Sony Hates You: EarthBound Let's Plays Flagged For Copyright Infringement Due To Soundtrack

from the six-degrees-of-infringement dept

It’s no secret that I don’t care for the way that Nintendo treats its biggest fans when it comes to allowing them to view and use its IP in order to express their fandom. I have been known, after all, to create entire genres of posts with “Nintendo Hates You” in the title. And, so, when I noticed headlines about how YouTube videos for let’s-plays featuring the classic SNES game Earthbound were being demonitized or taken down over copyright claims, I was sure I would be writing yet another of those headlines.

But, nope. Instead, this is a story about how Sony has issued copyright claims, and apparently rebutted counterclaims, against let’s-plays for Earthbound not because it published the game, which it very much did not, but because Nintendo licensed the soundtrack for the game to Sony for an album release.

Over the past couple of weeks, reports have come flooding in from YouTube users who say that their EarthBound-based videos are being flagged for copyright by Sony. In some cases, it’s reported that Sony has claimed the ad revenue for the video in question; in others, the videos appear to have been removed entirely.

As is often the case with YouTube, the reasoning for this lies with the game’s music. While Nintendo still owns the EarthBound/Mother brand in terms of its video games and the franchise as a whole, the game’s soundtrack was released as a studio album back in 1989 under Sony’s then-named CBS/Sony music label, essentially meaning that any piece of music featured on that record can be claimed by the company.

Okay, if you really needed a more perfect example of how broken copyright laws have become in the modern era, this must certainly be that case. Nintendo releases a game called Earthbound in 1994. Nintendo composers created the music for the game. In 1994, and again in 2004, Sony licenses the music to release a studio album soundtrack. Fast forward nearly twenty years and suddenly people releasing videos of them playing the game that was created by Nintendo nearly thirty years ago are having those videos demonitized or taken down… over the album release. If you can seriously get through that and think that any of this makes sense, you have capacities that I simply do not.

Plenty of YouTube users have taken to social media to express their upset at Sony’s decision to remove their content, hoping to find a way to restore their work. The videos will no doubt be getting flagged automatically, what with the soundtrack being part of Sony’s catalogue, so unless Sony decides to manually excuse the affected videos going forward, it may be unwise to include music from the game in any future content.

Notably, some of these YouTubers are also indicating that they disputed the notices only to have Sony dig its heels in. If that’s the case, this isn’t just our stupid automated copyright notice systems creating chaos again.

But here’s what this really all boils down to: if even Nintendo is allowing this content to remain up, it should probably stay up. Nintendo has arguably been one of the most aggressive enforcers and protectors of its IP on the planet. Sony is obviously no slouch in that respect, but there is literally nobody watching let’s-plays in order to listen to the game soundtrack in the same manner they would an album version of it. In fact, one would think that it might serve as free advertising of Sony’s albums, if nothing else.

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Companies: nintendo, sony

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Comments on “Sony Hates You: EarthBound Let's Plays Flagged For Copyright Infringement Due To Soundtrack”

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16 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'That music was great, I wonder if there's a soundtrack to buy?'

Sony is obviously no slouch in that respect, but there is literally nobody watching let’s-plays in order to listen to the game soundtrack in the same manner they would an album version of it. In fact, one would think that it might serve as free advertising of Sony’s albums, if nothing else.

As someone who’s bought several game soundtracks I have not doubt that while no-one is going to watch a let’s-play of a game for the music doing so makes it much more likely that they’ll buy that music if it’s made available to them, so this is just boneheaded protectionism by Sony here that is not just wasting effort it’s costing them far more than they could ever make from it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

If I read the article right: Nintendo always did (in the scope of he article) own the rights to both the game/series and the soundtracks. Nintendo licensed to Sony the right to make/sell/market/whatever the OST.

If that’s correct, then it sounds like Sony is actually engaged in copy fraud. If someone writes a book ,and then licenses to me the rights to make a movie. I can’t then turn around and go after people for quoting/reading the book, even though it has great swaths of "copied" content compared to the script.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Most likely Sony uploaded another batch of files to ContentID.
The broken tool that is meant to protect their rights even imaginary ones… like that whole bird song thing, or silence, or white noise.

This is the same tool that claims a media outlet "owns" NASA footage they rebroadcast.

Rightsholders are much to busy to make sure they are doing things right, so they just submit what they claim to own and allow the completely broken system complete the illusion they have all of these rights and are allowed to be paid by the work of others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fair use

Everyone already agrees with me.
You don’t play the video game as a replacement for music.
You don’t watch the you tube stream just for the music.
If you do, consider buying the soundtrack…

what’s that? there’s not a soundtrack for sale? well, shoot, no one’s listening to the music just to listen to it in that case.

Should I point out that it’s not uncommon to have people watch you play a game? what about the fact that the person playing the video game has some level of input on the music (boss fights/scene changes), it’s closer to a performance than a music video. So Sony can just go soak themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

algorithms and this is their business

No one flags these stupid videos. The system looks for specific patterns and flag based on that. The computer doing the deed has no idea what the video is about. It does not care. It only cares that some hash or whatever matches. The game music is probably a close match to licensed saleable music.

Secondly, this is Sony’s business. They buy rights to stuff to sell it so they can make money. Expecting them not to push unlicensed examples of musics off the internets is kinda naïve, but more really kinda dumb. They want to make more money and free does not do that for them.

The real problem is that this stuff was not dealt with before it exploded. Playing video games for broadcast is pretty clearly a violation of copyright. Some companies have expressly allowed for broadcast, but only if they like you (see that pootie-tang guy getting banned from streaming some game or something.) Other companies do not. A standard set of rules for video game performance is needed. Or at least a system like creative commons has (can broadcast, no music can be broadcast, cannot broadcast, only non-commercial streams with no ads or money, etc).

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: algorithms and this is their business

Playing video games for broadcast is pretty clearly a violation of copyright.

The only reason why takedowns of let’s play streamers isn’t a common thing is because the relationship between streamer and video game company is mutually beneficial: video game company gets free advertising and exposure (both of which lead to sales in the video game business), streamer gets money via ads and/or endorsement deals. That being said, © means that the video game company can nix deal at any time.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: algorithms and this is their business

You should get in touch with all the stores out there offering free samples because either they know something you don’t or you managed to stumble upon a secret that they’ve been missing for decades.

Not to mention Epic Games, who lets people play Fortnite for free and give away games on their store for free.

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