YouTube’s broken copyright system is nothing new.
We’re all well aware of how ContentID is an overzealous automated system that flags content regardless of circumstance, sometimes to the point of claiming somebody’s original music on behalf of an unrelated company that has NO claim to the original work. We know how the “takedown” system allows companies to silence critics and abuse DMCA rules for the pursuit of grudges.
It throws open the floor for a lot of debate. What classifies as Fair Use? Do copyright laws need updating? At what point does gameplay footage qualify as theft of intellectual property? Should it ever?
The irony of these discussions is that they focus almost entirely on Let’s Plays – videos that feature a personality playing and commenting on whole segments of games. In my experience, it’s rarely the Let’s Play material that gets claimed, but the stuff that is even easier to argue as Fair Use.
Here is the copyright infringement page of the latest Jimquisition episode – click to enlarge it, if you want!
As you can see, ContentID has worked overtime on behalf of three major corporations, allowing Konami, Sony, and Activision to each claim that my video belongs primarily to them. In fact, Konami claimed the video twice, meaning they must double-own it or something.
This is fairly common for The Jimquisition, to the point where I’m lucky it’s supported through Patreon and not commercials. If it’s not Konami, it’s Nintendo or some other company. What infuriates me in the case of both Konami and Nintendo is that they actively monetize other peoples’ videos, meaning my ad-free Jimquisitions can have commercials forced upon them to put a few extra pennies in some company’s pocket.
The Jimquisition uses publicly distributed trailer footage – footage typically handed to traditional games media for use on their own publications – as an illustrative point while criticizing the game industry. I’d argue the videos are far more transformative than any Let’s Play, and yet my “Squirty Play” series of videos don’t get anywhere near as much ContentID flagging as The Jimquisition.
I’ve seen many people defend YouTube’s system by saying that Let’s Players are lazy, that their work is not transformative enough to constitute Fair Use. Aside from the fact that’s simply not true and the sneering dismissal of Let’s Players is pathetic, it also completely ignores the fact that more than Let’s Players get hit with ridiculous claims.
Angry Joe is known mostly for his thorough and lengthy videogame reviews. As any video-based review should, his work includes footage of the games he’s criticizing.
His struggles with ContentID are perhaps the most widely known, as his critical work is constantly flagged by Nintendo and others for alleged infringement, robbing him of the money earned from his hard work.
Meanwhile, Podquisition co-host Gavin “Miracle of Sound” Dunne has complained before about how his own original music has been flagged by some unknown company before, and most recently I was unable to monetize my gameplay of Dropsy for a time because the composer of the game’s soundtrack had no control over the company claiming his music.
I think we can all appreciate how absolutely ludicrous that is – a musician cannot stop a company he has nothing to do with claiming ownership of his material. Even Dropsy‘s publisher, Devolver Digital, proved unable to release the claim. Only the claimant could, which it eventually did.
Dropsy was a rarity for my productions. The vast majority of my 389 Squirty Play videos have remained untouched by ContentID.
By comparison, The Jimquisition – my videos with the highest original material, production value, time and effort spent – are flagged on a regular basis with only a fraction of the uploads.
This is not to say Let’s Plays don’t have to struggle with the constant copyright battle, of course they do. In fact, the bigger the Let’s Player, the more likely it is some third party chancer will try and ride the money train.
Simply focusing on Let’s Play as the sole subject of the discussion, however, does a disservice to all the others fighting the bullshit, and fails to adequately frame exactly how dreadful ContentID is as a system.
The fact three different companies can claim they own my video because I used trailer footage as part of industry criticism is fucking laughable. The fact Konami even wants to claim cash for it is grotesque.
ContentID is a piece of shit, and it affects a wide variety of videos in all sorts of utterly nonsensical ways.
But that’s Monday for you. Another Monday, another claim.