The world of YouTube has been an ever changing landscape over the past several years. Heck, I’ve dived into myself. And with everything that’s been involved in the fight of Fair Use and associated laws surrounding it, it’s been a bit of bumpy ride for creators up to this point. These have ranged from false DMCA claims by companies attempting to silence critics, to companies attempting to assert control via programs such as the Nintendo Creators Program. But recently, YouTube has come out and indicated they will be helping YouTubers with the fight of Fair Use, which was a welcome addition. But that’s only a footnote in the battle at this point, as a new issue has seemingly crawled out from the depths, and specifically hitting prominent YouTubers in the process.
Several YouTubers within the Maker Studios MCN (Multi Channel Network) have noticed that the MCN had been making several videos of theirs private, meaning that the general public can’t see them. For those who don’t know their purpose, they basically offer to help a YouTuber in a variety of ways, such as faster payments, promotion, and dealing with big issues like copyright, in exchange for a cut of the ad revenue earned by the creator. Specifically for this issue, Maker is the MCN under concern, however, it does have subnetworks, such as Polaris, under its umbrella. Maker primarily works within the Youtube environment, but does have business else where in sites like Sling, and the former Blip (which was owned by Maker themselves, and was shut down last year).
Many of the videos in question are of the Let’s Play variety, but some of the videos hit include archived streams and podcasts. It seems that viewers of the Youtubers content may have been the first ones to spot it, as several complaints were seen by viewers saying that videos were going private in series they were attempting to watch. Specifically, One of the first seen to be hit by this was Hannah Rutherford from Yogscast, but other prominent YouTubers such as Jesse Cox and Cryaotic were affected as well. Even prominent Games critic TotalBiscuit has seen several podcasts get hit by this possibly. Some of these podcasts can be found on the polaris specific site, which begs why they aren’t removed from there. It may suggest something specifically with YouTube, but at this time it is unsure what that would be.
Cryaotic went as far as to provide the list of videos that seemingly were affected by the change in question (at least on his channel), that you can see here. Needless to say, the list hits a variety of videos of almost every genre: including big titles such as Tales from the Borderland and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, down to smaller titles such as Underhell and The Crooked Man. It should be noted these “flagged” videos are not flagged under any YouTube specific system, this is a separate process that Maker is apparently acting upon. It has several content creators extremely upset, noting that they will fight the decision with all their might.
When they say "you need to private episode 13 of a series of 25 videos in a lets play" i say FUCK YOU. Never happening. #IWILLFIGHT
— Jesse Cox (@JesseCox) January 7, 2016
What specifically seems to be the major factor here is in-game music, and in particular its licensing. Hannah from Yogscast specifically mentions the use of Shazam, which may indicate how the identification may be playing out. I was able to verify that there were some hits with some prominent music in the game with the use of the Shazam app, based on my own and other experiences, such as with Life is Strange. That is however unconfirmed at this time as being the specific application they are using, but is provided some backing with information coming from Cryaotic. Specifically, artist license their music out to be used within the confines of a game, but that doesn’t mean that the music is licensed to be used in YouTube videos of that game. We’ve seen specific incidents regarding games like Dragon Quest Heroes and possible licensing music problems there regarding the streaming of that content, and this seems to be the main issue when all is said and done in regards to Maker channels. With problems like this in the past, it seems that even if the video is not monetized, it does not seem to make a difference in the privatizing of the videos.
@WeWillBeGiants Games license music to be used in the games, but they do not license that music to be used in YouTube videos of that game.
— Cryaotic (@CryWasTaken) January 9, 2016
What’s to note here is that it’s unclear exactly where the new issue is coming from. Specifically, recent rulings regarding Fair Use have seem to side in the side of creators, with a federal appeals court going so far as to indicate that copyright holders must consider fair use before a take down notice is sent. But, this issue may specifically be coming due to Maker and its ties within the industry. Creators like Cryaotic have indicated to their viewers that those who want to download the videos in question are fine to do so, even going so far to saying that those who want to host the videos on an alternate channel have full permission to do so. This seemingly indicates that those not with the network wouldn’t have as many problems, as they’d run into the same problem eventually. One interesting fact revolving around this is that Maker Studios is owned by Disney, and that may be making matters worse considering the history of Disney: in regards to protecting their copyright, and possible legal battles regarding it. While it may be within the Disney “brand”, those licensed songs may have artists bring problems against Disney themselves. it’s something that they’d probably want to avoid at all costs. There’s hints that were dropped that new changes regarding copyright music claims has changed and that’s going to change the landscape of YouTube, but it’s unclear what that new specific problem is. And this leads to a major problem for content creators, as many of the large Youtubers primary income comes from these videos and people watching them. and they can easily lose a source of revenue without a lot of ways of dealing with the problem.
@WeWillBeGiants Easiest way to explain: The way copyrighted music claiming is going nowadays is changing how things work.
— Cryaotic (@CryWasTaken) January 9, 2016
What’s complicating matters is that this seems to be a matter that Maker is standing firm on, as those creators are being told to keep the videos private, or they’ll be deleted. The status of the Youtuber in terms of Managed/Affiliated does not seem to make a difference in terms of the Youtubers control of their channel. Hannah from Yogscast received a response finally from someone within the network. One thing to note is that Polaris is only a sub network of the entire Maker Studios MCN. However, it basically indicates that going forward, a list of videos will be provided to the Youtubers indicating if anything was flagged, citing possible legal action over the content. The Maker representative indicates that they are doing it not only to protect Maker themselves, but the YouTuber as well. While Fair Use does exist and YouTube has indicated that they will be willing to back creators who feel they fall into the rights, it’s unclear where this new concern has come from, or what exactly is causing the issue.
Cryaotic does provide more detail at this point, indicating that Maker Studios seems to be working on alternate methods, and need time to sort out the issues in question. He’s also suggesting that public pressure on Maker is misguided, as they are put in a bad situation. However, it’s unclear what the timeline on this issue being resolved, and what creators can do in the meanwhile to avoid situations like this. With such big games seemingly being hit such as Life is Strange, it’s unclear how this will affect the bigger creators of Maker. Some content creators within the MCN don’t seem to be affected, as creators like PewDiePie still have similar content that is public, that was taken down from other channels within the network. It may be a case of smaller smaller and then going bigger, but it’s unclear what exactly is going on within the halls of Maker studios.
@revengeofthecat Mmmhm. They're working on alternative methods, but need time to work on them, and need them down in the mean time.
— Cryaotic (@CryWasTaken) January 9, 2016
TechRaptor has reached out to the following parties at the time of publishing this article (of different various time lengths, as TotalBiscuit was contacted within the last 24 hours):
- Hannah from Yogscast
- Jesse Cox
- Maker Studios
If we receive more information or responses from those involved, we will update the story and provide more information in question.
What’s your thoughts on Maker Studios and what could be happening here? Do you think this will lead to more problems within the Let’s Play community going forward? Leave your comments below!