Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Please Understand, Nintendo is the Bad Guy

Shamus Young | 21 Sep 2015 12:00
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Nintendo has no proof of wrongdoing.

This is one of the most basic and fundamental elements of criminal and civil justice in the modern world: You can't be punished until you've been proven guilty.

The whole YouTube ContentID system is a disgusting subversion of this. It was ostensibly created to prevent people from uploading copyrighted movies or songs directly to YouTube, but it's since been perverted into a tool to silence criticism and engage in the very money-harvesting abuse it was supposed to prevent. Okay, Nintendo didn't invent ContentID and they're not the only people to abuse it. Not by a long shot. But they are abusing it in a way that no other publisher is.

"Other people are even worse" is a really terrible defense of Nintendo. Particularly since they aren't that much worse. Because...

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Nintendo's position is morally reprehensible.

Nintendo's position is that they have exclusive rights to play these games in public. This is something that's never been tested in court, and I can't imagine this notion would survive an actual court case. If this notion were upheld, it would mean Nintendo could decide who was allowed to talk about their games on YouTube. It would give them control over not just Let's Plays, but reviews, documentaries, retrospectives, and even news.

Imagine if Apple claimed that only they were allowed to show the iPhone on TV. Imagine if Marvel claimed that only they were allowed to show images of their characters, and issued takedown notices to anyone making cosplay videos.

This explains why Nintendo is picking on individuals like PangaeaPanga. If they picked on someone with power and a financial stake, they might end up in an American courtroom trying to prove this ridiculous notion, and they would not be very likely to win.

So on top of everything else, they're being horrible bullies. This is all the more offensive since...

These videos aren't a threat to Nintendo's bottom line.

How sick is it for Nintendo to obliterate the channel of a fan when that fan isn't harming them in any way? It's not like this channel could possibly hurt Nintendo sales. If anything, it's keeping the public interested in those old titles. How much of Nintendo's current nostalgia market is due to old-time fans keeping these games alive in the public consciousness?

You can claim that there's no way to measure this benefit. True enough. But there's clearly no harm being done. Are we seriously going to suggest that seeing someone play a speedrun of a modified version of an old ROM is going to somehow dissuade a potential customer from buying the modern re-release to play for themselves? (Assuming a re-release is even available.)

These videos are a natural, healthy part of a creative world where Everything is a Remix, and it's naïve of Nintendo to expect to be part of the internet and somehow not be part of this continuous global multimedia remix. They're at least covered by fair use, which was recently upheld in a major case.

Even Activision and Electronic Arts don't behave this way.

Even the infamously litigious Activision doesn't go around pretending they own the exclusive rights to posting videos of Call of Duty footage.

Nintendo is in the wrong, both legally and morally. They're abusing ContentID to destroy the fair-use creative works of a fan who is either harmless or beneficial to their business. They're only getting away with it because they're picking on people who are too small to fight back, and because YouTube would rather side with the giant corporation than make sure ContentID is being used as intended.

(Have a question for the column? Ask me!.)

Shamus Young is a programmer, critic, comic, and crank.

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