Several YouTube Channels Come Under Fire For Copyright Violations

By Steve Anderson December 11, 2013

One of the biggest staples on YouTube—especially of late—has been the “let's play” video, a video that allows gamers to walk players through particularly difficult or complex parts of games, or that allows gamers to add commentary as parts of a game are played. But now, YouTube personalities who built empires on the backs of video games are coming under fire of what may be the worst kind: copyright violation.

Reports are emerging saying that several YouTube personalities—including Brad Colburn of TheRadBrad among others—are being socked with copyright claims, shutting down videos and hampering the ability for such personalities to put together, and profit from, video construction. For the most part, game publishers have been all right with the use of game properties in other people's videos, though some haven't been quite so accommodating. Actual copyright claims, though, are commonly few and far between, and in this case, it's just a non-stop barrage of claims, the kind of thing that's almost never seen in this field.

What's more, according to Colburn, the copyright claims in question are comparatively minor. Colburn describes how he might be playing a game, talking about its impact on him and his life—strictly original content—but within the process of that game, there may be a loading screen with a 10-second burst of in-game music, and that's what's triggering the copyright claims. It's the sounds, essentially, Colburn notes, not the game play, and “composers of an in-game sound effect or song are doing the claiming.”

Yet in something of an interesting twist, even the game companies are expressing surprise. After one of Colburn's videos featuring “Dead Rising 3” got flagged, Capcom—the maker of “Dead Rising 3”--put out a Twitter post which referred to the flags as “...may be illegitimate” and “not instigated by us.” Capcom further notes, “We are investigating.”

The idea of the “let's play” video is something of a gray area. While some studios regard it as incredible publicity that said studio didn't even need to shell out a dime for, other studios regard it as a massive copyright infringement, the kind of thing that the studio should be earning money on, not some third-party YouTube personality. Of course, then the issues of “fair use” and the sheer amount of original content that gets added to these videos in the form of commentary—were the studios who believed the videos copyright infringement planning to pay the video makers for all the original content that went into the video's make?--enter the picture and make the whole thing even muddier overall.

It's an extremely difficult picture to get to the bottom of. The copyright system in the United States certainly doesn't help matters much, and trying to figure out what is “fair use” and what isn't has been the kind of thing that's kept lawyers in clover for years. While trying to pin down just who's in the right on this front is no mean feat, it's likely to be the kind of thing that keeps going for some time on YouTube and beyond, and may not even produce a satisfactory answer in any case.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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