A massive upheaval happened concerning copyright claims and content ID flags of literally hundreds of mostly gaming YouTube channels over the past couple of days. At first, pretty much nobody had any idea what was going on, so much so that it got to a point where even videogame developers were trying to find answers. Twitter feeds were flaring up with concerns and discussions of videos being copyright claimed, YouTube groups like Machinima were inquiring as to what was going on, hundreds (possibly thousands) of content ID matches were being sent out by the minute, and claims were going out from third-parties that weren't related to the copyright in question. I would describe the whole thing as an absolute uproar.
I admit to thinking “oh, what’s SEGA / Nintendo up to now” when I first glimpsed this development, but the further I read into it the more I realized just how widespread it was, and soon came to the assumption that too many things were happening too fast for just one videogame company to have one on a flagging spree, even if such things have happened in the past. I eventually navigated my way through developing news stories at the time to a post on NeoGaf that was recording this development as it was happening, and amassed into a fairly lengthy page full of additional information and statements from well-known YouTubers, development studios and a couple of sources from around the web. I’ll endeavour to keep it all concise for the sake of your convenience, but there’s a lot to read and a lot to write.
I don’t know how or when it started exactly, the whole thing was already snowballing by the time I discovered it, but what I do know is that it happened suddenly and unexpectedly. Needless to say, it ended in an official statement from YouTube about new copyright claims for Affiliate YouTube channels.
To try to give context (courtesy of Tubefilter), it was recently claimed by a few big-name YouTube channels--like AngryJoeShow and ReviewTechUSA--that YouTube had plans in the works to put out a system that would pre-screen videos from certain channels before they are monetised, as a means of deterring copyright infringement on its site.
ReviewTechUSA put out a video explaining what these plans could do for gaming channels and news channels that put out content regularly, adding that the new system could possibly be for stopping channels that irresponsibly upload videos to make a quick buck, then get banned and start the process over again. He cited a letter from Maker Studios (a Multi-Channel Network, “MCN” for short) to its Affiliate partners, which you can find posted over on Tubefilter.
Whilst ReviewTechUS claimed the system will affect everyone, AngryJoeShow on the other hand thinks there there will be two different types of channels affected by this system: “Managed” channels and “Affiliate” channels. The former being channels who miss the pre-screening bullet because their MCN will take the responsibility, and the latter being channels who get headshotted because their MCN won’t have as much “hands-on” time with them. He also claimed that there will be a sort of “trust algorithm” put in place, so the more trustworthy YouTube channels are given more leeway with the content of their videos.
That story was distributed last week, and it was hinted that YouTube had something going on, but you’d think that with such a major change for something that can potentially affect someone’s livelihood there would be some sort of official statement before such as system was enacted. Evidently the order was reversed, with the enacting happening before the official statement.
However, an official spokesperson did finally release a statement on the matter, confirming that the content flagging on hundreds of videos was indeed related to a new screening system aimed at subjecting Affiliate YouTubers of MCNs, as was what was hinted at the week before.
“We recently enabled Content ID scanning on channels identified as affiliates of MCNs. This has resulted in new copyright claims for some users, based on policies set by the relevant content owners. As ever, channel owners can easily dispute Content ID claims if they believe those claims are invalid,” the spokesperson said.
From what I understand, this new screening system will effectively weed out the bad from the good, so that the better and more trustworthy you are with what you produce regularly, the more freedom you will have. It will tighten the reigns on how copyright is handled on YouTube, and for a good number of companies this may be akin to a Godsend, because it will mean that no-one else will be making money off of their stuff. What this has actually done is cause an unwelcome stir among the YouTube community who have invested in YouTube as their career, even the ones whose videos were already given the green light for monetising, and has created even more of an upward hill battle for YouTubers that are just starting out.
If you want to know more about this development there are a number of YouTube videos explaining in detail what has happened and what may happen further down the line for YouTubers. I encourage you to go watch them so you can get a more complete picture of what’s happening, as they will explain it better than what I can. Agter all, they are the ones who are being directly affected by it, and who better to get information from than a prime source?
For those of you out there who are wanting to start your own channels I would suggest you tread damned carefully during this time! YouTube is becoming more and more difficult for people who want to start a channel and go somewhere with it. It’s occurrences like this that deter me from wanting to continue with my own YouTube channel, and I sincerely do sympathize with those affected by this. For some very lucky people, producing videos on YouTube is their livelihood.
A livelihood (and sometimes a career) can be made out of YouTube by generating ad revenue over a period of time. Ads are placed next to your video, and--after Google takes their cut, as well as the MCN if you happen to be a part of one--you will get paid a percentage of what ad revenue you have generated. It was safer to monetise videos if the copyright holder gave express permission to do so (either freely or with certain restrictions or conditions), but unless you’re actually with an MCN I imagine the whole thing will be much more difficult now, especially with this new screening process.
You can start out small and build your way up to joining an MCN, but going it alone would most likely raise the chances of your channel being shut down, even if the videos you have do have permission to be monetised. MCNs usually have certain rights that allow for its partners to create content as they wish and protect them from misuse of YouTube’s content ID claim system, and for the most part that does work to defend YouTubers from being flagged for copyrights. However sometimes even that doesn’t stop someone from flagging a video, such as when SEGA went on a flagging spree a few months back that lead to the shutting down of some channels that had video content of their Shining Force IP, even if those channels were already with MCNs.
This isn't the first time YouTube has rather grotesquely implemented something new. Case in point, the rather ham-fisted Google+ integrating to the comment section. YouTube is turning into a larger minefield by the month, and you’ll have hell to pay should you step on one. For all the YouTubers out there greatly affected by this, I do sincerely send you my thoughts, and I advise any of you who are wanting to start your own channel to stay low, make sure you have (preferably) written permission (either by email from the IP holder or if they have openly expressed so with a traceable source) for the content you want to upload, and sit tight until this whole thing settles down.
We will bring more information to you about this should it reach us. Good luck out there.