At it again, guys?
YouTube has had trouble with people putting up full movies and episodes they don’t have the rights to. I understand that, and I understand why the actual rights owners have a problem with this. However, their overzealous response has caused YouTube no share of problems from legit posters who use a song as part of a tribute or reviewers who post clips of the shows they review. With Blip changing their policies that’s been tougher on reviewers.
Now it’s the gaming community being hurt by YouTube’s new “Content ID” system. It’s not just clips affecting reviewers. It’s the Let’s Plays and walkthroughs being flagged…but the game publishers have nothing to do with it! There also seems to be those out there who have no sympathy for the game reviewers, Let’s Players (which I’m working to join the ranks of [points to sidebar]) and walkthrough creators.
I’ve defended YouTube in the past for the steps they’re forced to take and haven’t challenged many of the blocks to my monetizing videos they have a problem with. You won’t be seeing that in this article. YouTube has made a big mistake and this time people are being hurt by it.
Take for example “Angry” Joe Vargas, who for whatever reason is no longer on Blip and posts his Angry Joe Show on YouTube now. His first video on the subject was angry even for Angry Joe and well beyond BW’s attempt to remain PG. but his second, while still having a few curse words, is a better example of the problems Content ID is causing and a bit more comfortable for me to post here.
While I haven’t done a Let’s Play yet, I imagine it’s not as easy as it looks, which is why I’m concerned if I’ll be any good. First you have to not suck at the game, or at least be entertaining in your failures. That’s just a plain old walkthrough. A full on “Let’s Play” has you also talking to nobody and not being insane. Some of my RU colleagues have done Let’s Plays;, for example Test Zero has some of the more entertaining, even with games I would have no interest playing myself. While there isn’t a lot of editing involved you still have to be interesting when you talk, which is usually unscripted. (This is where my worries are coming in. If you’ve seen the videos I’ve done for The Clutter Reports you can guess why.) You still have to have charisma, interesting comments to make about the game or other stuff going on, and still be able to pay attention to what you’re doing in the game and make that interesting for the viewers.
(That’s not counting machinima or comedy work like Freeman’s Mind, which in a sense IS a Let’s Play, just one that uses a script and is done in-character. Turns out Freeman’s kind of a jerk.)
Then you have the reviews who use music and video clips of the game being reviewed. I’ve done reviews and I know how much work goes into editing a 90 minute movie into a half-hour review, plus all the on-camera work and the occasional gag from another source. The BW Panelling videos are pretty easy. I just slap some text and a couple of transitions and render. The walking around the convention footage is a bit harder since I have to also to edit out the boring parts. The interviews take the most work as I edit the interviews, input samples, and confirm URLs before I put them in. You can’t tell me that editing down hours of gameplay isn’t hard work, so why shouldn’t they monetize what they do? Even the Let’s Players put effort into their gameplay and delivery.
That’s why when the response from some people is “get a job”, this IS a job for people. They make a living doing this. Heck, they have many professional video game associations out there, and professional gaming is big in Korea. Do you tell pro football players to get a real job? No. And video production for most people is a one-person operation. Why do you think I’m so far behind on convention footage and why I haven’t produced more Video Reviews? Editing takes hours, especially if only one person is doing it. And that’s not counting Doug Walker or Lewis “Linkara” Lovhaug who add in effects, skits, and other things. Even with the studio and cast he can now pay, Walker still does all his own editing and some of his Photoshop and green screen effects. These are real jobs, and if your good enough and can reach enough viewers each week you can afford your own place. Why do you think Lovhaug was asking people with ad blockers to disable them for Blip or YouTube if possible? Because he makes a living off of the ad revenue and some merchandise. If he got a “real” job he wouldn’t be producing a show every week. Vargas also uses his income to set up servers and contest for his followers to make gaming a fun community experience.
The biggest problem with Content ID, however and getting back on topic, isn’t the zero-tolerance policy the software is employing, it’s that it’s the SOFTWARE making that action. Right now game developers are scrambling to un-flag Let’s Plays because they don’t have a problem with it. (Well, there are a few exceptions.) The point was to keep people from posting their soundtracks or claiming things for themselves. Let’s Plays and walkthroughs can serve to convince people to get a game because it looks fun to play, get past an area they’re stuck on, or get information on an old, out-of-print video game so they can follow what’s going on in a sequel. While there are game publishers who seem to be doing all they can to take down negative reviews of their games, a lot of publishers are embracing these content creators who make their products desirable to other gamers. They’re not calling for the take-downs or for people to lose their money, it’s the Content ID software that’s at fault. Remember, Lady Gaga was flagged for using her OWN music. Vargas notes in the above video that music he bought was getting flagged, and other producers have been flagged for music they have the right to use alongside those who don’t. That’s not right.
Do you know what happens when something gets flagged but still stays up? The ad revenue then shifts from the video creator to the copyright right holder. That discourages reviews and Let’s Plays and loses free advertising from the game developers. Again, they’re not doing the flagging, the Content ID is doing it all by itself, and with no tolerance for any usage. And the new system is even more vicious, but not at the request of the game developers. (Or so they claim.) I know the MPAA and RIAA are working YouTube and parent company Google hard to protect their copyrights but this appears to be crossing a line and hurting people who don’t deserve it along with the jerk who is willing to post a full theatrical movie in 15 minute chunks for no good reason.
A better solution would be to alert the rights holder of certain individuals, let them go over the video, and decide whether or not to lay the smackdown on them. I posted a link to the YouTube version of my Challenge of the GoBots review to Warner Archive’s Twitter and hopefully they get back to me and maybe I can monetize my most popular video finally. Or maybe they’ll have it taken down. My posting of the “If It Isn’t Borg, Don’t Fix It” panel I finally took down on YT because of all the warnings due to the video footage used. (Blip has no problem with it.) I’ve decided to pick my battle as to what videos I defend my use of a clip, even as just background music. (Some videos I don’t even have messed up with ads, like the convention walkaround videos but one got flagged for using “The Ballad of Barry Allen” as background music.) But the little guy is being hurt by this system, and the big guys aren’t the ones at fault. There has to be a better way to protect copyright on YouTube and the rest of the internet than SOPA or Content ID so that everyone has a chance to thrive in this new media. And YouTube better find it before someone comes along and drains away the talent that makes THEM money.
- Game Critic Says YouTube Copyright Policy Threatens His Livelihood (kotaku.com) the article Vargas mentioned in his video, featuring the angrier, more curse-laden video