On Copyright, Let's Play Videos, and Symbiosis

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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On Copyright, Let's Play Videos, and Symbiosis

A recent development in the YouTube community is proving somewhat jarring to fans of video game-related content, and to those viewers of same. Specifically, several providers of what are known as “Let's Play” videos are finding themselves on the bad end of a lot of copyright claims, and the story behind these claims—and the impact said claims will likely have—is pretty substantial.

The story recently came to light as several YouTube operators, including TheRadBrad's own Brad Colburn, discovered a litany of copyright claims raised against a variety of the videos in question, targeting things from sounds to music to even gameplay. While under normal circumstances, reportedly, copyright claims come in small doses particularly for video game-related content, this particular blast was quite different thanks to markedly higher total numbers of claims. The number was so high that, by some reports, it had never been seen before.

Yet interestingly, it isn't the video game companies calling in the copyright brigades. Capcom, makers of “Dead Rising 3” took to their Twitter feed to put out an open request for more information from those who had been blocked. Capcom noted in a Twitter post that the flags may have been “illegitimate” and “not instigated by us.” Capcom further said that it was “investigating” the matter. Further reports emerging later in the day suggested that Blizzard, Ubisoft and Capcom alike were all offering support for those affected, and encouraged those who were flagged to contest the claims so that such content could be approved by the copyright holders. YouTube released a statement saying that it had enabled Content ID scanning on Multi Channel Network affiliates, which resulted in “...new copyright claims for some users, based on policies set by the relevant content owners.”

For some, “Let's Play” videos are seen as a copyright violation on a grand scale, a way for third parties to make money on other people's intellectual property. But others—like me—regard these videos as a kind of symbiosis, in which the copyright holders get incredible publicity and promotion at no charge, and the video makers get a way to add original content to video game content and at the same time build a following as well as make some money in the process. It's a perfect mix for both sides, who get easy promotion to a wide and interested following and a chance to earn a living in the process doing something they enjoy. It's a great deal for all concerned, so why the game companies would be interested in shutting down all but the worst examples is anyone's guess.

In the early going, this whole thing looks like a kind of mechanical glitch, a kind of short-term hiccup that should be easily fixed. Only time will tell just how it all comes out, but hopefully neither side of the equation is willing to bite the hand that feeds it.
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