Not Just For Gamers: The Battle in the War Over Copyrights, YouTube and All Content Everywhere

There’s sort of an unspoken rule in the magazine business that you don’t promote your competitors. We don’t adhere to this rule though, and we’re strong believers in getting exposure to the best (and the absolute worst) that the internet has to offer. And in terms of sharp, smart coverage, I think Kotaku has done a good job of covering the YouTube copyright issues of late — particularly their highlighting of the differences in opinion shared by gamers “Angry” Joe Vargas, a so-called affiliate and two managed channels, that of TotalBiscuit and Ohmwrecker, both on Maker’s gamer channel Polaris.

While Kotaku gets into the basics of the issue though, there is much left on the table in terms of the overall story and the theoretical outcomes that may result from all of this down the road. In a sense, they cover the immediate issue of what is going on between these YouTube gamers without postulating about the bigger picture of it all. It’s not bad in any sense, but the reality is that creators are being rocked by the rippling waves from the metaphorical copyright stone that has been cast into this corner of the YouTube pond. And what’s really scary is: I think these are only the outermost ripples. The really strong, nasty wakes have yet to hit. The good news for gamers is — it looks like they are going to survive these issues with relative ease. Other creators might not get off so easily.

Rightly so, “Angry” Joe Vargas is furious in the Kotaku piece because his livelihood is being threatened by copyright flags thrown by companies that only tangentially interact with the overall product being produced. Joe’s stance is that he takes these little pieces of copyrighted material here and there, and creates a richer narrative around them. It seems wrong that because they filed a copyright claim, a game or music publisher can, in essence, steal the entire income of a video from a creator for what amounts to, say, 17 seconds of a half-hour video. And the most damning of it is that YouTube isn’t checking out these copyright cases with good old humans. No, they’re using algorithm-mechanized bots to play God with the revenue streams.

Of course, sitting a little prettier, as they are perched on the “fun” side of the sharply drawn line in the sand between independents/affiliates and managed gamers — the protected class of gamers — Ohmwrecker and TotalBiscuit see things a little differently. Ohmwrecker makes a case that it is the “greedy MCNs” and not so much YouTube that is to blame for this landmark issue in “fair use” debate. TotalBiscuit, in his charming English elocution on the other hand is more concerned with YouTube’s involvement, but also takes to task the creators themselves.

For the record, “Angry” Joe Vargas states in a substantially calmer follow-up video to his original expletive-laden tirade against the recent “bullshit” antics of YouTube that he would not be adverse to giving up a percentage of his royalty stream to appease the copyright holders in order to regain his ability to monetize the entirety of his video archives.

While TotalBiscuit mentions that copyright laws need to be updated beyond the scope of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to account for new technology, he also hints at what is in effect a substantially more interesting point: should gamers boycott game publishers who actively seek copyright injunctions. Two of the majors, Nintendo and Sega have actively enforced their copyright status and yanked royalties away from gamers unprotected by the MCNs — the so-called affiliates and independents. Other companies such as Blizzard, Ubisoft, and Machinima have reached out via social media to reassure affected gamers that if they reach out to the publishing companies, they will work to ensure they get their monetization privileges restored. So do the YouTubers wield their increasingly powerful influence to “punish” music, game and video creators who enforce copyright standards? How much would Nintendo take a hit if all the gamers suddenly refused to recommend or play the latest iteration of Zelda? Is it even worth fighting that battle? What happens if the gamers all band together only to find that they, and their legion of fans, don’t muster the influence they thought they did? How would that affect the rest of the YouTube-iverse with copyright issues going forward?

Comments are closed.