YouTube Fails In Explaining Flood Of Takedowns For Let's Play Videos

from the not-how-to-do-this dept

Last week, there had been some rumors that YouTube was changing its policies around so-called “let’s play” videos, with some arguing that “Google was implementing SOPA” when it came to let’s play videos — and that all videos would have to be previewed first to make sure there was no use of copyright-covered content. That seemed like a clear exaggeration, but over the past few days there have been numerous reports from a variety of different sources about how many of the biggest video game channels on YouTube were suddenly getting inundated with copyright claims, many of which people felt were bogus.

So what’s happened? Well, it’s not that YouTube “implemented SOPA.” Rather it appears to be a combination of pushing out its ContentID “scanning” program to channels that are listed as affiliates to so-called “MCNs” (Multi-channel Networks). MCNs are effectively “collections” of independent YouTube channels, banding together for certain advantages, such as cross-promotion and ad sales across all videos. While most people are familiar with ContentID, as far as I can tell (and despite repeated attempts to speak to multiple people, no one seems interested in explaining the details), it appears that ContentID generally works on newly uploaded videos, whereas going back and scanning existing videos is more targeted. And, it’s that back scanning that has been “enabled” here. In other words, if those videos had been uploaded very recently, they might have been hit with the same ContentID claim, but these were “back catalog” videos in many cases, which sort of grandfathered them in. That explains the sudden influx. Going back over all those old videos has turned up a bunch of matches.

Then there’s a separate issue: which is that many people claim that the claims are completely bogus. Even though they’re on let’s play videos, they’re not coming from the video game companies, but other third parties. In fact, the big video game companies, like Ubisoft, Capcom and Blizzard say they have no problem with let’s play videos and are actually trying to help those impacted in figuring out what to do.

This move is almost certainly a result of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) suing Fullscreen, a big MCN, claiming copyright infringement. There are some generally interesting legal questions about whether or not an MCN is actually liable for any infringement by an independent YouTube producer, but some of these MCNs have grown to be quite large, and the publishers want money. YouTube is likely trying to clean up the videos associated with MCNs in one big move to avoid any future issues.

What that means, however, is that it’s likely one of the reasons that people aren’t recognizing the names making the copyright claims is that the matches aren’t on the game play, but rather the music either in the video games themselves (likely in many cases) or that video makers add to their videos in general. To their credit, it appears that many of the gaming companies are actually helping video creators clear that music.

The whole thing is a bit of a mess, but not as crazy as it first appeared. And it’s certainly not a case of “SOPAfying” YouTube videos. It’s just extending the ContentID scanning to those channels to try to clean out problems and, hopefully, avoid future lawsuits against those MCNs.

That said, YouTube’s communications over this have been dismal and have greatly contributed to the problem. The company has put out the identical statement to everyone who’s asked (including us):

We recently enabled Content ID scanning on channels identified as affiliates of MCNs. This has resulted in new copyright claims for some users, based on policies set by the relevant content owners. As ever, channel owners can easily dispute Content ID claims if they believe those claims are invalid.

That’s… somewhat useless. It doesn’t address the reasons or the concerns of the video makers, and has many scared. That is not the best way to explain the situation, and only lends credence to the exaggerated claims that YouTube is helping to kill off let’s play videos, when that’s not the case at all. It also presupposes an extraordinary level of knowledge that most people don’t have of Content ID, copyright, MCNs, licensing, publishing and more. It’s basically the opposite of providing the information that video makers actually need — leaving them freaked out about a massive influx in copyright claims they don’t understand. Without a better, more honest and clear explanation, most users are blaming the most obvious party: YouTube.

It appears that YouTube briefed some MCNs on the basics of this change, which is why those rumors came out last week, as the MCNs tried to explain the issue to the affiliates — but generally did so badly, because this stuff is complicated enough as is, and then you add a game of legal telephone where the people passing on the details don’t really understand the issues either. YouTube could have done a much, much, much better job laying out the details of what it was doing and why (and even how that actually should help MCNs by avoiding lawsuits like the NMPA’s. But instead, it’s got a ton of people freaked out and its communications to those people are almost non-existent other than the cryptic statement which, while accurate, fails to portray the full situation.

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Companies: google, nmpa, youtube

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Comments on “YouTube Fails In Explaining Flood Of Takedowns For Let's Play Videos”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t really understand this move. It hurts the game creators, the content producers, youtube, publishers. Just about everybody.

Must be some irrelevant control freak who thinks hes important wanting to make a rukus.

Btw Youtube I am tired of seeing articles about your absurd policies. Anymore of this and we will simply go out and make another youtube. Get your shit together.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: @ "Anymore of this and we will simply go out and make another youtube."

You get my vote for funniest of the week. You must be related to the politician who thinks one can set up a server in his garage and start competing with Google. Just simply NO idea of the scale, costs, or how entrenched those mega-corps are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Making another YouTube” will not make this problem go away.
Content ID exists because YouTube was found liable for the infringement of their users when they were sued by Viacom.
Any sufficiently large streaming site will inevitably face the same lawsuits. The only solution is to demand meaningful copyright reform.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Content ID exists because YouTube was found liable for the infringement of their users when they were sued by Viacom.

YouTube was not found liable in that case. In fact, the lawsuit went in Google’s favor twice, and Viacom backed off a tiny bit in the battle after their second loss when Google offered the Content ID fig leaf.

Google doesn’t do Content ID because they’re required to at all. They do Content ID because they’re trying to kiss up to the major content companies. What they haven’t yet learned is that no matter how much they bend over for those people, they still hate Google with every fiber of their beings.

Patrick (profile) says:

Well this is disappointing. I’m a lawyer and copyright activist running the website, designed to help people dispute false copyright claims on their videos. For a long time now MCNs have been immune to Content ID claims, and I’ve actually been advising people who are constantly badgered by false Content ID claims to join an MCN as a refuge from this. This is especially critical in the case of Content ID claims by Universal Music Group, which has a special deal with YouTube making their claims immune to DMCA counter-notices.

With all other claimants, if you go through the whole dispute > appeal > counter-notice process, you can eventually clear your video of false copyright claims. But when UMG claims a video, it is impossible to ever clear the copyright claim, because once you get to the counter-notice stage UMG will just “override” your counter-notice and keep the video offline.

MCNs were user’s last refuge against these types of claims. If Content ID now applies to MCNs as well, there truly is no escaping it. A sad day indeed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Wait, how the HELL does Universal Studios get to have a special deal to circumvent the law?!

Which law? The DMCA notification and counter-notification law?

It’s simple. YouTube has a deal with UMG. UMG can therefore take down whatever they like on YouTube.

The DMCA doesn’t apply because they aren’t using the DMCA form. And remember that the notification and counter-notification laws are ONLY there to provide immunity to YouTube itself from liability. They are free to ignore those provisions if they don’t mind losing the immunity. And YouTube is frankly not worried about a lawsuit from you that they wrongly took down your content. Their TOS states “YouTube reserves the right to remove Content without prior notice.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

MCNs shouldn’t be immune and it is all fair that they police the sponsored channels.

The bigger problems are the legal uncertainty, a first and last initiative from content holders (takedown and counter-notice), the fact that the costs of taking it to court far outweighs any possible profit, the difference in “power” (economic and otherwise) of the sides in the conflict and the randomness of bots like Content ID. The situation of UMG is a different kind of fullblown market distortion.

No, contentID is not the real problem. It is a symptom of a host of other problems with no easy solutions…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think that the big problem is that fair use is all too easily bypassed by threat of law suits, along with threats of expensive lawsuits against service providers if they push back too hard against the MPAA/RIAA members. When individuals cannot afford to protect their rights, the rich and the corporations can largely ignore the law with regard to fair use.

out_of_the_blue says:

"Ignoring the law should not be allowed as a business model."

Heh, heh.

Anyhoo, yet again, Mike complains that people can’t just take the works of others and do whatever they wish with it. Mike’s “support’ of copyright means only that those who put the time and money into its production are fully entitled to do so, but not necessarily to get all the rewards from those investments: he wants that spread out among second-hand hacks.

Mike’s notions are all get-rich-quick schemes by using products someone else made. His continued defense of Megaupload shows his ideal “business model”: neither pay to produce nor royalties on any of the files hosted so costs are just above bandwidth, and able to avoid legal liability so long as pretend ignorance of infringed content.


silverscarcat (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You DO realize that this hits people who do reviews, previews and interviews for games and people who work on games like Angry Joe, right?

Argue what you want about Let’s Plays, ootb, reviews, previews and interviews CLEARLY fall under fair use and UNDER U.S. COPYRIGHT LAW, it SPECIFICALLY states that Fair Use is NOT infringing!

In fact, Blue…

Watch that, you MIGHT learn a thing or three about HOW this is hurting people!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Argue what you want about Let’s Plays, ootb, reviews, previews and interviews CLEARLY fall under fair use and UNDER U.S. COPYRIGHT LAW, it SPECIFICALLY states that Fair Use is NOT infringing!

Oh, I agree. Except that YouTube can exclude whatever they like whether or not it infringes. If they have a policy to take down any video that UMG wants down, then you’re out of luck on YouTube. You could even get a declaratory judgement of noninfringement and YouTube would be under no obligation to restore the video. Unless you have some legal theory that can force YouTube to publish your content… and I don’t think I need to explain why that would be a very bad thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is even affecting people who were commisioned by the creators to make these videos, which is mindnumbingly stupid. That’s not even fair use – that’s flat out authorization.

It’s ridiculous that youtube is indiscriminately handing out copyright notices on behalf of a ridiculous number of copyright holders to begin with, even more so that it’s completely automated without any input from anyone. The rightsholders themselves should have to find the videos themselves and submit notices through youtube.

[citation needed or GTFO] says:

Re: Re: Re:

I hope that Joe goes back to using Blip. The last time he uploaded a review there was back in March.

If I remember correctly, he stopped using it because people were complaining about the loading.

Either way, it’s easy to understand why video creators are slowly but surely using different video streaming platforms other than YouTube. Heck, it’s no wonder Doug Walker went to create TGWTG, his own website (as atrociously outdated the web design as it is) after getting hit from copyright claims. True, he opened up The League of Super Critics, but it’s only a matter of time before the system claims them too. Same with LittleKuriboh and Team Four Star. They use Blip more often than YouTube to continue to upload videos even after consistently fighting against the ContentID system.

Honestly, I hope that YouTube eventually dies when there are better options for video creators and reviewers out there. Blip and Dailymotion come to mind…

JMT says:

Re: "Ignoring the law should not be allowed as a business model."

“Anyhoo, yet again, Mike complains that people can’t just take the works of others and do whatever they wish with it.”

No, Mike’s never said or implied anything like that. Feel free to prove me wrong, but we all know you can’t and won’t.

“Mike’s “support’ of copyright means only that those who put the time and money into its production are fully entitled to do so, but not necessarily to get all the rewards from those investments: he wants that spread out among second-hand hacks.”

It’s like you set out to make yourself look ignorant… You’ve obviously never watched Let’s Play videos and don’t really understand what the adults are talking about. These videos are entirely beneficial to the game creators, providing FREE promotion and advertising, and making games more valuable to players. Similarly any music heard in these videos is clearly beneficial to the music’s creators, putting their music in front of people who might not otherwise hear it. It’s not like you go actively searching for songs by looking through Let’s Play videos.

Anonymous Coward says:


You don’t seem to understand the entirety of the situation… It isn’t just Let’s Players who are being affected by this (they have always been a slippery slope, on one hand yes they are using other people’s content, but on the other hand that content is just a stage. For the most part viewers are watching the YouTube personality), but reviewers of video games as well.

AngryJoe from the AngryJoeShow has roughly 500 videos. Over 60 of those videos have been tagged for copyright claims. Since he is reviewing the content in those videos, it falls under fair use, which an automated bot cannot determine. Isn’t it astounding how with the previous system, he never had a single strike, now with this automated system he is looking at 60? He isn’t a small channel either, his views per video ranges from a few hundred thousand to upwards of 3 million. With a channel that large, surely he would’ve been flagged for copyright infringement before, wouldn’t he?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That may be wrong down the road: Twitch actually has a VOD-viewing capacity. It has the ability to automatically record content as it streams and the video will be available for later viewing. It also has a highlight feature where the channels can cut out and promote what they see as their highlights.

So far that feature is very basic and somewhat bug-ridden, but it has been stated by their CEO that they want to improve that capacity a lot down the line. Youtube also experiments with some live broadcasts on their end.

Since I think the poster talked about “let’s play” the markets are definitely overlapping and will start to overlap even more over time as they start to move into eachothers main markets.

Anonymous Coward says:

why be surprised at the comment from YouTube? it’s a Google company isn’t it? and we know how absolutely pathetic Google is at being able to be contacted! they earn more money in 1 day than most people could ever earn in a lifetime, and they still refuse to employ people to actually speak to customers and, you know, answer questions!! despicable service from a company so reliant on customers. in fact, they basically give their customers the finger!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

In many cases it’s not even an infraction of copyright. YouTube’s copyright notice system doesn’t check or demand proof that the notifier even has the legal rights to the content being flagged. Anyone can flag any content! What’s happening now is that vast amounts of scumbags are claiming copyright to videos that are popular in order to get the ad revenue from these videos transferred to them. In short, YouTube has enabled mass fraud and theft hitting the content creators that provide value to the channel and whose work keeps people coming back. Not the most sound business plan.

Anonymous Coward says:

What that means, however, is that it’s likely one of the reasons that people aren’t recognizing the names making the copyright claims is that the matches aren’t on the game play, but rather the music either in the video games themselves (likely in many cases) or that video makers add to their videos in general.

OK, I can see claiming copyright on music that someone added to their video.

But claiming it on the music that comes with the game itself? No. Especially not with someone talking over it. If you sold your music for use in the game, you sold it for ALL uses of the game. That’s as ridiculous as a sculptor suing people for taking pictures of the courthouse because their statue is there.

Lurker Keith says:

Re: Re:

Revision3’s Adam Sessler had a 90 min. Address the Sess (Google Hangout Chat, usually just an hour, & taking questions from gamers) dedicated to this, bringing in YouTubers affected by this (including TotalBiscuit) as well as a couple inside the Game Making Industry, instead of taking the usual questions from gamers.

They talk about what MCNs are (though Adam works for one, doing their own gaming content, he is still in the dark on the details); the different kinds of content being targeted; copyright, fair use & how the system is broken; how the big companies are trying to help; & much more. The game insiders talked about how all these Game videos are free advertising, among other things.

A lot of what they discuss in the Hangout I’ve seen TechDirt post about.

Michael James Evans (profile) says:

ugly corner cases

Let’s also remember how horrid ‘ContentID’ (and anything similar) can be at correctly identifying things which might sound similar but can be legitimately produced by multiple sources.

Classical music (various performances, including synthesized music)

Covers (even, as covered on Techdirt previously, Band’s performing a cover of their own work to re-release with better terms)

Written permission from an authorized agent (who may not have communicated with, or whom does not have any control over, ‘rogue’ enforcement agents).

Fair Use – The, yes it’s a copy, but it’s covered.

Oh, and the above also ignores all aspects of International things; what rules cover a user based in Germany vs a user in Canada vs a user in the UK vs a user in the US or anywhere else?

I think I’ve finally seen an ‘industry’ with more inherent liability and even less clarity than ‘software patents’ (protected ways of /thinking/) cause.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: What alternatives are there to YouTube?

The biggest problem with a competitor to youtube popping up, to snag all the people who hate youtube but are stuck with it, is the only reason youtube survived the barrage of lawsuits and threats against it is that it had the insanely rich google company bankrolling their legal defense.

They could afford to pay top-notch lawyers, they could afford to spend the massive court fees from multiple appeals and cases, they could afford to pay people to do nothing but represent them in court, however a smaller company on the other hand would not be able to do any of this, and would swiftly be crushed via the system.

Probably the best example of this was Veoh, that, despite winning every single case filed against it, was still run into the ground and bankrupted, because every time they won the other side would just appeal or sue them again, and the court fees eventually reached the point where Veoh simple couldn’t pay them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: What alternatives are there to YouTube?

“As I understand, one of the reasons YouTube can get away with this is because there aren’t any other video sites worth using.”

Not true. However, most people do use it.

Think of it like the situation with search engines. People use Google all the time, but there’s a huge amount of competition ranging from Bing to Dogpile to DuckDuckGo. Most people use Google, however, mainly due to branding, simple familiarity or the “good enough” conundrum. Which is that even if far superior products out there exist, people will stick with what’s familiar.

Things can change – and change quickly, just as they have in the past. Google quickly took marketshare from household name search competitors when they first appeared, and the same can happen to them, in any space they currently operate within.

But, the real problem in this case isn’t YouTube or Google, it’s the content providers. If those other services are currently “better”, it’s only because they’re small fry who haven’t gained the attention of the corporate lawyers yet. Unless something changes, they will be faced with the same problems YouTube were – set up automated policing, even if it negative affects your own lawyers, or die. they’re not “getting away” with anything, it’s that they’ve been shown what the alternatives are, and if Google don’t want to spend the resources fighting this, how the hell is a smaller site going to?

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