World Of Tanks Developer Gets Negative Review Video Taken Down Under Threat Of Copyright Claim, Backlash Ensues

from the copyright-as-censorship dept

We've heard many stories at this point about video game producers attempting to use copyright and the DMCA as a censorship tool against criticism. As it happens, the frequency of these stories has tapered off somewhat as best as I can tell, even as the indie gaming scene has resulted in an explosion of small gaming studios. The reason for that delta is probably that the gaming community as a whole has become both far more educated and vocal about any attempts to use copyright as a censorship tool. Rightly or wrongly, honesty and transparency in gaming reviews and commentary has become something of a thing the past few years and one of the possibly unintentional results of that campaign has been for attempts at stifling criticism about games to be top of the average gamer's mind.

Which brings us to Wargaming, the studio behind World of Tanks. If you have not heard about the drama from last week yet, it began with a YouTuber called SirFoch, who issued a scathing and expletive-laden review of a specific tank customers could purchase withing the game.

In the video, which was re-posted on another YouTube channel, SirFoch said things like, “Fuck Wargaming, fuck their terrible way of making these premium tanks lately, and fuck this premium tank in particular.” Specifically, he criticized the tank’s lack of weak points behind the machine gun ports by showing viewers its collision model which he argued made the Chrysler K overpowered.

Crude language aside, he was making an otherwise evidenced-based point, whether you agree with him or not. The problem is that SirFoch has signed up to be a "community contributor" with Wargaming, which is essentially one of the more common fan-influencer platforms becoming more fashionable in gaming circles. SirFoch was not paid for his reviews or commentary, but he was given early access to content. In return, Wargaming requires an amorphous "level of decorum" when discussing the game publicly. It was apparently this lack of decorum on SirFoch's part that gave Wargaming license to threaten him with copyright infringement.

In the wake of the video attacking Wargaming for its perceived use of pay-to-win mechanics, a community manager at the company who goes by Zoltan “Ph3lan” Sipos contacted SirFoch over Discord. Ph3lan explained, according to screenshots of the conversation provided by SirFoch, that the YouTuber would be dropped from the program giving him early access to content and would need to take down his video or else Wargaming would be forced to have YouTube remove it for copyright infringement.

SirFoch took down the video in question, but then immediately went public with how Wargaming had threatened him because of course he did. The studio, meanwhile, tried to combat the ensuing backlash in its own forums by complaining about the tone and language choices the YouTuber had used, indicating those factors warranted the copyright threat. Gamers watching this discussion rightly realized that this was essentially copping to censorship by copyright of criticism. The backlash grew in size. Over the next several days, Wargaming reps began suggesting to media outlets that SirFoch's video had been laced with not only vulgarity, but homophobic hate speech as well. The video did not in fact include any such language. The backlash grew even louder.

Grew loud enough too that the studio has now backed down and issued a public apology.

We have further reviewed the incident of last Friday involving SirFoch and his “Chrysler K GF rant” video, and know we could have handled the situation a lot better. We strongly support our players’, including our Community Contributors’, right to speak critically about us and our games. We acted too quickly and over the line when we threatened to have YouTube remove SirFoch’s video through a copyright infringement complaint and we are apologizing for that.

We’re committed to doing a better job on this front. We’re going to improve the way we communicate with our Community and our Community Contributors, and as part of that effort we will work with them on more detailed, specific guidelines to help ensure incidents like this don’t happen again.

Our official position is that Wargaming will not take copyright action against opinions based on our publicly released content.

Over the weekend we released a statement to some media outlets regarding the content of SirFoch’s video that inferred that SirFoch’s videos contained hate speech and homophobia. While we would obviously not want such content to be associated with any of our games – this video clearly did not. We apologize for this statement, and we don't stand behind those claims.

It's a good apology but, frankly, a bit tough to swallow given how far the studio went to try to first bully and then defame one of its own contributors entirely because it didn't like the criticism that contributor issued. Wargaming is likely hoping that this incident hasn't tanked its reputation beyond repair, and it's probable that it hasn't. If not, that official position to not be a copyright bully over censorship had better be sincere, because reputations rarely are offered a third chance if there were to be another such incident.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2017 @ 6:42pm

    One way to handle such comments si to actually address them like

    expletive deleted Wargaming, expletive deleted their terrible way of making these premium tanks lately, and expletive deleted this premium tank in particular.”

    Dear SirFoch,

    Thank you for your comments regarding the particular tank in question. Though, the upgrade may not be to your satisfaction, in terms of our game play, it is within the criteria that we use. We hope you appreciate and understand that we are catering to the needs and tastes of a specific segment of our consumers.

    Sincerely yours

    Wargaming

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2017 @ 6:59pm

    Mike Masnick just hates it when copyright law is enforced.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ryunosuke (profile), 25 May 2017 @ 8:14pm

      Re:

      Mike Masnick just hates it when copyright law is abused.

      ftfy

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 12:15am

      Re:

      If copyright law allows for content-based censorship then it is unconstitutional and can be struck down by the courts.

      Mike would probably LOVE it if copyright law was enforced that way, since it would almost immediately cease to exist.

      You, on the other hand, Coward, would probably spend that day crying in a corner.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 25 May 2017 @ 7:00pm

    Seen this before...

    Typical newbie behavior on WOT- shoot fast without thinking, only to realize that the target is on your team.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 4:51am

      Re: Seen this before...

      Sure you are not talking about any of the many many police who have killed innocent motorists at a traffic stop?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 25 May 2017 @ 7:27pm

    "Acted too quickly"

    Acted in category "not even wrong". They were fine with everything except an infringement claim. What a great way to shoot oneself in the foot. Then making shit up as if putative worse violations of their terms (or speech that others who have not seen the video might find more problematic; nice sympathy card there) constitute infringement. Good job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2017 @ 7:39pm

    IN other words, the developer fucked up and they had to backpedal because of the ridiculous public relations disaster they created through no fault but their own.

    I don't believe their apology for one second and this wreaks of the developer having to issue what is so blatantly obvious a "fake apology".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2017 @ 8:56pm

    Over the weekend we released a statement to some media outlets regarding the content of SirFoch’s video that inferred that SirFoch’s videos contained hate speech and homophobia. While we would obviously not want such content to be associated with any of our games – this video clearly did not. We apologize for this statement, and we don't stand behind those claims.

    So are they just going to give this empty apology, or are they seeing to it that all the media outlets that carried their libel not only print a prominent retraction, but update the original articles to reflect the admission that the claims about homophobia and hate speech were nothing more than libel?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2017 @ 9:35pm

    Both sides are being douche nozzles. Not sympathy for either.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 May 2017 @ 9:54pm

    "I say, who would have thought that someone with 'Sir' in their name would be so crude!"

    It was apparently this lack of decorum on SirFoch's part that gave Wargaming license to threaten him with copyright infringement.

    Well, no, actually.

    Jim Sterling covered the incident in three videos(first learning about it and, an episode covering it, and then finally the devs backing down) and as he pointed out in the second video a 'lack of decorum' is apparently pretty standard for SirFoch, something they had to have known before offering him a position as a 'community contributor.'

    As such the 'he was excessive in his language' is pretty clearly a laughable attempt at a justification that isn't 'He said mean things about our special new tank that uses ammo that costs real money to buy.'

    While it's nice that they realized how badly they bungled this the fact that they did the right thing in the end does not excuse the 'mistakes' they made during the process.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 2:20am

    Copyright?

    How can they threaten a copyright claim?
    If it really was about the rules of the special program he was/is part of then maybe breatch of contract, big maybe, but copyright?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 6:19am

      Re: Copyright?

      This is the problem with the DMCA infringement claims process. I would not disbelieve that it is used more often than not for things that have nothing to do at all with copyright infringement. It's just so easy to use, with few consequences. (Unless a community with some shaming or wallet-voting power notices.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      IAmNotYourLawyer (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 7:16am

      Re: Copyright?

      From the article, it sounds like the video included shots/clips from the game or otherwise produced by Wargaming. Those would be covered by copyright.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 7:33am

        Re: Re: Copyright?

        Except the video is a review/comment/criticism of the game. As such it falls under fair use. Especially since it can be considered transformative.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          IAmNotYourLawyer (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 8:00am

          Re: Re: Re: Copyright?

          While I agree it's almost certainly fair use, fair use is always determined on a case-by-case basis, and that provides some (weak) basis for a copyright claim.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Finnegan (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 3:09pm

        Re: Re: Copyright?

        Interestingly enough, the video in question did not include any gameplay footage, only collision models from tanks.gg. The DMCA takedown notice threat was based entirely on Foch's initial refusal to take the video down, and not at all due to any infringement of Wargaming's IP.

        Even if it had included shots/clips from the game, Wargaming had previously issued written permission for anyone and everyone not just to use any gameplay footage/clips/photos in their videos, but explicit permission to monetize said videos.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 26 May 2017 @ 2:29am

    Do All This Work ...

    ... and that’s the tanks you get.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Avideogameplayer, 26 May 2017 @ 3:54am

    Tanks for nothing...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zengief, 26 May 2017 @ 5:04am

    Wargaming's credibility is tanking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 5:38am

    All of this...

    ...over a tank that doesn't actually exist. And yet people argue with me when I point out that gamers are stupid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 6:26am

      Re: All of this...

      Yes. The Chrysler K cars were not exactly tanks. Although not entirely flimsy...

      Not sure why it matters if it exists outside the game or not. If it did, one cannot purchase an actual tank from a game, and the dude's complaint was about a game item, not an actual tank.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 6:36am

      Re: All of this...

      Oh yes, gamers are so stupid. They are just a bunch of morons who fail at life, blah blah blah blah.

      Gee, all those famous celebrities/scientists/etc... who play video games must be absolute idiots. And all those stories about gamers helping to identify new planets or figuring out how to fold proteins are obviously fake news.

      (The above is all sarcasm in case it wasn't already obvious.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chuck, 26 May 2017 @ 8:05am

    Apology isn't genuine until...

    ...they remove the tank. If they apologize for how they handled the incident, but still release a tank without weaknesses virtually every other tank in the game has - and as a premium model, no less - that's still "pay 2 win" and still bad.

    Unless they remove (or rather, either NEVER add the tank, or add it ONLY after changing its weaknesses to be in line with similar tanks) then they aren't really sorry because they're still more than happy to take people's money so they can all-but-cheat at their game.

    I mean how can they claim they learned ANYTHING from this experience if they still sell the tank?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Chuck, 26 May 2017 @ 8:06am

      Re: Apology isn't genuine until...

      I should clarify that I've never played World of Tanks or any other Wargaming game, but I do play MANY other free to play games and I've seen this kind of behavior before.

      And when you let ONE of them get away with it, then they all think they can do it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Vic B (profile), 26 May 2017 @ 10:14am

      Re: Apology isn't genuine until...

      I have been playing World of Tanks for several years, spending far more money on the game than I would ever admit to. SirFoch's rant is one most of us who play this game regularly complain about. Like in many other aspects of life when feeling manipulated but not having proof of it (until it is and everyone says "I knew it!"), WoT is a master game of deceit, letting players believe they are in control of their in game actions while in unproven fact, there are multiple parameters coded in the game that also influence the outcome of a battle that have nothing to do with the player's skills. From time to time avid players sense it and see it and rant about it. SirFoch threw a tantrum trying to prove that the game is not a true test of one's skills but a business venture maximizing its profit potential masquerading as a game of skills.
      And why then are we still paying good money to play this game? I ask myself this question often, then the adrenaline of the win or the great move rushes in and I forget at least for a few more days that I should just switch off and do something less frustrating with my time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 3:43pm

        Re: Re: Apology isn't genuine until...

        I quit playing WoT because

        1. How on earth can I get killed by a tiny tank when I'm in a heavy tank, no damage, with one shot?

        2. Payment system is seriously jacked up in the past. It's meh now instead of really bad.

        3. Idiot bots in the game

        4. Idiot players in the game

        5. It's windows - I'm tossing windows. I hear there's a Linux version, but frankly, now that I'm not playing, I don't care any more.

        6. Moderators not flexible nor helpful with player issues.

        So, I have an hour a day back, no more gold being wasted on this poor excuse of a system.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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