube was Let’s Play videos.

Atlus Keeps Hitting Tiny YouTube Channels With Copyright Strikes

“From then on I made sure to play it extra safe,” he told me. “All the content I uploaded was of publicly released material, and all video game footage was edited to include myself on the screen, along with some commentary, which I believed fell under fair use law. Everything was going fine, I was so close to hitting a big milestone for me and The Compendium: 500 subscribers.”

Like other Persona fans, RJC was psyched to share his playthrough of Persona 4: Dancing All Night with the world, so he started uploading videos to YouTube. While at a friend’s house, Atlus decided to target him with a series of copyright strikes that went beyond a 15-minute upload limit: his channel was now dead.

Here’s a small taste of what CJC found in his inbox:

Atlus Keeps Hitting Tiny YouTube Channels With Copyright Strikes

It goes on and on and on and on.

“It’s really scary to think that any YouTube channel can be deleted out of nowhere,” he said, “and I hope they somehow fix this. I can only imagine what it would be like for someone who doesn’t have the amount of support that I’ve gained. Even if a channel gets absolutely no views, their content is still important because they believe in it. It’s not right for YouTube or any company to be able to take that away.”

Then, a weird thing happened. RJC’s fans told him to contact Atlus, see if they might help out. A few days later, his YouTube account came back from the dead.

“We’re gonna be careful about not getting our channel removed again,” he joked in the video.

RJC didn’t go into detail about what happened with his channel, nor did he respond to my emails in time for this story, but I have a theory.

A number of times now, I’ve heard from players who’ve successfully plead their case to Atlus USA and had copyright strikes from the Japanese side removed. This doesn’t seem to be an official policy, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

“If anyone is concerned about the content they upload to their channel, I’d recommend they get in touch with beforehand,” said Atlus USA spokesperson John Hardin when asked about the copyright strikes.

The company declined to speak about specific cases, instead pointing me back towards its recommendation that YouTube creators reach out the company.

It certainly seems like one side of Atlus has a different view on YouTube than the other, with the American arm siding with fans wanting to share videos.

Japanese video game companies having confusing policies when it comes to services like Twitch and YouTube isn’t new. Square Enix’s restrictions for Dragon Quest Heroes, which technically forbids players from streaming the game with music on via Twitch, are ridiculous. Even Nintendo run afoul of YouTube’s most popular when it demanded they hand over a huge slice of their revenue.

My guess is this won’t be the last time I’m writing about this, but hopefully Atlus figures out how it wants to handle YouTube before Persona 5 is released.


  • This seems a concern. Not the volume, but the simple fact they assume they can do this. This is a game company, making an entertainment product. As an entertainment product, word of mouth is important, as are the fans.

    So what do they do when a fan does something showing the game? Shut them down. Thats not a copyright claim, thats bullying. As you say in the story, these arent channels that will make a relevant amount of money out of these vid’s, its a VERY small user base. So to me, the scale of going after them is so far out of proportion its ridiculous.

    In the end it shows the fundamental problems with copyright in general in relation to online media. People abusing the rules for reasons way beyond the intent of the laws. Copyright laws are there to prevent abuse on a commercial scale, not private or domestic use of media.

  • I sympathise with content creators but if you are going to put someone else’s work on Youtube, even if modified, you should have a solid understanding of copyright law before doing so.

    Technically, Youtube is the publisher because the files are being played from its servers and displayed through its site or embedded player.

    Youtube is going to play it extremely safe, taking down anything that a copyright holder claims should not be there, unless it is satisfied that the content is not in breach of copyright.

    Using publicly available assets, as one fellow stated he’s doing, is neither here nor there. The fact is that someone created an artistic work and Copyright law protects it except in a limited range of circumstances. You need to make sure the resulting work you use the original in is transformative or falls under fair use by only displaying a small portion of the original work. Let’s Plays and other long-form use of copyrighted works are technically in breach. RJC, by using the ‘third-person’ set-up plus a separate image of his face in frame, is probably OK, but I wouldn’t want to try and defend a claim of breach on that basis alone.

    • I am no lawyer so this may not be entirely correct. It’s a little more complex than that as this is a case of DMCA safeharbour laws applying. YouTube is only a content provider and as such must comply with DMCA takedown requests if it wishes to remain uninvolved in any copyright disputes. If it doesn’t do this then it becomes liable for any copyright infringing content on its servers.

      With regards to ATLUS making a DMCA takedown claim though, they have to have good reason for the claim otherwise it will not be seen as having been made in good faith which may be why the channel came back after the claim was disputed.

      • DMCA is a US law so I’m not that familiar with it. There’s an interesting exception to the exemption from liability where exemption doesn’t apply if the content host (service provider) is profiting from the breach. I wonder if that has been tested at all, but it seems to me that Youtube would not profit much if it takes down the content straight away.

        Something a little strange went on with the Viacom v Google case (heard by an 85-year old judge!) – Google claimed protection under the safe harbour laws asked for the claim by Viacom to be dismissed summarily. The judge agreed but then Google appealed to a higher court, which said the case should not have been dismissed summarily (that is, Google’s protection under the safe harbour laws was arguable) and sent it back to the original judge. The original judge then summarily dismissed the case AGAIN. Viacom was in the process of appealing but then reached a settlement with Google.

        During the case, evidence came out that certain employees of Google wrote emails including: “we should grow as aggressively as we can through whatever tactics, however evil.… [the site is] out of control with copyrighted material … [if we remove] the obviously copyright infringing stuff … site traffic [would] drop to maybe 20% … steal it!” All quotations were argued to be ‘taken out of context’.

        Australian law is somewhat similar to that but to my knowledge Youtube has never been taken to court in Australia because it has been generally accepted that Google Australia has no control over the assets owned and operated by Google Inc outside Australia.

        My view is that the safe harbour laws are to protect carriage service providers (ISPs) but not hosts of the content. It is one thing to say that iiNet is not responsible for how someone accesses the internet but another to say that me letting someone host infringing content on my server (which makes me money!) is something I can escape liability for merely because I don’t know about it.

        Whatever the solution is, I don’t think it is purely a legal one. I suspect that Viacom and Google reached a settlement which included revenue sharing, although reportedly no money changed hands at the time. This seems to be borne out by the option for a rights holder to monetize infringing content rather than having it taken down.

    • Youtube is going to play it extremely safe, taking down anything that a copyright holder claims should not be there, unless it is satisfied that the content is not in breach of copyright.

      This is very important to realise. YouTube controls what’s on YouTube, not the legal system. They’ll always try and keep their obligations, to both their users and their legal obligations, to a minimum. If a hundred thousand Let’s Plays get canned just to avoid the remote possibility of legal action that’s a win in YouTube’s books.

      • Yeah, I guess on the one hand Youtube needs popular content but on the other hand it doesn’t want outraged copyright holders taking it to court.

  • It wouldn’t surprise me if this was due to the recent kerfuffle with YouTube RED and the agreement it requires from copyright owners. Especially since it’s a game with licensed music. It also wouldn’t surprise me if it’s a discrepancy between Japanese and American law causing Japanese lawyers to blat foreign videos. Either way the only person that loses is the channel owner.

  • This sounds like a typical case of Japan being stuck in 1998 when it comes to the internet and the way that people use it now, both in terms of perception by the people in their fifties and sixties that are running a lot of the publishers, and in terms of the actual copyright laws in the country (copyright infringement is a criminal rather than civil offense that can involve a prison sentence)

  • “I could submit a counter claim,” he said, “but that’s when it gets all legal and stuff and I’m not willing to risk that even a little bit to get my tiny channel back.”
    Dealing with counterclaims on YouTube is confusing and scary. YouTube warns content creators to be careful about disputing a claim they’re not 100% sure about; there can be permanent consequences, like having a channel deleted.

    This should not be.

  • Archaic attitudes here… These videos provide hype and publicity for the games and don’t cause the companies any kind of loss. Bunch of dinosaurs.

  • You shouldn’t have to be a lawyer to upload game videos – clearly these takedowns lack any sort of common sense or regard for the modern world.

    Having a proper understanding of copyright laws just upload yourself playing a video game is just ridiculous. A basic understanding maybe, but needing anything more than that just highlights everything wrong with copyright and creators.

    It’s free advertising. Get over it. No one with 11 subscribers is making money out of showing game footage. You might as well say playing music at a party is copyright infringement if neighbours can hear it.

    Some creators and publishers need to get with the times and accept that releasing an entertainment product means people are going to tall about it publicly. They also need to realize that they often exceed their authority and only end up causing resentment amongst would be buyers.

  • Wow, this is just so, uh, heartless? I mean, YouTubers are just doing their thing then a huge company just bulldozes over their videos. If that will happen to me, I think I’ll be fine since I have discovered the ultimate solution to the ultimate problem. This site http:// beupon. com did wonders to me! Now, I feel like my videos online are safer because of BeUpon! It monitors your videos online and prompts you via SMS for updates. The best thing about availing BeUpon is that I can backup videos! Visit their site now!

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