There are few things scarier for a small gaming channel on YouTube than the prospect of receiving a DMCA takedown request.
But YouTuber Chris Hodgkinson found himself in that situation recently, as he explains in the video above.
Hodgkinson, better known to his audience as IAmPattyJack, is a video game pundit and critic. He has become famous for one of his ongoing series, “This is the Worst Game Ever,” where he plays bad games and provides commentary. His most recent entry was a video on Super Seducer, a game that teaches men how to pick up women and has been at the center of controversy lately. That playthrough caught the attention of developer Richard La Ruina and his team.
“[La Ruina] criticized my idea that people should be themselves when they’re talking to women, which I think is probably the right thing to do,” Hodgkinson said. “He left a comment on my video when it had 150 views, which I thought was weird.”
This led to a Twitter argument between Hodgkinson and La Ruina, who also calls himself “Europe’s top pickup artist.” But following their exchange, Hodgkinson’s video was removed from YouTube for copyright infringement. Days later, it still isn’t back.
A DMCA takedown is bad news for a YouTuber. It results in a strike against the channel. Earn two more strikes, and YouTube has the power to remove the channel completely. Hodgkinson has just over 15,000 subscribers, and although he doesn’t rely on income from his channel to financially support his needs, he does use the income he receives from Google’s AdSense program to purchase new games for his content. When La Ruina mentioned that, as a developer, he could issue a DMCA takedown because he didn’t like the way Hodgkinson talked about his game, the YouTuber took it very seriously.
“Someone in the Twitter chain brought up the idea of DMCA takedowns,” Hodgkinson told Polygon. “He responded to that, which made me very concerned, saying he forgot he could DMCA and that to me ... I think it was a joke, and I think he thought it was a joke originally, but when you bring up a DMCA takedown after I’ve argued with someone, that kind of makes me a little bit nervous.”
Hodgkinson and La Ruina’s conversation on Twitter continued. La Ruina told Hodgkinson that the studio only issues DMCA takedowns to channels that rip off its content, essentially promising Hodgkinson that the team wouldn’t weaponize and abuse the DMCA takedown.
That all changed less than two days later. Hodgkinson received an email from La Ruina’s team apologizing for issuing a DMCA takedown request, way before Hodgkinson even knew that YouTube had accepted the strike.
“I actually hadn’t even received an email from YouTube, and I still haven’t gotten an email from YouTube at the time of recording this,” Hodgkinson said. “So, that’s fun.”
It only got weirder from there for Hodgkinson. La Ruina sent Hodgkinson $50 though PayPal to help cover the cost of the video being down after his team sent out a DMCA takedown request to YouTube. The message read, “hey, sorry for the delay in getting your video back. It’s with YT now and hopefully won’t be much longer. Here is $50 to cover any lost monetisation income.” Hodgkinson called the act “random,” adding that he was going to refund it immediately.
“I do not want your money, as stated in the video,” Hodgkinson’s response read. “Send it to a mental health charity or something.”
Hodgkinson described the series of events as strange, admitting that he just wants to understand how and why La Ruina decided to act out against his video. According to La Ruina, it was all just one big misunderstanding.
“I didn’t know that he often makes those kinds of videos,” La Ruina told Polygon, speaking about Hodgkinson’s series. “He’s trying to profit with this type of clickbait-y, YouTube headline. All of that is okay, but when I replied to his tweet and we got into a little thing, he basically put me in a position where he said, ‘You wouldn’t dare DMCA me because you’re afraid of this,’ and I said, ‘No, I wouldn’t because it’s the wrong thing to do.’ And then someone in my company did it, we immediately retracted it and we’re waiting for the video to come back.
“So yeah, we did it for one video, but in general I don’t think that’s the right thing to do.”
TO DMCA OR NOT TO DMCA?
The weaponization of DMCA takedowns by developers is a common fear that runs through the YouTube gaming community. It’s been a grey area for years. Mona Ibrahim, an attorney that specializes in copyright and fair use laws, wrote an op-ed for Polygon last year and said, “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.”
That means whether someone like La Ruina and his team don’t like a particular video, or a developer like Sean Vanaman at Campo Santo don’t want a YouTuber like PewDiePie playing any more of their games, the intention doesn’t matter. Developers own the rights to their work and can issue DMCA takedowns to protect them, regardless of intention. That’s a scary concept when you’re a YouTuber and a particular developer doesn’t like you — like Hodgkinson La Ruina.
“I’m not going to hide that I don’t like this guy,” La Ruina said. “But if somebody wants to make a negative video, they’re very welcome and we won’t DMCA it. I don’t believe in that.”
There are rules in place at YouTube to try and prevent this type of behavior from occurring. The copyright holder is asked whether they’re sure they want to issue a claim before moving forward, and there’s an important reason for that. YouTube has to act on any copyright infringement request it receives immediately, leaving the appeal process up to the creator, but the process of reinstating a video that was falsely accused can be bothersome. It can take up to 30 days for a video to reappear on the channel, but more importantly, it can infringe on a creator’s ability to monetize or publish work.
“When you DMCA’s someone’s video, it’s not really meant to be retracted right away because it says when you’re submitting the request that ‘I hereby accept that if I submit this claim fraudulently, it’s not going to work out for me basically,’” Hodgkinson said. “Because of this, it’s taking a lot longer than it should, which is kind of ridiculous.”
La Ruina has been in talks with YouTube since the incident, and his team has filled out the proper form needed to retract the claim. La Ruina said that he appointed someone on his team to find out what’s going on with the retraction, but said he doesn’t know what the current status of the video is.
“I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to reinstate, but the video has a couple of hundred views and I offered to give him that cash to kind of make up for whatever, but I think he wants the attention more than anything else so he will be okay in the end because he will get more attention and views,” La Ruina said.
The takedown can seem like it’s leading up to a bigger fight between YouTubers and developers, but Hodgkinson is the first to point out that 99 percent of developers are okay with YouTube commentary and comedic videos about their games. It’s rare that this happens — extremely rare — but every now and then, when a small YouTuber faces a copyright strike, Hodgkinson is reminded of how spontaneous the process is.
“When it’s a small channel like mine, where I don’t necessarily have the biggest reach and it’s very hard for me to get attention when something like this happens, it’s scary because this could very much ruin my channel,” Hodgkinson said. “I was talking to someone else who has an even smaller channel than mine and who’s been harassed before and they had to make an entirely new channel because of it.
“It’s very worrying, because we don’t get the proper information when this does happen, and for a lot of people, it is their livelihood.”
Update: Hodgkinson’s original video is back up. It can be seen below.