As a person who has been uploading gameplay and playthrough videos onto YouTube and TwitchTV the recent discussions involving the YouTube content id claims and copyright have been interesting. While personally I do not monotize any of own YouTube videos on my channel I find the discussion as long time coming and depending on how these events unfold do effect the content I produce or stream in the future.
If you are not aware of what has happened recently to many content creators on YouTube, the story has been summarized in Kotaku’s article. While the controversy centers around those creators who produce video game related content on YouTube, nevertheless the issues discussed surrounding it can be as easily generalized to other forms of content like music, film and other media.
YouTube’s content id system continues to flag copyright claims preventing the creators from monetizing their videos at an alarming pace. The process automated by that of a system that is nondiscriminatory, consequently ignoring fair-use. Considering the massive volume of content being uploaded to YouTube on a daily basis a nondiscriminatory automated system does seem rational on Google’s part. However, the fault of the system not only lies in the accuracy of the content claims, but also YouTube policies. Best summed up as “guilty until you have evidence to contradict and prove your innocence”. The processes of submitting a counterclaim proving you have the permission, the rights, or fair-use to the content can be a long drawn out process. Not only is the video barred from monetization but regardless of whether it was marked to be monetized in the first place the video might also become blocked from viewership in some or all countries if the content id systems has identified some instance of copyrighted material, for instance certain licensed music. The license music in video games has been the biggest hurdle for myself when I upload gameplay videos to YouTube.
Several video game publishers, (Deep Silver, Capcom, Naughty Dog, Ubisoft) those whom actually own the intelligential property to many Video Game franchises, have publicly stated that they do not wish to impede the content creator from using and making money from their licensed material. Publishers specifically cited popular formats such as game reviews, critiques or even Let’s Plays as fair-use of their copyrighted material.
In regards to why Let's Plays, or more general, putting up gameplay footage of one playing a game even though he or she does not own the rights to the game itself, Adam Sessler and co. (0:52:17) discuss why it can be still covered as fair-use. They especially bring up a core aspect of video games that makes it unqiue to other media uploaded on YouTube. Video Games have a transformative nature, how one person plays the game will be different from playing the game yourself. Simply put watching someone ride a roller coaster is not the same as riding the roller coaster yourself.
So it seems that a few major publishers publiclly have stated they support to YouTube content creators. It is hard to know if more publisher will also take a similar stance. Some publishers like Nintendo for instance publicly stated they encourage videos and let's plays especially, however prohibit any monotization of that content. On the flip side there are publishers, like Sega that does not give any license for YouTube footage.