Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Nintendo's Latest YouTube Copyright Crackdown Is Destroying Entire Channels

Let's be honest: Nintendo has yet to figure out this whole "YouTube" thing. While most gaming publishers are perfectly fine with letting YouTubers make a bit of money off of videos that use their games (most actually view it as free advertising), Nintendo has always had a more "hands-on" approach — if "hands-on" means claiming all revenue on any video popular enough to show up on the publisher's radar.

True, members of the Nintendo Creators Program still get a cut of the video's revenue — but again, most publishers don't take a cut at all. It's hard to argue for Nintendo's case when the rest of the industry seems to be moving forward when it comes to YouTube and its growing audience of gamers. What's worse is that Nintendo actually seems to be moving backwards in its approach to gaming on the site.

For years, speedruns and ROM hacks have been a popular YouTube subgenre: speedruns feature gamers trying to get through a game as quickly as possible (sometimes assisted by special tools), while ROM hacks can take an emulated version of a game and create something entirely new using the game's engine. They're extremely popular, especially with Nintendo games ... but that may change soon.

And here we see an intrepid young YouTuber trying to make his way through Nintendo's copyright policies.
One of the most popular speedrunners on YouTube, PangaeaPanga, was recently forced to watch as Nintendo tore his channel apart. Now, "tore apart" may sound harsh, but there's really no other way to describe it: roughly 80 percent of Panga's videos were removed without notice from the channel, and there's seemingly no way of restoring them. In fact, only five videos are still featured on Panga's channel, and there's really no telling if they're safe. Some of Panga's longest-running series — including his extremely popular "Item Abuse" videos — have been rendered completely unwatchable.So, why exactly did Nintendo bring the hammer down on Panga's channel? According to the publisher, it's all piracy.

Panga was well-known for using ROM hacks. These remixed versions of games like Super Mario World all start off as emulated versions of the game, or copies of the Super Nintendo original. Nintendo's argument is that publishing videos of emulated games is infringing on the company's intellectual property rights, as they're based on unauthorized versions of the original game (there was never a Super Mario World PC port, in case you were wondering).

While it's true that Nintendo technically has the right to crack down on unauthorized copies of its games, the company is now making claims against a game that's more than two decades old now. It'd be understandable if Nintendo were shutting down Mario Maker hacks, but it doesn't make much sense to start pulling down videos based on a game from 1990, especially after they've been around for so long.

Panga isn't the only YouTuber affected by Nintendo's newest policy, either: another YouTuber by the name of switchPCorner was also a casualty of Nintendo's strange new anti-speedrun policy. It's through Corner that an email from Nintendo was made public, and revealed the publisher's less-than-sympathetic take on the situation (you can read the full email over at Kotaku). The worst part of the email is that Nintendo offers up its Creation Program as an alternative, then informs the recipients that their videos aren't eligible for the program, anyway. At a certain point, it's just adding insult to injury.

Sadly, it doesn't look like Nintendo is going to be letting up soon — but is Nintendo really trying to stop piracy this late in the game? Nintendo emulators have been around for years, and the company never did all that much about it. However, it makes sense that Nintendo would want to put a stop to ROM hacks videos — which essentially show off custom, fan-made versions of the game — when its own Super Mario Maker is just a few days away from release.

For the time being, it looks like Nintendo's YouTube policies are only going to get more and more strict — which, considering the company's current policies, isn't exactly a good thing.
Super Mario Maker is due out on Sept. 11.