YouTube Let’s Play celebrities hit by draconian Content ID claims 
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Stephen Snook
December 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm

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It’s no secret that YouTube content ID claims are a huge problem in the Let’s Play community. Even as a small channel, I myself found that people (and Google’s bots) will content ID match over anything. So it was no surprise to me that big YouTube gaming networks like Machinima and YouTube celebrities like NukemDukem  are finding themselves in a load of trouble with a huge flood of unmerited copyright claims.

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For people who don’t know, YouTube has a rather confusing system called Content ID where they allow copyright owners to automatically search for videos that may use their content, and flag the videos for removal and/or acquisition of the revenue they make off the ads on the video, all without a lawyer or phone call to endure. In a perfect world, this would mean copyright stealing heathens would be casts into the bowels of YouTube and have their videos deleted and all would be well. Unfortunately, due to the rather undefined idea of ‘fair use’ and the recent emergence of Let’s Plays as a form of entertainment, this has caused a problem with false Content ID matches. Since game audio and video are exactly the same on every video, this creates many false positives in the Content ID system.

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It wasn’t until recently that producers on YouTube, under YouTube’s rumoured new copyright policies have found that over 15% of their content is getting their revenue diverted to third parties.

“It has been rumoured that YouTube will be changing their policy for awhile, ever since music companies started to sue YouTube and networks for allowing monetization of cover songs,” said Doug Le, known better as NukemDukem on YouTube.  “We got e-mails saying this was suppose to take place in early 2014 with the new video monetization review.  It is to cover YouTube’s behind from more lawsuits.”

“A floodgate has opened and we have gone from getting maybe one [copyright notice] every few weeks to getting hundreds in one day,” said Zach Drapala, aka GhostRobo, who runs a Machinima networked channel with over 600,000 subscribers. “It’s crazy. Nothing like this has happened before.”

It seems that a large portion of the claims are either completely bunk, or from third parties with very disparate or no ties to the content. For content creators on YouTube whose income depends on their videos making money on advertising, these are surely troubling times.

Lazygamer's Australian correspondent reporting! My name is Stephen Snook and I am 21 years of age. I will be writing for Lazygamer while they poke fun at me for not only being the new guy, but also Australian. Please be kind, I'm awful fragile. I also play games on the internet: www.youtube.com/user/myth1221

  • Tracy Benson

    Just saw NerdCubed tweet about a copywrite notice he got for a blank screen with his logo on it. It’s totally out of hand, I feel so sorry for all the Let’s Play-ers that are going to get knocked by this.

  • Its Just a Ride

    This is bad, saw boogie2988’s video regarding this, this morning.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35P2-kVuHKI

    • Craig Boonzaier

      Really well said

    • SargonTheGreatPandaOfAkkad

      Madness.

    • Skyblue

      I thought he was an absolute loon as Francis because I never knew it was a character he was portraying. Much more to him than I gave him credit for initially. Great video.

    • Nick Vander Veen

      Please support this petition. This policy could seriously ruin YouTube
      and effect a vast majority of videos and channels. I strongly encourage
      you to join the fight to end this policy. Every signature helps. Thanks
      for your time.

      https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/youtube-youtube-should-remove-their-content-id-matching-system-outright#

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Hmm, I’m unsure how I feel about this. I can see the corporation’s point about it not being fair use, because these guys are essentially deriving income via ad revenue from their product in a public space. At the same time, the corporations aren’t losing anything because they’re not releasing these kinds of videos themselves – so they’re not really affected by it.

    • PlayTimeIsOver

      Regardless of whether they are using/monetising their copyright material, it does not mean someone else can without permission. The argument that it is an advertisement, and possiblly and enticement, for a given game may be valid – but that does not make it legal. Get permission and then you can do let’s play etc….

      Having said that the good/popular channels will survive.

    • Tracy Benson

      Compare a YouTuber to a regular print media or web journalist. Journalists cover games and game news, whether good or bad, and they get paid for their work by ad revenue generated. YouTubers do the exact same thing, just in video format, but somehow they’re not allowed to make money off it any more.

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        I think it’s a matter of degree whether it’s fair use or not when it comes to video. The longer the video the less the case for fair use – especially if that’s how they’re earning income. In print or web it’s usually just a screenshot, or maybe a short trailer, which is fair use and people are presumed to be reading the article so the ad revenue isn’t from the screenshot, it’s from the article containing the screenshot.

        What they really need to do is get the legalities squarely fixed to there isn’t so much ambiguity because it’s really open to a lot of abuse, especially from our friendly corporate overlords who’ll claim anything under the sun if they can get away with it.

        • http://www.lazygamer.net Gavin Mannion

          But that’s the problem that’s not how it works… we had a 15 minute video that Revision 3 Games then put a claim against because their machine or lawyer thought Geoff’s face was their copyright.. I kid thee not

          We eventually had to accept that they now own the revenue on that video because there are no humans at YouTube to talk to and Revision3Games didn’t remove the complaint

          • Alien Emperor Trevor

            They are mostly using bots for this as far as I’ve read, so you will end up with plenty of false positives. Also heard of them claiming copyright for things clearly not theirs, so the whole system is pretty much messed up because it’s all automated.

            Youtube won’t do much really because they’re more worried about being sued by one of the big boys than random person no.5.

      • Andrew

        Journalists request to cover the game, and are given permission. So not the best example. Another way to look at it is this:

        I make a hit song. A TV show wants to use my song as background music for a future episode. But they don’t want to pay me. We have a problem.

        Royalties need to be paid to the makers of the game. I usually don’t like to back the big business making millions, but it is their stuff. Copyrights exist for a reason.

        • Tracy Benson

          I don’t agree with your analogy.

          Say you were Ylvis or Psy or someone, and you had a mega hit song on YouTube. If someone used your song in an episode of a TV series without your permission or paying royalties, then yes, it’s been stolen from you. If someone downloaded and reposted your video, it’s been stolen from you. But, if a segment on a news channel like SABC or CNN shows your video in a report on you, is that stealing? No, it’s reporting. It’s journalism. Would you go to CNN and say you deserve royalties for airing your song?

          I wholeheartedly agree with copyright laws that protect artists from having their work stolen and monetised without permission or proper accreditation. But there’s a difference between taking someone’s webcomic and posting it to 9Gag so that they don’t see a cent of ad revenue, and taking someone’s comic and putting it in a Buzzfeed list of “Top 20 Webcomics to Watch in 2014″ which will get them more traffic.

        • Tracy Benson

          In addition, your statement of “journalists request to cover the game, and are given permission” is incredibly naive. If that were the case, you’d never hear anything bad about any game ever.

          If Gearbox and Sega had their way, people would have wasted a butt-load of cash on Aliens Colonial Marines, because no one would have been able to show you footage of how utterly shite the game was. Ditto for Deep Silver and Ride to Hell: Retribution. Yeah, they own that content, and if they’d been able to they would have gotten every video of it pulled so no one could see how badly they cocked up.

          If the YouTube ContentID Matching Apocalypse continues, it will completely remove the consumer’s ability to choose, and put control squarely in the hands of Publishers. And, I’m sorry, but they don’t exactly have your best interests at heart.

          • Andrew

            I read reviews to tell me Alien Colonial Marines stunk, I didn’t watch any ad-sponsored Lets Play videos. I also knew it was being made by Sega and Gearbox, which screams shovelware 80% of the time.

            Let’s Play is not the news. It’s people sitting around, playing video games, hoping to make money off of them. It’s not the same as a new story.

            We were able to choose which games to play long before Youtube existed.

        • Jexiah8bit

          This is totally different though, and that is what we must keep in mind. People are having their own content claimed fraudulently by third parties. Not the game, but public domain tracks and in some cases raw footage of nothing but the person. The system is completely broken and exploitable by people who wish to siphon money off legit YouTube accounts.

          • Andrew

            Well my guess is that some aholes out there who are just reporting things as breaking Content ID rules just to be mean. There are mean people on the internet. Shocking, yes, I know.

      • DasManiac

        Completely ridiculous comparison. A journalist actually does work and in the case of gameplay videos, they have explicit permission. LP’ers (generally) do not. It’s actually illegal to monetize Let’s Play Videos unless you have explicit permission from the Developer or Publisher. They are making money off of somebody else’s work. Now if the developer or publisher allows then they can make money. Otherwise they’re breaking the law and should be in jail. They didn’t make the game and shouldn’t be making money off of it.

    • Willem Swanepoel

      What pisses me off is that these Corporations are making MILLIONS every year. They are stinking rich, yet they complain about people uploading videos with their music and content on youtube, what they do not realise is that for example, I have bought a damn song from the net because the guy played it in his vid and I liked it.

      Same with other games… the guy did a lets play, I liked it and bought it.

      It is free advertisement …. FFS wake up greedy corps.

      This world is getting more sad every day… sigh

  • bizzy gie

    Drapala? That’s Ghost’s last name. Zach Tyler Drapala. I’ve been subbed to him for almost a year and I had no idea his channel was networked with Michinima.

  • Kromas

    I got DayZ cause of FrankieOnPC. The last 10 non sale games I bought came from either watching Zero Punctuation or Angry Joe Show or NerdCubed. I do not pre-order anything anymore unless I have checked out what video reviews say. (exception to the rule is Bioware and I have been bitten on the arse before because of that (DA2)). If these guys stop because of this then I think game sales will drop like a rock.

    • Willem Swanepoel

      Same here, Lets Play videos and all those guys who upload videos (private reviewers) caused my bank balance to drop.

      Like I was not interested in the new Tomb Raider, I watched angryjoe’s review and I bought it straight after I finished watching his review.

      I also only pre-order Bioware games ;-) I am going to pre-order DA3 and I might burn myself again but I like to give myself pain

      • Kromas

        Well Willem. I will burn with you on the DA pre-order :P. Angry Joe is fairly angry in his new video as well.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQfHdasuWtI

        • Willem Swanepoel

          He is my hero ;-)~ hahaha I will watch it

    • DasManiac

      It doesn’t matter if you bought the game because of somebody. If somebody is doing a Let’s Play of the latest Mario and they’re making money from it then that’s illegal. Nintendo does not allow such videos and certainly not people making money off of their copyrighted work.

      • Kromas

        Let’s play are considered reviews. Reviewers make money off playing their games in print so I fail to see your point of view. Also screw Nintendo as MS,Deep Silver and EA have already spoken up about how it promotes their games and gives potential increases in sales.They are already against this. Marketing is marketing however you get it and is a hell of a lot cheaper than what they would normal do.

  • MegamanNG

    The war has begun. No one is safe.

  • Dustie

    If Youtube starts removing video games footage people will go somewhere else for videos game footage. If Youtube removes video games footage and people go somewhere else, there won’t be ad money for Youtube from video games footage. No money from ads playing in video games footage – less money for Youtube. What will Youtube do?

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  • John Sandoz

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjg0ejjJw5s

    Saw this Earlier today it covers all the major changes coming.

  • Onyx

    There is more going on here than most people realise. I run a small record label selling CDs and MP3s in a niche genre. I can speak with some experience as to what is going on here, the automated system is only a part of the problem.

    The other aspect of this is somewhat deeper and more convoluted, and it is do with with the process of how music is delivered to the large digital stores like iTunes, Amazon, Zune and so on.

    Here is a brief run down of the process:

    1) Mr Musician Creates Music

    2) Mr Musician signs up with a digital distributor, like CD Baby, IODA etc.

    3) Mr Musician uploads his music to digital distributor.

    4) Digital Distributor feeds this content into the stores like iTunes etc.

    5) Digital Distributor creates a digital finger-print that is sent to YouTube.

    What this means is that if someone now uploads a video to YouTube using Mr Musician’s music a number of things will happen:

    1) The video will get flagged for matched third part content.

    2) The video may get a “Buy Mr Musician’s music from iTunes” link.

    3) Ad revenue earned on the video will be paid to the Digital Distributor.

    4) Mr Musician will receive his cut.

    But here is the problem; if Mr Musician isn’t a musician but is instead a ‘content creator’ – by that I mean he makes MP3?s licensing existing music strange things will happen.

    Here is something that happened to me:

    1) I took a piece of music from the public domain. This was 100% free, and 100% allowable to be used anywhere in the world for any purpose, including commercial and monetization.

    2) I created a CD and MP3 using this public domain track.

    3) I uploaded this track to my digital distributor.

    4) Digital distributor sent this to iTunes etc.

    5) Digital distributor created a digital fingerprint of the track and sent it to YouTube.

    6) A while later, Mrs Jones created a video on YouTube using the public domain track. Her video is content flagged for using “my” music. The ownership is claimed by my digital distributor (even though they don’t own the rights to it either – they merely distribute it and have no legal rights to it at all).

    7) Both my Digital Distributor and myself now get a cut of Mrs Jones ad revenue, and she gets nothing. I have no ability to release this music to her.

    Crazy situation is that I could also upload a video to YouTube using my own track and it will also get content flagged.

    The situation is actually larger than just YouTube and Google. They are using a system that has been built up over the past few years by companies like Apple, and their distribution partners such as CD Baby, IODA (now The Orchard), IRIS, TuneCore and many, many others.

    It is a big snowball that has been rolled up to the top of a huge fucking mountain, gathering up all content in its path.

    When Ubisoft create a Soundtrack album for their game, if they use a digital distributor to send that album off to iTunes, such as IDOL – then IDOL will be the ones that flag your YouTube video and Ubisoft will never even hear about it.

    So the big snowball has gathered up everything it possibly can and now it has caused an avalanche.

    Problem is, this is bigger than YouTube, Google and iTunes. This whole system is what the entire online digital music industry has been built upon. Not many people are aware of this yet, as it has been going on quietly in the background. YouTube merely plugged the affiliates right into this same system, which has served to highlight how messed up it is.

    These digital distributors such as IDOL have been making millions and millions from this process. Think about it, all they do is take the album, upload it to iTunes and then they get around a 20% cut of all sales made! And they have largely done this with an invisible hand that is being enforced by YouTube’s content matching system.

    It is allowed to continue because it serves the interests of the music industry. It is all managed for them by third parties without them having to get involved.

    But it seems the likes of Deep Silver, Ubisoft and Capcom didn’t realise the net effect of what they have signed up to. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

    I have posted this info in other places too, as it needs to be seen.

    • Xexor

      Wow, that puts a whole new perspective on things, and confirms what I’ve been learning more recently: the DMCA itself is flawed. There’s an article, for example, that indicates WB has been getting stuff on Hotfile taken down that isn’t theirs, just because they can. (The article’s on TechDirt.) I think I’m going to put together a video about these kinds of issues and upload it to YouTube. I’m a smaller channel, but every little bit of awareness has to help, right?

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