Sometimes, there’s nothing more enjoyable than a Let’s Play video. They’re not always called Let’s Play, they’re Quick Looks, they’re our very own FEZ PLAYs, they’re whatever you like. If broadcast sports or Mystery Science Theater 3000 have taught us anything, it’s that almost any form of entertainment is enhanced by color commentary. A few years ago, a bill was introduced into US Senate that would impose penalties on those who streamed copywritten material, which was construed as a government attempt to ban Let’s Play videos. While the bill’s creators have said that wasn’t the aim, it appears that Nintendo would have no issue with a variant of it as they’ve now sent out Content ID notices to Let’s Play producers like Zack Scott who rely on YouTube ad revenue to, well, live.
If you’ve ever uploaded a YouTube video that’s featured a song or a movie clip, you’ve probably seen a Content ID match. Copyright holders like Sony Music, Nintendo, Vevo, or countless others inform YouTube what their content looks like and then either party determines that your video has it. In our Forza Horizon FEZ PLAY, for example, YouTube and Sony were able to determine that a song playing in the background while we were messing with the game’s decal editor, was their copywritten material and the video was ineligible for monetization despite the fact that the song was muffled in the background and no one would ever use our video to pirate their content. (A quick disclaimer: while we produce FEZ PLAY videos, we actually make no money off them because Google banned our AdSense account without rationale.)
This is largely an extension of early legal action against YouTube when copyright holders were discovering tons of their content on the video service. The courts found that YouTube wasn’t at fault because of “fair use” clauses in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but the compromise came to copyright holders having plenty of access to deny YouTubers ad revenue if they found their content in their videos. The reality is that Nintendo has every right to defend their copyright, perhaps even a legal obligation to do so, but the popularity of these kinds of videos is no doubt an incentive to keep the lawyers at bay. Personally, many of my video game purchase decisions come from these videos as opposed to even a demo. It almost sounds lazy, but it’s true.
Unfortunately, even if companies like Nintendo don’t starve the market for new Let’s Play videos, they’ll certainly starve their creators. One will simply lead to the other and it’s a shame that Nintendo is playing hardball.