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.