Weekly News Roundup (15 December 2013)

It’s been a bad week for YouTube, copyright wise. Which makes it a good week for me, since I have something to write about. We also have the first round of the expectantly bitter PS4 vs Xbox One console wars (with the Wii U on the sidelines, waving arms furiously trying to get someone’s, anyone’s, attention).

Let’s go!


So another YouTube parody video has been taken down, another one that falls well within YouTube’s own guidelines and the law’s fair use exclusions. This kind of thing has happened so many times, and continues to happen, that it’s probably not even worth writing up as a news item. And at the time of writing, the affected video has been reinstated, so it’s even more of a non-news. But I haven’t talked about this in a while, and this is actually one of two YouTube copyright stories this week, so this provides a nice platform of a bit of ranting. Which, after all, is what the WNR is all about anyway.

So fair use for parody – what does it mean? It means that in the US (and not all countries have a fair use clause), and because the country has freedom of speech laws (again, not all countries, even democratic ones, have freedom of speech laws), parody is protected under fair use exclusions for copyright law. Parody is defined as more than just taking someone else’s work and making it funny (or funnier) though – it is only protected if the parody serves as a platform for criticism of the original material. So taking Lorde’s Royals video and simply replacing the people in it with Prince William and Kate Middleton (royals, geddit?) without commenting on the original video is not parody, at least not the protected kind. Making a parody pointing out the potentially racist undertones of the original and the blandness of the video, which was the case this time, is the very definition of fair use parody.

YouTube Content ID

ContentID in the news a lot this week, as it wreaks havoc against parody and gaming videos

So why did it happen? YouTube’s ContentID, the automated system used to detect potential copyright abuse, is notoriously bad when it comes to false positives. Rights holders (or at least their licensing management firms) are supposed to go through potentially infringing videos and weed out the false positives. And even after all that, the uploader can appeal the ban, which will hopefully mean a pair of human eyes will finally get to judge the video in question. Unfortunately, there are probably too many flagged videos to go through, and many short-cuts are taken in the process, leading to many cases where clearly non infringing videos stay removed even after appeals (for this particular video, the appeal process appears to have worked as intended).

Parodies weren’t the only kind videos in YouTube’s copyright line of fire this week, with Let’s Play video game videos once again targeted in one of the biggest sweeps so far. Affiliate of MCNs like Machinima were the target this week, asĀ thousands of Let’s Play videos were flagged and removed by YouTube.

It got so bad that game publishers, the people what YouTube’s copyright detection system was supposed to be helping, had to intervene on behalf of YouTubers and had to painstakingly reinstate videos manually. Publishers have long realised that Let’s Play videos are an essential part of the promotional machine, and having Let’s Play creators on your side is a necessary thing these days. So YouTube’s over sensitivity this week has annoyed both sides of the copyright divide.

And this is where harsh copyright control can be dangerous. This week’s events have caused a chilling effect among the Let’s Play community, with many less keen to dedicate their free time to create videos and channels which could so easily be banned. On the positive side, it has also alerted game publisher to the danger of YouTube’s ContentID system, and many have clarified their stance on fan videos as a result.

What can we do about it? Nothing, really. As long as copyright laws favor the money makers over freedom of expression, criticism and true creativity, YouTube will remain under enormous pressure to “shoot before asking questions”. If your video gets falsely taken down, don’t be afraid to use the appeals system, and if that doesn’t work, speak out and hope that someone will hear you.


Spotify Mobile

Spotify Mobile now available for free Spotify accounts … with limitations

Since I’ve mentioned Spotify regularly in the copyright section of the WNR, it seems appropriate to mention the latest bit of Spotify news here, although it doesn’t really have anything to do with copyright or piracy. At least not directly. Spotify Mobile is now free for all. This means you can stream your Spotify playlists on your Android or iOS smartphone without having to pay a cent, which is really awesome.

Free means limitations, and with the free version of Spotify Mobile it means that playlists can only be played in shuffle mode (fine by me, since this is how I listen, am listening to, Spotify). You can only skip tracks 6 times in an hour, which is a limitation put in there to specifically disallow users from pick and choose to play any one specific track, a feature that’s only available to subscribers of the Premium account. And there will be ads for cheapskates like me. No offline playback and high quality audio either. Still, for most people this will be enough and there is now one less reason why people would want to down the piracy route.


We now know who won the console war. Well, in South Park, Colorado anyway. But out here in the real world, or at least in the US for the small part of November for which both the PS4 and Xbox One were available, it was the PS4 that ended up winning the console game of thrones. Not so fast, I hear the Xbox fans say. The PS4 was released a week earlier (and for $100 less to boot), and so it’s only natural that the PS4 would sell more.

PS4 with controller and PS Eye

PS4 wins the first next-gen NPD showdown

Which is totally true, of course, although most of the nearly a million Xbox Ones sold in November (in the US) would have been in the first few days of sale. And Microsoft took full advantage of this statistical reality by claiming they won the “fastest selling” console crown for November, which might not have been the case had they had the same number of days of sale as the PS4.

For me, it’s far too early to say whether the PS4 or the Xbox One will come out on top. What is interesting though is that nobody is predicting any sort of success for the Wii U. The fact that the recent South Park trilogy completely ignored the Wii U, especially given they’ve done a trilogy on the Wii before, is telling I think. Only 220,000 Wii U consoles were sold in the whole of November, nearly 3 times less than the Xbox 360. To further compare, the Sega Dreamcast was doing better at this stage of its sales life-cycle. Ouch.

Speaking of ouch, I’m gonna go a play some games on my much neglected Kinect. Holidays equals overeating, and so I better burn a few more calories now in preparation. See you next week.


Comments are closed.

About Digital Digest | Help | Privacy | Submissions | Sitemap

© Copyright 1999-2012 Digital Digest. Duplication of links or content is strictly prohibited.