YouTuber Jim Sterling is no lightweight in the gaming industry. With over 180,000 subscribers, his reviews can make a big difference, especially in the world of indie games where a few hundred players can mean the difference between life and death for a fledgling game. So when he trashes your game in a video review, you can expect it to take a hit on indie platforms like Steam. That’s just what happened when Sterling gave Skate Man Intense Rescue, an indie game trying to make its way through the Steam Green Light approval process, a less-than-glowing review. Game developer Digipex Games struck back by filing a copyright takedown on Sterling’s content. YouTube has obligingly taken the video down, so we’re not able to show you the review which Sterling characterizes as “not the worst.”
Jim Sterling posted a video responding to the take down in his own words:
YouTube gamers have rapidly risen to become one of the most important parts of the gaming press. By sharing their experiences and impressions via Let’s Play and game review videos, their opinions can influence the buying habits of hundreds, thousands, or in some cases, millions of devoted fans. Even major game publishers like Nintendo have been forced to acknowledge the sway that YouTubers hold over the game playing and game buying public. However, their influence is felt even more strongly in the indie gaming community where independent creators depend on good reviews and positive press to help their games rise above the pack on platforms like Steam. Skate Man Intense Rescue was making it’s way through Steam Green Light, a portion of that platform is devoted to unfinished games still in the development process (it has since been removed from Steam).
While it’s understandable that a developer would be unhappy to see a highly public negative review early in the development process, the incident highlights a serious problem faced by YouTube creators. YouTube’s copyright rules heavily favor corporations and rights holders, meaning that it’s easy for game developers and others to silence their critics with copyright flags. It’s a problem that extends beyond the world of YouTube gaming. Even high profile creator Shane Dawson recently wrestled with a copyright claim on his Taylor Swift parody video filed by Sony in an apparent attempt to use copyright law to manage their image. In a similar case, tech creators have accused software giant Microsoft of using copyright claims to take down videos critical of their Windows operating system. And last year, a group of Australian activists accused an energy corporation of using a false copyright claim to silence a viral anti-pollution campaign video.
YouTuber Jack King ripped and re-uploaded Sterling’s original review:
Of course game developers, tech giants, and even pop goddesses like Taylor Swift are technically within their rights to push copyright claims on reviews that use their material, or parodies that lampoon their art. In order to survive as a platform that hosts massive amounts of pirated and unlicensed content, YouTube has made every effort to meet the needs and comply with the requests of legitimate rights holders. This can become a problem when those rights holders misuse copyright law to manage their image rather than to protect their intellectual property as appears to be the case here. In such instances, YouTube creators have little recourse but to publicly protest and hope to turn public opinion to their side. It’s a difficult problem and one that will have to be resolved before YouTube can reach its full potential as a media outlet.
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