YouTubers who feature Nintendo games and products have long had issues with YouTube's controversial Content ID system, and Nintendo's aggressive usage of that system is already impacting how YouTubers cover games on the Switch. Recently, a YouTuber had their video flagged by YouTube's Content ID system over a sound effect from a Switch launch game.
YouTube's Content ID system is an automated system that allows copyright holders to place claims on videos who use their content. In theory, Content ID prevents piracy and allows copyright holders make money off their work. In practice, YouTubers who make videos under fair use end up having to fight an automated system to protect their content.
Josh Thomas has been covering Nintendo for a decade at his YouTube Channel, The Bit Block. He's recently had a video about 1 2 Switch flagged over sounds from the games: A music track from the game and a man saying "Ready… Fire!" from the Quick Draw minigame. The former is not surprising: YouTubers know that music tracks often get dinged, and videos can be flagged for even a few seconds of a trailer. In this case, having specific sound effects set the system off is not quite unprecedented, but feels extreme.
According to Thomas, the content ID troubles aren't helped by the fact that Nintendo's affiliate program causes YouTubers to split profits from any videos using footage of their games with Nintendo itself. YouTubers like Thomas find themselves in a hard spot when trying to cover Nintendo. "The work around here involves nearly completely muting the game music in the background, or flipping and altering the colour in any trailer footage used," Thomas said over email. "It all makes for a complicated process and in the end I feel forces me (and others) to create purposely inferior video content for no real reason."
"To clarify this video in question (among hundreds of others in the past) is actually well within fair use," he said over email. "The video shows us physically demonstrating 1 2 Switch, adding our own silly commentary on camera and is edited quite a bit. It isn't merely a matter of gameplay being uploaded without any kind of transformative work put into it."
Thomas insists that he still loves Nintendo, but like many YouTubers who cover the company, he is clearly frustrated. "Essentially what I'm saying is, Nintendo, please stop hurting me," he says in his video. "Please stop trying to stop me from celebrating you as a company."
The Nintendo Switch comes with a built-in feature to take screenshots of games, but unlike its other console competitors, does not have the ability to record and share video on social media. It seems that, for the time being, Nintendo is not ready to play nice with YouTube yet.