YouTube has accepted the copyright claim laid against Felix ‘Pewdiepie’ Kjellberg for his Firewatch Let’s Play, removing the video and issuing him with a copyright strike. Developer Campo Santo initiated the DMCA takedown request after Pewdiepie used a racial slur during an unrelated video.
“I am sick of this child getting more and more chances to make money off of what we make,” said Campo Santo’s Sean Vanaman at the time. “He's worse than a closeted racist: he's a propagator of despicable garbage that does real damage to the culture around this industry. I'd urge other developers & will be reaching out to folks much larger than us to cut him off from the content that has made him a millionaire.”
Pewdiepie originally privatised his Firewatch as soon as he saw Vanaman’s tweets out of “respect”, yet Google has since swept through and agreed with the DMCA takedown request, issuing Pewdiepie with one of the three copyright strikes that could lead to the closure of his entire YouTube channel.
Putting aside the controversy over what he said, and whether he or shouldn’t have, I think the DMCA takedown issue is an important topic to discuss. This doesn’t just apply to Pewdiepie but to anyone creating content for YouTube - a potentially dangerous precedent has been set. Having previously granted Pewdiepie with permission to use Firewatch for a video, a difference of opinion on his behaviour has granted Campo Santo the right to snatch that video away, putting his entire YouTube channel in danger in the process.
"Whether you like me or Mr. Vanaman, these laws are made for people to take down content and whenever there's power to do so, it's going to be abused,” says Pewdiepie in a new video. “And especially when the reason to take down the content has nothing to do with copyright, it sort of shows that. I think these laws are important for people, for artists to protect their work and what they do, and that's why I think it's really dangerous to make these sort of claims and to do these sort of copyright claims for no real valid reason, no matter what you think of me."
Campo Santo’s own policy regarding streaming is outlined on their website, explaining that users are free to stream their games and monetise their videos. They’ve overridden that with this takedown request and they’ve started down what could be a treacherous path for streaming.
The flip side of this is that if Pewdiepie simply didn’t use racial slurs he wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place. There are no doubt thousands of Firewatch videos out there still available, both positive and negative toward the game. They remain unaffected because they toed a fairly simple line.
The DCMA takedown issued by Campo Santo is also legally allowable. They issued a takedown request based upon objecting to Kjellberg’s character, with the Morrison & Lee law firm saying to PC Gamer that "Publishers can revoke the license for any reason in their sole and absolute discretion, and there is nothing in the DMCA that requires consistent enforcement on the part of the IP holder" (More on that here). To that end, publishers and developers are legally allowed to use DMCA takedowns not just in concerns of personal character, but also to silence negative viewpoints. The only concrete workaround for a YouTuber is a contractual agreement with the original content creator.
At this point, YouTube’s systems seem to need a major shakeup. DMCA takedowns can be issued with the click of a button and the entire system is automated. With a change of heart, a publisher could bring down an entire YouTube channel in a single afternoon. Streamers are provided with 10 days to exact a counterclaim and argue their case, the next logical step being to take it to court - an expensive endeavour that streamers no doubt don’t want to embark on.
An immensely tricky situation for both parties here then, and a broader talking point for streaming at large. Are DMCA takedowns threatening the legitimacy of streaming? Do you believe Campo Santo were within their rights to initiate the copyright strike? Let us know!