Sunday, December 15, 2013

YouTube: It’s Not Too Late To Stop The Madness

YouTube has made waves recently because of the stance that they have taken with their users. First with the controversial mandatory Google+ membership that you need in order to use the comment section, and now they’ve started a culling of a large portion of gaming related videos on the website due to the new copyright policy. Not only has this affected video walkthroughs and gaming clips, but many popular Let’s Players and game reviewers have also been caught in the smackdown with the new Content-Id system.

Before, while the practice wasn’t used often, copyright holders did have recourse against a video if the user tried to monetize the content. But now with Content ID, copyright holders can flag any video that they think it contains their material regardless of fair-use and get it removed from YouTube regardless of whether the claim is legitimate or not.

Now this is a major issue because Let’s Plays, reviews, and walkthrough videos (and streaming), have become the dominant force on YouTube. There are many YouTubers, from Angry Joe to PewDiePie, who make their livelihoods off the website by commenting while playing or reviewing a game for consumers. In Joe’s case, not only have some of his reviews been flagged but also his interviews with developers. The fact is that these people are not making money off of the game but off their personalities; they are the few that have managed to monetize themselves and are technically protected under the Fair Use Clause of copyright law. They are advertising the game to many people who might not otherwise have played it.

Even the developers and publishers have come out against this new heavy handed approach by Google/YouTube and offered to help those who have been flagged under the new Content Id system. Everyone from Ubisoft to Capcom (Nintendo is not included) have offered to help any channels whose videos are under scrutiny. But that is not the only problem with the new rules that YouTube has decided to enforce. No, the issue is that YouTube seems to be assuming that we have no other options available and have no choice but to accept the laws of the land. Video games have become a big business, and as a result these videos have become some of the most viewed content on the website. See again PewDiePie, who ranks high in the top channels along with other gaming channels. With more and more people watching these personalities and more ways to share content (something that next-gen consoles have been pushing hard), it’s easy to see why YouTube could think that people would stay with them despite the new rules. The best way to be seen is still YouTube, and the best way to monetize your content still lies mostly through them. As far as they are concerned, you have nowhere else to go and they can create whatever rules they like with impunity.

And you know what? A few years ago they would have been completely justified in that belief. Back then, a long long time ago in 2010, most other video sharing sites were very small with limited audiences and their ability to help content creators monetize their videos was slim. YouTube was the equivalent of Myspace, and there was no other game in town. But that is no longer the case, as there are plenty of great streaming and archiving sites that not only allow you to share your videos, but in the case of gamers have several prominent channels already online.

If streaming is your thing, then you can go to sites like Twitch, which not only lets you use their service to stream, but also archives it so that your fans can watch the video if they miss the broadcast. Twitch has rapidly become the premier service for gaming streams, so much so that they are offering the service on both the PS4 and Xbox One. But if you’re a Let’s Player and just want to save your videos, then I recommend creating your own website and going for Blip who also has become a great haven for gamers. And if neither of these options appeal to you, then there are plenty of other options available.

Really the thing that both YouTube and Google must realize is that, much like Myspace, there are plenty of other Facebooks, Twitters, and Tumblers out there. They can’t afford to drive off one of the website’s top content/money generators, because they aren’t the only game in town. Now that gaming has hit the mainstream, there are plenty of other services out there who are more than willing to take in the people that YouTube seems intent on chasing away. Hopefully they’ll realize this before the goodwill has completely gone down the drain.

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