The head of the indie video game company LaserChain LLC has recently sent legal threats and a copyright violation notice to YouTube regarding a small YouTuber's video criticizing LaserChain LLC's July release LaserChain.
The YouTuber in question goes by the handle Little Lord Rusty and he currently has almost 400 subscribers on YouTube. On Little Lord Rusty's channel, he has an ongoing video series called "Quality Control" in which LLR obtains games on Steam and does first impression critique videos trying to sift through the evergrowing catalog of Steam to try to find good indie gems. He made one of his signature videos on LaserChain, and to say he wasn't a fan of the game would be putting it lightly.
LLR criticized the game for having dated graphics, poor and basic menus, poor PC controls, and how the game lacked any form of meaningful tutorial. LLR also posted a negative Steam user review for the title. After the posting of both the video review and written review, it ended up catching the eyes of the head of LaserChain LLC, going by the Steam username shadowglyph.
However, before we get into what shadowglyph's response was to the first impression critique, I feel it's important to establish what LaserChain actually is and what it promotes its self as, including some controversy that the game was getting prior to LLR's coverage. The description on the Steam store page for LaserChain reads as this:
Compete and strategize in this imaginative and exciting multi-genre indie gem. Choose a faction and fight for power...or ideals. Build an epic space base and construct colossal robot armies. Team up with others or go it alone. Fun aggressive PVP play mixed with engaging simulation/strategy elements.The game is also being promoted through its unique cryptocurrency, which is described in further detail by the head of LaserChain LLC in a Steam discussion thread here.
You can earn the crypto in game. You can withdraw the crypto to an offline wallet. You can sell the crypto to other players. You lose crypto when you lose battles, You earn crypto from mining and crafting. You lose crypto when you spend it on another person's items or speedups. You earn it when you sell a magic craftable you found on the marketplace.Essentially the game's developers were pushing out promotions that the game can be a way for you to earn real life money, and it was being pitched as a possible profitable venture due to the game being free to play. This can be shown heavily where shadowglyph responds to another negative Steam review trying to sway their opinion of the game by reminding them that they can earn money while they play the game and were touting the game as a first of its kind.
The game's unique form of cryptocurrency ended up sparking a controversy due to what appears to be a misunderstanding regarding the nature of the LaserChain cryptocurrency. While some cryptocurrencies, most notably bitcoin, use a proof of work-based approach called mining that has computers spend computational power to solve problems to earn the currency, this isn't the only way to handle it. Proof of Stake is another method that doesn't use computer processing power to generate blocks and is what the LaserChain Token uses via the Waves blockchain technology. The misunderstanding around this led to accusations of LaserChain being a crypto miner by some commentators and set up some of the further issues to come. Whether they're true or not is irrelevant, this is simply to provide further context.
In his first impressions video, LLR did briefly bring up these allegations. However, he was largely dismissing the claims saying that he didn't see anything with regards to what would be common with some crypto mining games that have launched to Steam in the past, namely high GPU usage.
However, it would seem that the developer wasn't too happy with some of LLR's comments, as the comments tied to the crypto mining allegations were what the developer first took issue with. While there was allegedly a more severe message left on the Steam review, it has since been edited and no archive of the original message seems to exist. Instead, there is a relatively tame message that was left on the review basically saying how the game wasn't mining cryptocurrency and how if LLR wanted to converse with players who had a positive experience with the game, then he could always join the developer's Discord server or Telegram group.
However, the conversation between the developer and the YouTuber was not over.
Little Lord Rusty reached out to me via e-mail to alert me of the situation and alongside his description of the events that transpired he forwarded me e-mails, one from the lead developer and one from YouTube.
The e-mail states that the developer believes Little Lord Rusty had defamed the company by saying that he believed that the crypto miner allegations were false. The logic used is that because Little Lord Rusty even mentioned the cryptocurrency mining allegations, that it was still "putting the thought into the customer's minds as the first thing they read." However, the developer doesn't make any reference or acknowledgment of the fact that Little Lord Rusty in the same sentence expresses that he believes the allegations were untrue.
It's also possible the developer may have also been triggered to do this by the fact that in the video, Little Lord Rusty made the statement "I don't know if it's a cryptominer" after previously dismissing the claim several times later. However, the above e-mail would seem to point away from this being the reason, as this was not the quote extracted from the video.
The developer then also brings up the idea of a defamation lawsuit and afterward recommends Little Lord Rusty re-record the video and retract the remarks he made or otherwise he would "find himself on the wrong side of the law, and responsible for monetary damage to our game."
Then finally the developer links him to the laws regarding libel in the UK and then also gave Little Lord Rusty 24 hours to respond. Just for further awareness of libel laws in the U.K., they tend to be far stricter than the U.S. What mainly separates the two country's libel laws is that in the U.K., when the case reaches court, the burden of proof lies on the defendant, which contrasts with U.S. law where the burden of proof lies upon the plaintiff.
Little Lord Rusty then also published a second video to YouTube basically sharing his thoughts and opinions on everything that had happened.
After the second video was recorded (which is connected to the second e-mail Little Lord Rusty sent me), he received an e-mail from YouTube saying that a copyright complaint was filed against his original video by the head of LaserChain LLC. However, the video is still available for public viewing because YouTube has expressed interest in defending Little Lord Rusty due to YouTube believing the video falls under fair use.
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This comes off as relatively surprising as there aren't that many instances where YouTube has actively stepped in to stop a copyright complaint being filed. There was a fair use protection program that YouTube established back in November 2015 where a selected few creators were chosen and put into the program, which would mean YouTube would help protect them against litigious DMCA filings against videos and also assist the creators further if their cases were put forward to court. However, there has been little news since then of YouTube actually protecting its site's creators until now.
The copyright complaint filed to YouTube, when combined with the comments made by the CEO in his original e-mail, seems to have been filed not for a copyright violation but in an attempt to further censor and take the video down due to a belief of defamatory language. The complaint cites the presence of the gameplay as copyright infringement and additionally cites that the EULA the game allegedly has a clause preventing the production of video content with the complaint reading:
Type of artwork: Game content. eula language acceptance dictates it cannot be shared and he is agreeing to it on the videoEULAs, however, seem to not be able to hold any real significant power when it comes to production of this content, as again, video content can be produced on almost any form of media as long as forms of fair use are incorporated, and it doesn't seem that any EULA has been used as a citation in any case that has gone to court, so there aren't any past actions that can be incorporated into this event to relate it to. EULAs are generally used to protect developers if a product is faulty and is more directed towards how the game license is being used, which doesn't incorporate the production of video content of the game to third party websites that also includes critical commentary and opinion.
We reached out to LaserChain LLC and we did receive a response regarding the whole ordeal. On the topic of Little Lord Rusty and the cryptomining allegations, Ben Midas of LaserChain LLC had this to say:
He suggested to everyone that our game was malware and/or a crypto miner. If you could watch his video, he is the first to say that he has very little knowledge about cryptocurrency and even goes on to suggest that bitcoin is involved with our game somehow. His response to us was that he wasn't sure if it was, but where is the context to even suggest it to the public? This is illegal, because it is not true and damaging to our games reputation. The truth is that our game is the first ever Cryptocurrency Wargame that uses WAVES as the primary token. WAVES is Proof of Stake and CANNOT BE MINED. All of the tokens are created using the WAVES platform and distributed by our game to the players as they play. LaserChain has value, because we are allowing players to earn and trade the games 'hard currency'...Other games like Game Of War only allow you to purchase the currency from the company, making them rich, in our game the players trade the currency with each other, so everyone can benefit...So I simply requested that Lord Rusty take the libelous and slanderous material out of his video and continue with his negative review. Negative reviews are fine, even when he calls us 'bileware trash' that is fine, opinions are opinions. Publishing false warnings to the public about our game even suggesting malware or cryptocurrency mining without proof or cause is libel. The value of the token is based on the demand of players who want to play. He is scaring off potential players by spreading lies and unsupported theories, and harming the value of the currency to the current players who are playing. I told him if he continued to break the law we would have to respond. He immediately went on Steam and told the world that we threatened him. This was not a threat, this was asking someone to be moral and adhere to the law of the land.Lastly, Ben commented on the DMCA filed to YouTube saying:
The DMCA request to remove the video was on the same grounds, and it was denied. He took the video down anyway, probably out of fear that he was in fact doing something illegal.However, despite his comments, both of Little Lord Rusty's videos are still publicly viewable.
In a follow-up e-mail that Ben sent to me, he also stated:
I would love it if people would see it from our perspective because we really didn't know how to deal with it. Maybe this course of action was wrong, but I don't know how else to tell the public that our game doesn't have malware in it. I tried in the comments, I tried to email him and ask nicely. He was loving it.Ben then got back to me with a third e-mail with more comments about the whole situation stating:
Again for the record: We didn't try to take it down because of a bad review. There are plenty of bad reviews on steam and elsewhere. We tried to take it down because it contained language that would lead (and has led) a lot of people to send us emails asking if we have a cryptominer buried in the software. This has caused us a huge headache, we spent a lot of time on this game, and our intentions are nothing but good for the community. Nobody had even suggested the possibility until Rusty's video went live.
So I ask you kindly not to destroy us, we have had enough of that already. We are sorry if we made some kind of mistake in dealing with this, but I don't know how else we could have.
The facts are..there was only one single DMCA request, to Lord Rusty, only one private correspondance and all this happened. We did not have this kind of interaction with anyone else. People on steam and elsewhere have started producing fake screenshots, and keep this fire burning.In addition, in the second video Little Lord Rusty produced, he shows an image that was sent to him showing an admin for Laserchain throwing insults towards him saying how Little Lord Rusty was a "16 year old" and how he "put up a horrible review about the game and it's impacting the player interest" among other comments.Honestly we didn't know how big of a deal this was. Lord Rusty was so small and we just didn't want him to spread misinformation about our game, well this was definitely a learning experience. We haven't threatened or interacted in this way with anyone else, and won't.Just wanted to be clear. We are sorry and we learned from this. This won't happen again.
There is also talk from the admin trying to encourage positive reviews out of players otherwise the game's currency will lose value and how it will not be able to sell itself as being a way to generate money towards its players.
In addition to this, YouTuber SidAlpha, who has also been watching the events of LaserChain transpire, forwarded me a link to an archive of a now deleted announcement that was posted to the game's community hub titled "The LaserChain game is under attack by an angry YouTube Critic Group."
When asked for comment on both of the above instances regarding the in-game admin message and the now deleted announcement, Ben got back to me with the following:
We are a small team, we aren't making any money.We have reached out to Google and Valve for further comment on the situation and we will update the article if we receive further comments from Google, LaserChain LLC, Little Lord Rusty and/or Valve.We just wanted to build a crypto game with a new way everyone could play and benefit... In clash of clans you pay Supercell for everything..in this, you pay each other.It's a new idea, and I thought people would be thrilled to participate in this experiment.In that message you linked I didn't offer anyone anything tangible for a review. I only told them the truth, which is that if people play the game the coin will be more in demand, and their laser will be valuable to others. The text in the beginning is immature I admit, but I was angry. I was hurt that I could spend so much time building this sandcastle and some bully could come along and smash it with his foot.
The players of the game actually like it, but im spending all of my own money trying to make this work, and this is just not how I foresaw things turning out.
I've prepared an apology that I am going to post on the Youtube channel. You can read it below:
"I want to apologize for everything that has been going on with the community in the last week or so since we launched. This week has been an intense learning experience for me personally and I realize that I have been less than fair to members who were expressing their genuine discontent with the game. This game has been a labour of love for me during these past 6 months and when I saw it being attacked my instinctive reaction was to respond in any way I could to defend it. I understand that that wasn’t fair to members who were expressing viewpoints they had every right to hold and I want to reiterate that this will not happen moving forward."
UPDATE: Little Lord Rusty has responded to the comments made by LaserChain LLC/Ben Midas for this SteamWatch post in a TwitLonger post.