Here is a simple checklist when developing my game: Working game demo. Check. Create a Kickstarter Campaign. Check. (And strike out). Making a trailer that has the quality of a C-movie (intentional as in that's what was in the budget). And never forget the all-important Copyright Strike on YouTube. Check... WAIT, COPYRIGHT STRIKE?!
Queue the cold chill throughout the body. So what went wrong, all our assets were made by us, music and all crafted to our needs, seriously did I somehow get a logo in somewhere that shouldn't be in the trailer? Nope, not there... Check the video manager on YouTube and there it was: a message saying a certain company was claiming the right over a song used in our video.
Wonderful... It was the song from a video that showed the intro of our game, The Chevy Chase by Eubie Blake (ragtime pianist, I love ragtime piano), that was composed for our game. That song's score is public domain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain) so you can use the score to legally make your own rendition of that song, which is exactly what we did. Using public domain is a great way for indies to find other resources for your project, especially on a low or no budget.
Who was this dastardly foe to attack our no-name studio? Well, meet the terror of YouTube; a company that, for obvious reason, we're not naming here. Anyway, according to Wikipedia, it is a music licensing company specializing in all forms of synchronization licensing with a focus on 'micro-licensing' and online network monetization such as with YouTube's Content ID." Ooooook but what does that have to do with us? The score was public domain so they cannot own that, and it was a rendition that was created specifically for our game. The strange thing is we got flagged for such an obscure song. We use "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin also, and that's a very well-known ragtime song so why not that?
Our unnamed enemy made such a decision by either through a poorly trained intern or more than likely used a bot that flagged our video for copyright infringement. Well, professor Google explained a lot more about it, such as how they copyright strike like there's no tomorrow on YouTube, from other public domain songs such as American the Beautiful played by the US Navy Band. As a veteran and a sailor, I find it a great insult. What about the sounds of the outdoors? I'm not kidding! They claimed nature itself in a copyright! Cobra Commander would be so proud.
I'm not sure why but this company just has a knack for insisting on embarrassing themselves so much but they should find a way to profit from that too (self-parody maybe?). I portray a fictional video game villain whose greed is supposed to be beyond compare that makes J.D. Rockefeller seem like a saint. To get a copyright strike makes for great satire in these circumstances. Really great satire indeed, but I didn't ask for it. I wanted to promote our silly game, and that alone can be a large undertaking in itself. Even the slightest disruption can throw even the best-laid plan in disarray. For someone who is trying to develop and publish their first indie game, the tasks of dealing with an opposition of this company I refuse to name could be huge. Reject Force Entertainment is microscopic to the point that only Ant-Man could reach us and he has better things to do.
The unnamed company's actions are like that of a large beast, scooping up everything it can grasp to nourish itself, remorseless and callously. They even acknowledge this issue on their own website, with their copyright strikes. A pathetic bully scrimping for morsels and the wording they use on that FAQ has the most and... pardon my language for this once please but... the biggest sh**t eating grin - written in text I have ever seen. The sheer simple smugness is audacious and insulting; written by the most pencil dicked over-educated moth***r in the universe.
Well, the appeals process is available on YouTube and going through those expected channels I waited... and waited… and waited for a couple of weeks. I even got annoyed enough to pester them on Twitter. I doubt I was achieving much but I was frustrated. I'm a patient and silent monk, I'm hot-blooded by nature. Maybe it's the Texan in me, but you don't tell another man that his property is now yours, even if this was some bot that left running listlessly. It doesn't settle right with me. They turned on the program to allow this to occur and manage business activities. They need to be responsible for their business activities, but they won't do it willingly, I'm sure. Well, eventually it boiled down to...
Hi Reject Force Entertainment,
Good news! After reviewing your dispute, <the company with no name> has decided to release their copyright claim on your YouTube video.
- The Yotube Team
... oh such wondrous news and I guess they just thought whatever... shrug it off, and while absolutely nothing catastrophic affected us it was an enlightening ordeal. Here is the problem: you got the mysterious ever-growing group on the internet who can effortlessly strike down copyright claims left and right as Zeus would be blasting the human filth with lightning bolts from Olympus. From what I understand, there are some worse cases out there than this whiny noise I'm barking about. Since escalation will always be the name of the game in business. What's to say? Companies like this don't eventually just begin tightening their grip around the throats of any artist out there, they show the means and ability to enforce it.
What can be done? Well, in my situation, I just got dumb lucky, and it was just rubber stamped away without much effort. I constantly pestered them through emails asking for at least an explanation for all this nonsense. I knew well they were never going to respond, and they never did as they hide behind their website. Honestly indies alone even with a small legal backing would lose to this sort of giant. For now, we are really at the mercy of these groups, and even if you're a microorganism like us, they will find you, it seems. A small Google search for "Unnamed Company+YouTube Copyright" will show you tons of individual affected by this group. "By their actions, you will know them..." and their actions show to me that their goal is to bully anyone they can for alleged copyright violations and squeeze them for revenue. They have done this before.
My only hope is that maybe some of the larger artists (especially indie) will collaborate in some effort to resist this in a more organized fashion before this really runs amok someday. When it comes to corporate greed, if they can get away with it then they will do it. It's as simple as that. With all that doom and gloom put forward, it's not all bad out there, but we must tread with caution with companies like that. They didn't truly harm our studio in the grand scheme of things. For others, however, some may never recover. In the end, I sincerely thank you, nameless Company. Your actions have ensured that you have my attention to these sorts of business practices, and I feel obliged others should know too.