The creator of Firewatch has vowed to file copyright takedown demands with any service hosting video of PewDiePie’s playthroughs of that game, and any future games the studio makes, and he said he is doing it in response to a video today showing the YouTube star using a racist slur.
We're filing a DMCA takedown of PewDiePie's Firewatch content and any future Campo Santo games.— Sean Vanaman (@vanaman) September 10, 2017
Sean Vanaman (the cofounder of Campo Santo games as well) explained his reasoning in an eight-message Twitter thread that lit up with some gamers casting doubt on the legitimacy of Vanaman’s motives and others applauding the retaliation.
There is a bit of leeway you have to have with the internet when u wake up every day and make video games. There's also a breaking point.— Sean Vanaman (@vanaman) September 10, 2017
It comes after a video surfaced of PewDiePie, real name Felix Kjellberg, on a YouTube Gaming stream playing Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds. Several gamers captured the clip and uploaded it to their personal YouTube accounts. It also got wide attention this morning on the NeoGAF forums.
In the video, PewDiePie appears to be having trouble shooting at another player from across a bridge. The other player apparently does something he dislikes and PewDiePie unloads the racial slur, with a profanity appended to it, then another insult. He later laughs and says “I don’t mean that in a bad—” and breaks off the thought.
The incident is at the 20-second mark of this video. The language is NSFW and offensive.
I am sick of this child getting more and more chances to make money off of what we make.— Sean Vanaman (@vanaman) September 10, 2017
He's worse than a closeted racist: he's a propagator of despicable garbage that does real damage to the culture around this industry.— Sean Vanaman (@vanaman) September 10, 2017
He also reasoned that “[Campo Santo] is complicit; I’m sure we’ve made money off the 5.7M views [this] video has and that’s something to think about.”
PewDiePie has not referenced the incident on his social media, and about 90 minutes after Vanaman’s call-out, a full playthrough of Firewatch from last year was taken down from the streamer’s channel.
PewDiePie got in trouble earlier this year for abusive and insensitive videos. In February, anti-Semitic videos were published to his personal channel, found and reported on by The Wall Street Journal. That led to Disney-owned Maker Studios terminating PewDiePie’s contract, followed by YouTube canceling his scripted series on YouTube’s premium channel. He later reemerged on Twitch with a weekly show.
He acknowledged the damage the anti-Semitism controversy had done to him financially in April and made a satirical video promising to be more “family friendly.” PewDiePie amassed a following of 57 million subscribers through a combination of Let’s Play videos and provocative and profane humor.
Last month, he denounced white supremacists and neo-Nazis, in response to a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, even saying that “If for some reasons Nazis think it’s great that I’m making these jokes, I don’t want to give them that benefit.”
But many who saw the video harshly criticized PewDiePie for the apparent ease with which he used the slur, saying it shows he has never changed his ways.
As for the legitimacy of Vanaman’s action against PewDiePie, Vanaman said that streaming and Let’s Plays all infringe the copyrights of people who make the games, it’s just tolerated because it drives publicity for the game and builds goodwill among fans of it. Vanaman promised that “I love streamers” and watch them daily.
Lastly: I love streamers. I watch them daily and we sent out over 3000 keys to professional and amateur streamers of FW.— Sean Vanaman (@vanaman) September 10, 2017
Others, most notably Nintendo, do not have a hands-off approach to streaming, setting rules for what games YouTubers may play and taking a cut of the advertising revenue.
Nonetheless, others criticized Vanaman’s approach as abusive of the DMCA process, and, inevitably, a blow to freedom of expression. Vanaman rejected that argument outright.
Freedom of speech is freedom of prosecution— Sean Vanaman (@vanaman) September 10, 2017
His stream is not commentary, it is ad growth for his brand
Our game on his channel =endorsement
Campo Santo was formed in 2013 and so far its only game published has been Firewatch. Before that, Vanaman was with Telltale Games where he served as lead writer for The Walking Dead: Season One.
Vanaman encouraged other developers to do the same thing against PewDiePie videos of their work.
I'd urge other developers & will be reaching out to folks much larger than us to cut him off from the content that has made him a milionaire— Sean Vanaman (@vanaman) September 10, 2017
Polygon has reached out to a YouTube representative for a comment on Vanaman’s intentions.