Epic Games Likely DMCA'd Its Own Fortnite Trailer, Showing The Problems With YouTube's DMCA Process Yet Again

from the epic-fail dept

We’ve had plenty of stories revolving around content owners and publishers issuing DMCAs over trailers and advertisements. These stories are always head-scratching in one way or another, typically centering around the question of why anyone would ever want to take down free advertising, even imperfect free advertising. We’ve also seen plenty of examples of content owners accidentally sending DMCA notices over their own content, all of which help to highlight both the flaws in the DMCA process and just how difficult it is for even content owners themselves to know just what is infringing and what isn’t.

But when these two worlds collide, it becomes something special. We’re not yet 100% certain, but it sure looks like Epic Games DMCA’d its own trailer for the upcoming Fortnite Season 6.

A Fortnite season 6 trailer was briefly taken down earlier this week, after receiving a strike from YouTube for copyright infringement. That alone would be strange enough, since trailers and promotional videos typically secure the rights to any third-party media ahead of time. But the real kicker here is who issued the claim: according to a screengrab posted to Reddit, it was none other than Fortnite’s own developer, Epic Games.

The internet then spent the next day or so poking fun at Epic in the form of memes and in-game references, but this really isn’t much of a laughing matter. And, whatever actually happened here, it serves to show the flaws in the DMCA process relating to YouTube videos. The most likely explanation is that Epic has an automated system to flag and DMCA videos that contain game content from Fortnite. The problem here is that this was a trailer for an upcoming release, meaning that it would be odd for the algorithm to already be set to pick up on that content. Perhaps it’s simply recognizing the general game or characters and flagging it, but we don’t know for sure. And, given the vast amounts of let’s plays and other content on YouTube featuring Fortnite, it’s hard to square just why this trailer would have been flagged when other videos are not. Regardless, the end result of this would be Epic Games DMCAing its own advertisement, the very last thing it would want to do. If that doesn’t show the flaw in how the DMCA process is handled on all sides right now, it’s hard to imagine what would.

Of course, the other possible explanation here is that it wasn’t Epic that DMCA’d the trailer at all, but rather someone impersonating the company.

This system has been criticized for having little oversight and placing undue burden on those impacted by the strikes. Someone looking to cause trouble could, for example, pretend to be a company and issue a fraudulent claim. Or, as has happened in the past, a creator of a game or film could use YouTube’s system to punish negative reviews.

Yes, and with little oversight and next to nothing in terms of punishment for sending false DMCA notices in this way, there is little that would stop this from happening. While the first possible explanation registers as a flaw we can all laugh at, the latter shows the true danger in the DMCA process as a method for censoring speech. And that’s something nobody appears to be paying attention to, even as the flaw is exposed for all to see.

The DMCA isn’t perfect. What it really lacks is legislated teeth to punish abuse and fraud. Until that happens, abuse will run rampant, as will automated systems that DMCA perfectly legitimate content, such as a company’s own advertising.

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Companies: epic games, youtube

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Comments on “Epic Games Likely DMCA'd Its Own Fortnite Trailer, Showing The Problems With YouTube's DMCA Process Yet Again”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder how much it would cost to break the whole system?

Accounts get 3 warnings and an autoban right? If you create multiple DMCA issuing companies and start sending takedown notices to the largest companies, like Epic, they would all find themselves banned. You could have it automated into banning them multiple times a day as they get their accounts manually fixed, but even then you can use the unbanning as evidence in the lawsuit around how the whole process is weighted and illegal to begin with. They swear they reviewed whatever evidence and approved it by hand, but the sheer number of requests per minute shows this to be a lie. Many of the examples of incorrect takedowns show that not even a monkey could make those mistakes, so they all lose the right to issue takedowns, other than in person, with multiple pieces of evidence, and making sure they considered fair use.

A bored millionaire with some programming skills could easily do this through some shell companies.

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