Game Critic Uses Brilliant Workaround For YouTube’s Copyright Garbage

Game Critic Uses Brilliant Workaround For YouTube’s Copyright Garbage

Thank god for Jim Sterling, a game critic whose recent YouTube antics forced YouTube’s copyright system to eat itself alive. Here’s how he did it.

As you may already know, YouTube has something called “Content ID”, which is a system that theoretically allows users to identify and manage their videos.

Basically, once a video is online, viewers can put a digital fingerprint on it. If another YouTube channel uploads a video, and the system believes that the new video has the same digital fingerprint, then the new video gains a Content ID claim. The owners of the original Content ID can then gain some ownership over the new video, and YouTube allows them to monetise the video for themselves, or sometimes outright block it.

The problem is, Content ID is often abused by YouTubers who try to lay claim to footage that isn’t really theirs. It’s especially difficult to fight off Content ID claims from big companies, who may not be receptive to the woes of a smaller unknown channel. Fighting against a Content ID claim is also risky, because if the dispute isn’t resolved amicably, a channel may gain what is known as a “strike”. One strike is enough to strip a channel of certain YouTube privileges, annoyingly enough. Three strikes will cause YouTube to terminate your channel outright.

In short, the system is pretty terrible because not only can it be gamed easily, Content ID often seems to serve the needs of big corporations rather than the common YouTube populace.

Earlier this week, game critic Jim Sterling uploaded an episode of his Jimquisition series, where he skewers the recently released Wii U game Star Fox Zero. According to Jim Sterling, Nintendo’s love for the idea of innovation can sometimes jeopardise games that don’t need to reinvent the wheel in the first place:

The entire episode is worth a watch based on Sterling’s well-reasoned arguments. But the thing that really sets it apart is a revelation near the end of the video, where Sterling explains why he makes such ample use of footage that is completely unrelated to what he actually discusses throughout the video.

“You may have noticed this week’s video had footage from Metal Gear Solid V, Grand Theft Auto V and Beyond: Two Souls in it,” Sterling said. “Now, there’s a reason for that. The reason is Nintendo. Because I’m talking about a Nintendo game this week, I’ve used Nintendo game footage, and that means Nintendo will attempt to monetise this video even though the point of the Jimquisition is to be ad-free, thanks to your lovely help on Patreon.

So, Jim Sterling hatched a plan. He went back through his older videos, and took note of what footage got slammed with a Content ID claim in the past. He then went ahead and copied that same flagged footage, and stuck it into his new video. The self-sabotage was intentional: Sterling wanted to screw with the Content ID system.

“I figured every time I talk about Nintendo, I’m going to throw in other stuff that gets flagged by Content ID, and just watch the corporations battle it out,” Sterling said. His hope was that by pulling this stunt, he could stop any company from monetising the video at all, since it wouldn’t be clear who really owned the footage in the first place. And if anybody did manage to monetise the video, they’d probably only get peanuts for it.

The scheme panned out just the way he thought it would, Jim Sterling tells Kotaku.

“I can confirm it works,” Jim Sterling said over email. “It’s worked several times before. WMG tried to monetise the video for the Erasure music, but couldn’t because Nintendo and Take-Two had set their ContentID in this particular case to Not Monetized.”

“I discovered this by accident a few months back when competing claims from Sony and Konami meant no ads ended up running on my video. Pretty good workaround for someone trying to keep my series ad-free, even if it means you have to actively try and ‘infringe copyright’ to exercise your fair use rights.”

Ha. Way to be clever, Jim Sterling. But here’s hoping that one day, YouTube’s copyright system isn’t so bad that it necessitates ridiculous workarounds like this one. One can dream, eh?


  • Free idea for an article:

    Ask some videogame composers how happy they are when their copyrighted material is used by clowns like Sterling with reckless abandon like this. For shits and giggles no less.

    • I don’t think that article is going to play out the way you expect it to. The people who work on the games don’t usually hold the rights to anything that matters here. They really don’t have anything riding in this fight beyond being their feelings about the criticism (which has nothing to do with YouTube’s Content ID policies).
      Even the people legitimately making the claims, as opposed to the huge number of people abusing the system, tend to do it as part of legal posturing or PR damage control rather than any personal grudge an individual might feel.

    • Yeah Kotaku doesn’t get intellectual property or copyright. Hell the other day the editor was advocating piracy, so I think this will be lost on the audience.

      • This has nothing to do with intellectual property or copyright. Copyright and fair use laws are well established. They’re not new and mysterious. Jim Sterlings video does nothing illegal and the groups making the Content ID (not copyright) claims are well aware of this. Even Nintendo, who are extremely aggressive about this stuff and would gladly lose money to retain as much control, would not take him to court over this video. Their legal team just wouldn’t sign off on it because they would lose and walk away more vulnerable than before.

        This may look like it’s about copyright but it’s actually about YouTube policies and flaws in their Content ID system. It’s about the way that (until today) people putting in false Content ID claims have been able to turn off revenue on videos that (even under YouTube’s own policies) they had no right to. Companies like Nintendo and Konami have been abusing this flaw in the Content ID system in order to attack critics over their opinions.
        Imagine I didn’t want people reading your comment so I reported it for using the word ‘hell,’ which some Americans consider a swear word. Your comment gets put into moderation, your voice is temporarily silenced and by the time it’s out of moderation the discussion is over and nobody is reading the article any more. That’s what these groups are doing only instead of the critics video simply being gone for a few days the critics revenue stream is attacked.

        I know I mentioned it at the start but it’s very important to recognise that copyright laws aren’t vague. You can argue that they don’t work the way they should and that’s a totally valid discussion but it’s not relevant to this discussion. I’d be a lot closer to agreeing with you than you may think but that’s an entirely different conversation to the one being had here.

      • Have you heard of this thing called “Fair Use”?

        Look it up… and then look up how much Youtube’s ContentID and Take down system is being abused to circumvent this “intellectual copyright” law.

        Then come back to me

    • I seem to recall this thing called “Fair Use”…

      You should go look that one up…. you know for shits and giggles

  • Anyone here actually remember what youtube’s copyright system was like before this content ID system?

    Hint: it involved companies mass-sending DCMA takedowns that often included videos that contained absolutely no content that they owned the copyright to, and various lawsuits asking them to do borderline impossible things.

  • I always see this guys mug shot appear on steam, never knew he was that popular lol.

    • He is Jim fucking Stirling son.

      He used to be a reviewer on destructoid, then jumped onto youtube with escapist before becoming independent. But the jimquisition started on escapist

      • Ah I see, never really been in the loop with all the gaming stuff that goes on, but that’s pretty interesting

  • Of course, the sad part is that YouTube is undoubtedly going to “fix” this little exploit to prevent it from working, and probably punish Jim for it, rather than fixing the shady, corporate-cock-sucking exploitable and sleazy abuse of the content ID system in the first place. Because that’s how things work now.

    • actually Jim is one of the few (3 I think) people that Google/YT worked with when DMCA takedowns finally got out of control.

    • This guy also has a “protected” account due to excessive and incorrect allegations against account from people upset with his content. The protected status means that any and all claims that would normally be an automatic take down, Youtube will always give him the benefit of the doubt and actually investigate. Apparently there is like less than 20 people that have that status.

  • I saw that video last night and it cracked me up – great solution! Also Erasure!!!? Talk about a blast from the distant past!

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