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YouTube’s Really Bad Month

on Thursday, Dec. 19th

If YouTube was a person, they’d be suffering Seasonal Affective Disorder.

First up: this month YouTube has been mired in a controversy over an expansion of their system for policing copyright on the video site. ContentID, is an automated system that allows content owners to either block or put liens against ad revenue on videos that feature their material.

When YouTube expanded ContentID to cover users who are “affiliated” with major Multi-Channel Networks like Machinima a population of users who had been sheltered from the absurdities of ContentID suddenly found themselves exposed to takedown notices. Plenty of which come from companies that have little or nothing to do with the content.

Erroneous ContentID claims affect more than gamers and game makers, but it is in the video game community that the weirdest incidents are easily found. Here’s an example from a Patrick Klepek piece on Giant Bomb:

Terry Cavanagh is the designer of VVVVVV. He published a gameplay video of VVVVVV on his YouTube channel, and it was flagged with a copyright claim. Magnus Palsson is the composer of VVVVVV’s music. He also started getting copyright notices about his own music on YouTube.

Klepek goes on to get into the byzantine intricacies of music rights governance that led to this particular case and many others.

The genre of videos that have been most at risk are game walkthroughs–which are often used by gamers who are stuck at a difficult juncture–and what are called “Let’s Play” videos. The latter is essentially, a video feed of a game complete with commentary.

Given that the most popular channel on YouTube is that of the undisputed master of “Let’s Play” videos–PewDiePie, whose subscriber base is second only to YouTube itself–this is a huge crack in YouTube’s armor.

Sony’s Playstation 4 already has gameplay sharing baked right into the system and Microsoft promises to roll that feature out to their XboxOne early next year. Both console manufacturers give “most favored nation status” to Twitch, a video platform dedicated to streaming gameplay. If YouTube continues to be a hostile environment for the content that console gamers want they now have an option that is literally a press of a button away.

(For a good chronicle of how the ContentID expansion is affecting gamers, check out Polygon’s story stream on the issue.)

The ContentID problem isn’t the only gathering storm YouTube faces. Social networking giant Facebook is making a hard play for a role as a video distribution platform. This might be easy to dismiss, Facebook wants to be all things to all people, after all, if it weren’t for a little series called RileyRewind.

The new scripted series by YouTube superstar Ray William Johnson made its debut on Facebook. Unfortunately for the series, all that really does is show just how far Facebook has to go before it is even remotely navigable as a video platform. Just try figuring out which is the first episode of the series in this link, which was circulated by Johnson.

Techcrunch was able to get their hands on a pitch deck that Facebook sent to their marketing partners which shows that the social network has traditional network TV in their sights. Sam Gutelle of Tubefilter sees the pitch as a direct threat to YouTube:

Facebook gathers more plentiful, accurate, and meaningful data than YouTube does, and that allows it to present ads to the exact users who will be most interested. “In narrowly targeted campaigns, the average online reach is 38% accurate, but on Facebook, our average reach is 89% accurate,” explains the deck.

In the year ahead, expect for YouTube’s headaches to only grow as popular creators on the platform seek new homes and other platforms find ways to lure audiences away.

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