Bad news, YouTube gamers: It looks like Microsoft is coming after your pocketbooks. Microsoft recently announced that their content usage rules will no longer support YouTube creators using any exclusively created Microsoft Studios content. Although this could harm the landscape of gaming commentary, should you really be worried?
Microsoft has updated their content usage update to read:
“You may post your Item to a page or website that has advertising, but only if you do not earn any money from that advertising. For example, if you post your video on Youtube or Vimeo and there happens to be an advertisement next to it, then as long as you don’t get paid for that advertisement, the fact that there is an advertisement on the page doesn’t break these Rules. But enrolling in the Youtube partner program (or other similar programs), where you are entering into an agreement to get paid, is not allowed.”
While none of that bodes well for professional gamers on YouTube, at the official “Halo Waypoint” forum, a team member from 343, the game developer charged with overseeing “Halo” development, wrote:
“The majority of everything the community makes currently is fine, as long as they are not basically running a big Halo-based business or using Halo as if the IP was its own property. That actually isn’t a change to our policy, simply a clarification and update of the dry legal language, and as we’ve mentioned, even that “new” language was actually updated months ago. We don’t have squads of lawyers waiting in the wings to go after folks making machinima, or showing off their skills in Halo. Basically it’s business as usual”
This is naturally reassuring as it is coming directly from someone working with Microsoft, but some red flags are being raised especially in the case of Electronic Arts (EA) and their updated content usage policy.
Take for example YouTube contributor TheFloppyRagdoll, who posted a game commentary explaining that EA had hit him and some other “Battlefield 3” YouTubers with copyright claim notices. In the video upload, the YouTuber explains, “I heard about this problem that someone had on their videos. They said that EA was starting to claim all the visual rights to the gameplay that was on screen. So therefore, that person couldn’t claim money off their videos.” TheFloppyRagdoll goes on to explain that the same copyright claims were quickly posted on his videos, including one of his more successful uploads, “Battlefield 3: SWAG.”
Ragdoll uploaded that video mid-September, and since then, few YouTube channels have stepped up to voice similar concerns. The recent outcry against Microsoft’s updated content usage policy couldn’t have just come out of the blue, however. The origins of this issue are hazy at best and seem to have gained steam when several concerned gamers went to Twitter to express their outrage.
If something as simple as someone just reading Microsoft’s terms of agreement could shake the YouTube gaming community like this, what would happen if Microsoft actually went through with enforcing their stated copyright policies?
Game commentary is an integral portion of YouTube’s ecosystem. The video-sharing site would have never have seen the rise of networks and gaming megastars like Machinima and SeaNanners without the freedom to post videos with gameplay footage in them. The “Halo” franchise in particular has become a staple for the game commentary community, as many professional YouTube gamers have built careers around the Microsoft Studios-owned first-person shooter.
It’s unlikely that major game companies will actually start restricting money made from game commentary channels. Although, with EA laying down visual copyright notices, these could potentially be a harbinger of a storm that is slowly building around YouTube. If other game companies like Blizzard or Activision hop aboard this content restriction wagon, the gaming economy on YouTube could collapse.
Microsoft and other game companies will likely strike deals with gaming networks and organizations like Major League Gaming. However, for smaller independent creators, these copyright claims could completely prevent them from making any type of income from their videos.
Gaming channels on YouTube by their very nature will promote a game title with no cost at all to the companies making them. It’s astounding that EA would experiment with restricting content from people who have positively promoted their product to millions of viewers. To reach the hundreds of millions of viewers that gaming commentary channels typically bring in would normally cost game companies millions in marketing costs. Instead, all these game studios have to do is let YouTube gamers make a small profit from their channels while they reaped the rewards of their games being publicly promoted across the planet’s largest media provider.
You can check out a full overview of Microsoft’s updated game content terms here. YouTube gamers, we want to hear from you. Let us know if this will change your content and channel for better or for worse below.