Recently, some YouTubers began speaking out about Content ID claims on their gameplay videos. Soon after, Nintendo released this statement on GoNintendo:
As part of our on-going push to ensure Nintendo content is shared across social media channels in an appropriate and safe way, we became a YouTube partner and as such in February 2013 we registered our copyright content in the YouTube database. For most fan videos this will not result in any changes, however, for those videos featuring Nintendo-owned content, such as images or audio of a certain length, adverts will now appear at the beginning, next to or at the end of the clips. We continually want our fans to enjoy sharing Nintendo content on YouTube, and that is why, unlike other entertainment companies, we have chosen not to block people using our intellectual property. For more information please visit http://www.youtube.com/yt/copyright/faq.html
However, some people are taking issue as the ramifications of this development…develop. Just from reading this statement, one might think that YouTube would simply put Nintendo ads on videos, rather than ones having to do with movies, products, other YouTube channels, etc. However, when the YouTube Content ID matches a video to Nintendo’s licenses, all revenue from that video ceases to go to the video’s creator and instead goes to either Nintendo and/or YouTube. The Content ID matches have hit plenty of major YouTubers, including those partnered with Machinima, and said group has claimed that such Content ID matches have been increasing.
People are still working to discover which criteria causes a match, but videos that last less than ten minutes and/or have less than 5000 views are being hit in addition to many big-name videos. It has been confirmed that many videos featuring Mario and Zelda games have been hit—for example, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, in the case of YouTuber Zack Scott. Claims also report that the matches hit more recent games released by Nintendo, but it is unknown how much more their policies will strengthen.
From the perspective of those who make videos, it seems “Let’s Players” are the most concerned, though the fear crosses more styles than that. Some have stated that they will stop featuring Nintendo games in their videos not only to speak out against the action, but also out of concern for the safety of their channel, as Content ID claims have meant much more severe consequences in the past. Most bring attention to how they believe this will hurt Nintendo’s sales overall, and that it is a poor marketing decision. Many are hoping to bring attention to the issue, though most of the action is currently confined to social websites like Twitter and Reddit, as well as the #YouAreWrongNintendo and Internet gaming news articles.
From an audience perspective, there is some division. Many claim that the creators of the videos being hit have a legal right to post these videos and monetize them under the conditions of Fair Use. They also bring up issues with and worry about the effects on videos under groups like Machinima and The Game Station, as these groups are designed particularly to circumvent the treacherous issue of gameplay videos and their copyright protection. However, it is unknown exactly what rights these groups hold and whether the Content ID matches are a breach in any legal contracts.
Others argue that Nintendo is completely in the right to make these claims, citing YouTube’s policies directly stating that gameplay from video games may not be monetized without permission from the source. Some even bring into question the legitimacy of earning a living on Let’s Plays in the first place.
What could this mean for the future? Well, obviously this is all wild speculation, but it could mean bad things for Nintendo games on YouTube. If the issues with groups like Machinima and The Game Station aren’t addressed, then we could see a great decline in anything having to do with Nintendo for anyone who makes a living off of their YouTube exploits. Even if those groups do get their discrimination, any developing personas will most likely avoid the videos if they hope to be successful. If we’re lucky, this Content ID will only match newer games from Nintendo, such as ones on the Wii U and 3DS, and not affect anyone wishing to discuss more retro titles. Channels that focus primarily on Nintendo games will have to vastly retool their work and, unfortunately, it may mean the disappearance of a few from the scene.
Even more hauntingly, this could provoke more companies to take action on an issue that’s always just been left up in the air to an extent. Some companies, such as Valve and Paradox, already have statements regarding this very dilemma; many have been supportive. However, others may take the route of Nintendo or be even more severe. Whatever the result, this is certainly a troubling time for many of those who have made gameplay videos for YouTube.