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YouTube accepts Campo Santo’s copyright strike against PewDiePie, could lead to bigger issues

‘It’s a pretty big deal’

YouTube has accepted the copyright takedown request submitted by Campo Santo against Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg for his two hour stream of its game, Firewatch.

In a new video, Kjellberg addressed the copyright takedown request, confirming that the strike had gone through. Campo Santo founder Sean Vanaman first tweeted that Campo Santo would be issuing the request on Sunday, following one of Kjellberg’s livestreams where the YouTuber was caught using a racist term.

Kjelleberg said when he saw Vanaman’s tweets, he privatized the video out of respect for the developer and Campo Santo. Despite that, Kjellberg said YouTube accepted the strike anyway. As Kjellberg points out in the video, Campo Santo’s DMCA takedown strike could become much more problematic in the future.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Kjellberg said. “If I get more than three of them, my channel will shut down.”

According to Google’s policy, if Kjellberg were to receive three copyright strikes, his account will be terminated. All videos uploaded to his account will be removed and he won't be able to create new accounts. Essentially, every video he has ever uploaded to YouTube will be erased.

The question posed for the majority of Kjellberg’s video is whether or not studios like Campo Santo can legally claim copyright infringement in livestreams and let’s play videos.

According to Mona Ibrahim, a lawyer who works with the gaming industry and who has written about this issue in the past for Polygon, studios can.

“In the case of a Let’s Play video, a content owner like Campo Santo would argue that they can revoke their permissive, non-exclusive license to stream (granted to end users) against anyone who uses their content in a way they find offensive, or in a way that associates their game or brand with something against their values,” Ibrahim wrote about the situation.

Ibrahim also pointed out that Vanaman’s reasons for issuing the DMCA takedown notice, which Kjellberg spoke about at length in the video above, aren’t of any real importance in the court of law.

Under copyright, an author’s underlying justification for bringing an action carries very little weight unless the claim lacks merit. If, as most of my clients believe, Let’s Play is not fair use, Vanaman could issue a take down for any reason or no reason and all, and as long as there is still actual infringement, an argument of “bad faith” probably won’t have much of an effect on the outcome unless you get a very sympathetic judge or jury.

“It’s pretty disappointing, to be honest,” Kjellberg said. “Whether you like me or Mr. Vanaman, these laws are created for people to take down content and whenever there’s power to do so, it’s going to be abused. Especially when the reason to take down the content has nothing to do with copyright.

“I think these laws are important to protect artists’ work and protect what they do and that’s why I think it’s really dangerous to make these sort of claims and do these sort of copyright claims for no real valid reason.”

Google’s policy also states Kjellberg has three options at this point. He can wait 90 days for the copyright strike to expire and attend “copyright school,” reach out to Campo Santo for a retraction or submit a counter notification. Of the three, it seems more likely that Kjellberg will move ahead with the third option. If Kjellberg and his lawyer can prove that the Firewatch Let’s Play “qualifies as a potential fair use,” then a counter notification may be accepted.

Kjellberg did not specify if other developers or studios had issued DMCA takedown requests in his video. It’s also unclear if, those requests are sent to YouTube and the company complies with those requests, whether Kjellberg will have a chance to defend himself and his channel before the content is removed and he is banned.

Polygon has reached out to YouTube for comment.

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