Thursday, 12 December 2013

New Copyright Claims - YouTube Declares War Upon Video Game Reviewers And Commentators

... For some reason i'm just not surprised anymore.

When it comes down to reviews and commentary, YouTube has consistently had a difficult relationship with its account members. Chief among these are its policies to deal with piracy and the flagging system which have been flawed to say the least. Likely everyone reading this has seen how it has been proven to cause problems in some way. A Space Hulk stop motion animation being taken down for having sound effects from Aliens, a tribute video to some series flagged and taken down for having music in it, even some for using brief sound bites for a gag. One specific one which comes to mind was an extremely in depth and critical review of Saw which was removed for having fifteen seconds of Yakety Sax as a joke. Despite various changes over the years, many videos had been taken down for reasons which might seem trivial, even when protected by entertainment and education laws.

The ones who tend to suffer the most are those who cover video games whether it be through commentaries or Let's Plays. While not all companies are hostile to the idea, many have seen frequent abuses, problems and major failings which have undercut anyone wishing to earn revenue off of their hard work.

Last year, Sega Japan forcibly removed the Shining Force III videos from many accounts via falsely flagging them for for breaching copyright. Despite this being wrong, YouTube promptly complied and vast numbers disappeared from the site. Many accounts still have the copyright strikes against them despite them having done no wrong, and it is strongly suspected this was done in order to increase the hit rankings of Sega's new title for the series.

Nintendo decreed that they would be taking the revenue earned through any video made with their games. A move which would ruin the livelihoods of many who earn a living making such videos and divert all of their hard work into a direct source of revenue for the company. Unlike the example above this one was at least reversed at a later date thanks to massive backlash, but they point they could so easily declare this remains.

Lesser companies meanwhile have been attempting to use this system to censor criticism of their titles which might harm their sales. The already infamous War Z (Now named Infestation: Survivor Stories after those with World War Z's copyright forced them to change) notably flagged a parody video mocking their game's failings, and succeeded despite no copyright having been breached. A more major abuse of the system came with a more high profile flagging by the creators of Day One Garry's Incident

These are just some of the more notable incidents in the past year or so. Many countless minor or secondary offenses have been seen in past years, to the point where people who post trailers promoting some games have been flagged and taken down. Even if the trailer itself takes up less than a twentieth of the video's entire length.

This has been continually done without YouTube seemingly raising a finger to prevent it and even ignoring the very systems it has in place to stop such abuse. To help protect such accounts, multi-channel networks are set up which are supposed to police themselves and cover what appears, granting some relative safety from automated or intentional false flagging. The system in question has been on very shaky terms with several of the examples above completely bypassing and ignoring the agreement, resulting in only limited protection.

Things have now become far, far worse in the past days.

It was announced previously that, YouTube changed its copyright laws which specifically relate to a new monetised review system. This was to specifically relate to how it operated with its multi-channel networks and would come into affect in January.  It seems that this came into affect early with the worst of consequences. 

On the previous Tuesday, thousands of monetised accounts covering video games with reviews and Let's Plays were struck by a tidal wave of copyright claims against their accounts. It has been reported that many of these have originated by third party groups or unrelated sources, who have been continually flagging videos en mass. One example which has been cited is where a reviewing magazine, 4GamerMovie, flagged and reported a video covering Metro: Last Light. Along with having no involvement themselves in the game, Deep Silver itself has been it clear that they have no problems with YouTube videos being made of their titles. One of their PR representatives encouraged those hit by claims involving their titles to contact them. Others such as Blizzard and Ubisoft have made similar responses, the latter especially given the prominence of Starcraft in the eSports scene.

YouTube answered these a few days ago with its justification of why this had arisen, better explaining the new ContentID system. On the statement made here, it was made clear that the groups within networks had been split into two groups. There are those who are counted as managing accounts within networks, and those who are marked down as affiliates of them. Only those who are noted to be affiliates are being hit, with managing accounts, those which are more directly integrated into the networks. 

A number of major channels have been hit to the point where some have been forced to halt content to deal with the massive influx of reports, such as RadTheBrad. Despite a commentator with close to two million subscribers and regular videos achieving roughly 300,000 hits, he has stated that uploads will have to halt until the issue is dealt with. This has been backed by a further statement of his claiming that "Every video i've uploaded since 2010 is being taken away from me." Something which gives some insight into how this blanketed flagging is causing problems for many.

The worse news still is of YouTube's response to criticisms over this. In the response above it has been made clear that their approach will be a "guilty until proven innocent" attitude with such claims, all of which will apparently be legitimate. Covered in an article by Polygon, YouTube has claimed that users can "easily dispute Content ID claims if they believe those claims are invalid" but as of yet have been seen to do nothing to assist in stopping these claims. Backing it by stating that they are done and accepted thanks to "policies set by the relevant owners" even when the owners themselves have outright stated that they have no problem with the videos, those claiming have no relation to the content, and the content itself may be minimal at the absolute best. It apparently doesn't matter who made it, so long as a claim is made, you're effectively guilty unless you can prove otherwise.

There have been a number of theories and suspicions surrounding this attitude but two remain prominent.

The first is that the Content ID system permitting so many easy copyright claims is to appease Google after YouTube's recent purchase. Thanks to the continual problems YouTube has had over the years with various lawsuits, this is a quick and easy way to avoid a great deal of trouble in the near future and start on seemingly good terms. Making it look as if they have their act together and are dealing with problems which have been brought up in the past from a business angle. Usually problems which can be potentially costly.

The second is that this is being done in order to try and crack down on the overall number of affiliates within networks, or force new members to quickly join with one as fast as possible. Having more people joining a network as a managing account would be beneficial to both Youtube and Google. In the system, if a video gets enough views and passes a copyright check then Google will begin sharing some revenue with the creator. If they join a network though, content creators can bypass this check and begin earning faster. Youtube and Google still earn plenty of cash,but dealing or answering any copyright claims is no longer their problem, it would be the network's issue.

These obviously have no official backing and are simply theories, but it would fit with a number of things. The seeming massed co-ordinated flagging directed against very specific users. The sudden implamentation of these rules early before some users could be prepared to deal with them. Also the involvement of certain groups making these claims who would otherwise have no involvement or reason to make such a claim, but might benefit from a growing rival form of media taking a serious hit. 

If you wish to know more, a far more in depth video covered by figures who are more experienced in dealing with such matters can be found here:


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