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Publishers and indies alike speak out in support of wronged YouTubers


The legally iffy treasure trove of lost hip hop, silent movies and ‘90s British comedy on YouTube is testament to a long term unspoken policy: if nobody makes a copyright claim, it can stay.

That began to change last week when YouTube tightened restrictions on monetised videos, such that Let’s Players and the like tied to multi-channel networks like Machinima have found huge swathes of their work locked in a days-long copyright approval process.

The thing is, the game developers whose copyrighted footage has caused the problem are, on the whole, quite happy to see it used. In the last day or so of upheaval, studios both large and tiddly have looked up from their keyboards to express their support for YouTubers.

Copyright flags have struck down the channels of numerous popular presenters since Monday, CVG report. Google’s newly-implemented copyright checking system automatically scans for unapproved third-party material and – if it finds a match – redirects any revenue from a video to the copyright holder, not its creator.

The change in policy has temporarily wiped out a huge backlog of videos by popular YouTubers. 480,000 subscriber-strong Let’s Play specialist TetraNinja has lost more than 350 previously uploaded videos to the cull, and self-professed king of the YouTube walkthrough TheRadBrad – who boasts 1.9 million subscribers – has suffered similar (“Every video I’ve uploaded since 2010 is slowly being taken away from me”, he tweeted).

Worse, the impact of copyright claims, accurate or otherwise, can be felt long afterwards – in the form of account limitations that can see YouTubers forced to shorten their videos, or lose the opportunity to pay their way with advertising.

While the monolithic Google subsidiary can’t be so easily reasoned with, the giants of PC game development have already spoken out in support of YouTubers. Blizzard tweeted from their StarCraft II account to encourage creators to contest copyright claims on their behalf:

Early yesterday, Ubisoft staff descended on Twitter to espouse the company’s official wordon community-made videos. The publisher further released a statement which attributed blame to automatic matches made with their soundtrack catalogue. They asked YouTubers to send them links of affected videos, which they planned to clear “hopefully [the] same day”.

Elsewhere, Crusader Kings and Magicka maestros Paradox had their legal department compose a letter on behalf of YouTubers, which they hoped could be wafted in front of a vengeful Google like a clove of garlic.

Back in the UK, Sniper Elite developers Rebellion asked affected videomakers to contact them, and released their own statement in support of players “showing what they can do in our games”.

“As indie developers we support YouTube in their aim to defend copyright, but we don’t believe that chasing after legitimate fan-made game play videos is the answer,” they wrote.

Similarly, Capcom UK urged fans to report “illegitimate flags”, and Deep Silver community manager Maurice Tan asked followers to get in touch if their videos of Saints Row and such had been affected by the changes.

Surgeon Simulator creators Bossa, meanwhile, led the indie contingent in speaking publically about the benefits Let’s Plays have offered them:

A Letsplaylist wiki is being assembled as we sit here blowing raspberries – collating all of the developers who explictly allow videos of their work to be created and shared online. Those studios are only going to benefit, as ReadyUpLive’s Dan Hammill explains:

The message is pretty clear: game developers don’t necessarily want YouTube tackling videomakers, amateur or professional, in their name. And the loss of ad revenue would only seem to push YouTubers toward more unsavoury ways of making money, like direct deals with publishers. As Capcom might say, nobody KOs.

Have you noticed any of your favourite channels crippled over the last week? Now would be a good time to check.

Thanks, RPS.