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WhoLetsPlay -- Protecting Game Videos
by Lars Doucet on 12/19/13 03:55:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I'm trying to organize a movement to respond to the recent unpleasantness with YouTube cracking down on Let's Play videos and other game-related content.

Several months ago during the last youtube kerfluffle, I started this reddit thread crowdsourcing a whitelist of "Let's Play" friendly game developers. That eventually turned into this wiki, which chugged along for a while. Then, the latest Youtube crackdown hit, and the list started getting some real momentum, ultimately hitting big sites like polygon. We also got some help from youtuber's like Boogie2988 and were retweeted by NorthernLion and TotalBiscuit.

I'd like to take this opportunity to explain what this is all about and what we're trying to do.

The #WhoLetsPlay list

The "Let's Play"-friendly developers Wiki" was designed to gather information about where developers stand on monetized Let's Play videos.

The wiki is NOT an authority in and of itself, just a handy directory that:

  1. Makes it easy to find permission statements
  2. Encourages developers to make their permission status publicly known
  3. Encourages developers to upgrade their permission from tweets to written official statements on their sites

The list serves as a shield against fraudulent Content-ID matches, because you can easily find out if a developer has actually given official permission.

The wiki is getting a bit difficult to maintain on wikia, so I will eventually migrate it to our new site, www.wholetsplay.com. Hopefully it will be much prettier by then.

However, there's more to it.

Dealing with Music

Right now, there's an issue with music. Many developers, small and large, license music non-exclusively. This means the musician owns the music, but gives the developers some rights (namely to use it in their game). This means that *technically* it's not legally clear-cut (again, I'm not a lawyer) that the developer has the right to grant permission for fans to make monetized videos that include the music.

This ambiguity leads to situations where 3rd party licensors and Youtube can actually issue takedown notices and content-ID matches to developers for hosting THEIR OWN OFFICIAL TRAILERS or THEIR OWN MUSIC, in order to "protect them." Insane, right?

Why this is bad:
This will pressure developers to secure EXCLUSIVE rights to protect themselves. This is bad for everyone, because exclusive rights are more expensive for developers and less flexible for musicians. Youtube is currently recommending that LP'ers make videos without music. As Colin Campbell notes, the problem is 3rd party music resellers. I'm currently talking to some legal folks about setting up some creative-commons esque licenses for music that developers can use with their musicians to make the "let my fans post this on youtube" rights more clear.

We might also start a second wiki for known "bad actors" in the music reseller space, to warn developers and musicians against using them for selling soundtracks, etc. I don't want it to turn into a vengeful witch hunt, though, so we might tread carefully there.

We Need Some Stinkin' Badges!

We need to make it CLEAR and EASY for YouTuber's to know where developers and their musicians stand. Right now it's a giant soup of ambiguous, unclear, and INVISIBLE rights. I'm imagining creating a badge system like creative commons has, where a developer can proudly display that their content is "Free to Let's Play", and also display a badge that certifies, YES, we have signed the proper licensing terms with our musician, so you can feel safe that the musician allows you to stream the video with music.

But Isn't this just the fault of Bad Laws?

Yup! And we can and SHOULD fix those bad laws. But in the meantime, we've got to do *something* as a community, because I'm guessing those laws won't get fixed anytime soon. I think we can take inspiration from creative commons and open source in this regard -- if the law doesn't create a community conducive to sharing, let's make our own and set the terms ourselves!

Still Working out the details

This is all in flux right now, and I'm working out the details as we speak. A lot could change.

How can I help?

If you want to help, you can:

  1. Get in touch: email me at lars dot doucet at gmail dot com, or look me up on twitter.
  2. Volunteer your time: we need web devs and lawyers. I've got some of both, but the more the merrier.
  3. Developers -- add your name to the wiki, and make your permission status known.
  4. Journalists -- write an article about #WhoLetsPlay!
  5. Youtubers -- talk about #WhoLetsPlay on your show.
  6. Everyone -- get the word out about #WhoLetsPlay. Tweet, share, etc.

 

Questions? Comments? Critiques? That's what comments are for. Go!


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Comments


Jennis Kartens
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Very nice! Thank you a lot for getting that movement up!

Kyle Redd
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Good luck Mr. Doucet.

Regarding a "badge" system - I think something like what the Widescreen Gaming Forum (www.wsgf.org/mgl) would be nice. Where they award gold medal badges for games that have perfect widescreen support, you would award a similar badge to a company that has perfect Let's Play support. This sort of medal would signify that all components of a game (gameplay, music, cutscenes) are 100% legally certified for Youtubers to broadcast and monetize. Likewise there could be a silver medal for companies that have only nominal restrictions, and a bronze for those with more significant drawbacks (e.g. no music).

This sort of badge could have benefits for everyone. Aside from making it very easy for Youtubers to know which games are safe to broadcast, developers and publishers could even use them as a notable accolade on their games' websites and store pages - "This game is Gold certified by wholetsplay.com: 100% open to monetized gameplay videos with no restrictions."

Were this practice to be widely-adopted by game makers and result in a sales increase, it would also put added pressure on those companies that aren't certified to do everything possible to make it happen for their titles as well.

Josh Waters
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I think that there are a lot of things about video games and the internet that our copyright laws simply weren't prepared for (who can blame them?), and in the meantime, some people think they can take advantage this gap to put some money in their pockets or exert control over what should not be theirs.

Don't get wrong; I recognize the importance of protecting intellectual property and brands and such, but when companies go out of their way to wring every single half-penny out of something, it just puts a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe there's more to this YouTube thing than we know at the moment, but there should have been some kind of warning or announcement that this was going to happen. Dropping unwanted and/or unwarranted change on people is a good way to start a rebellion.

Lars Doucet
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Was wondering if I could use this thread to help brainstorm some ideas / work out some technical problems.

First on the list -- I need a new wiki system to migrate the developer whitelist to. Requirements:
1) Easy to install, easy to make edits on (WYSIWYG)
2) Gives me good moderator/admin controls so I can appoint moderators
3) Let's me keep it fairly open with guest editors but well moderated to protect from vandalism
4) Lightweight and doesn't have a ton of weird dependencies
5) Easy to migrate to a new server if I have to

Kyle Redd
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Regretfully I'm not familiar enough with wikis to have any good suggestions. However, are you certain you will need something that is well-moderated enough to protect against vandalism?

I ask because I would imagine that a wiki such as this should not be one that is frequently edited - Once a developer/publisher has been fully vetted for their policy on gameplay videos, that page won't need any further edits unless the policy changes (which will be a rare occurrence, if it happens at all). So with the limited amount of edits made, vandals would be very easy to spot and correct. Do you not expect that to be the case?

E Zachary Knight
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Kyle,

Anything that is community edited requires moderation. We have a lot of game companies that have some very bitter detractors who are more than willing to vandalize any website that has a listing for them. I don't suspect that any such activity would be frequent but it could be enough to warrant strong moderation. Especially with a site like this that focuses on factual and accurate information.

Lars Doucet
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Yeah, the wikia wiki we have up right now has already been vandalized multiple times. I've had to put protections on it, which sucks, because now it's a little hard for new users to edit it (they have to wait several days for their wikia accounts to clear "new" status). I need something that's not so drastically on one side or the other of the open/closed spectrum.

Kyle Redd
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Point taken. That's pretty unfortunate in any case.


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