Why Gaming Videos Are Being Targeted On YouTube

If you watch a lot of gaming videos on YouTube, you may have noticed a lot of people freaking out. The term “Content ID” may have been bandied about. But for those unfamiliar, here’s what’s going on, why it’s threatening an entire subculture on YouTube… and why the people who would seem to be directly in charge of it can’t make it stop.

Content ID? Isn’t that how YouTube finds pirates?

Yep! Essentially Content ID is a system automated to spot copyrighted content and to deal with it, so YouTube doesn’t get shut down in court. Being run by a computer and not a human being, Content ID is notoriously a rules lawyer, finicky, and dumb. It’ll even yank your video for using Creative Commons music.

So gaming companies decided to crack down?

No, actually. While publishers can have a somewhat…complicated relationship with Let’s Plays and the like, as a rule they see them as free advertising. Quite a few publishers, including heavyweights like Ubisoft, have already stepped in on the side of the YouTubers. This is all YouTube, and a few unscrupulous types.

This seems like more of an annoyance than anything else.

When you get a Content ID notice slapped on you, the money from your video goes to the person making the claim, until the claim is lifted. For some YouTubers, this is the equivalent of being fired out of nowhere from their jobs. Also, once the claim is filed, in effect it’s impossible to start making money on that video again. Not every YouTube channel has a lawyer behind it.

Ah. That’s crappy. So if game publishers aren’t doing this, who is?

Deep Silver, another pro-YouTube publisher, has perhaps unintentionally revealed what’s been going on:

A channel named “4GamerMovie” has been claiming reviews, Let’s Plays, and Walkthrough videos for our games, including Metro: Last Light. We raised this issue with YouTube late last evening (CET) and from the reports we’ve gotten in the past hours, it seems that claims by this channel have been lifted… Claims on titles like Saints Row IV, Dead Island Riptide, and Metro: Last Light have also been made by two companies involved with music: IDOL and Shock Entertainment Pty. Some claims are even about visual content. At the time of writing, this has not been resolved yet.

Oh, hell, somebody realized they could scam YouTube using Content ID, didn’t they?

To some degree. Considering some of the odd claims, like BAFTA and Hearst, it seems more commonly that Content ID is matching footage or audio from cutscenes to footage of the video being blocked and acting according to its programming. In the case of the music, it’s not really clear if buying the music off a company means YouTubers are protected when they make the video. Ubisoft, for example, is painstakingly going video by video and lifting claims filed by idol, their music library firm.

Is there a way to resolve this quickly?

Probably not. YouTube has essentially said “We’ve changed our policies, suck it.” But the good news is that game publishers ultimately have more heft than music library companies, especially when said game publishers spend millions on music libraries.

But that this will be settled in the long run is little comfort to the little guy getting screwed now. Here’s hoping this is solved soon.