Imagine for a moment you are a videogame publisher looking to resurrect a fondly remembered classic RPG series. Unfortunately the last game you released in the series came out around fifteen years ago, on a now long-dead console, and only had a limited release outside of Japan. Despite this the game accrued a small yet loyal following who have kept its memory alive with tons of Let’s Plays and other fan videos on YouTube. Some especially dedicated fans even went so far as to translate the rest of the game into English. Many publishers would literally have someone murdered in return for such an eager pool of fans, ready to proselytise a new instalment.
Unless you are (allegedly) SEGA Japan that is, who’ve instead decided to hit any YouTube channel with content relating to its old Shining series of RPGs with whopping great DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notices. SEGA are releasing a new Shining game, Shining Ark, on the PSP in Japan next year and apparently don’t want any videos about all those old Shining games cluttering up their precious YouTube search results. At first glance it might not seem entirely unreasonable. Stupid perhaps but not unreasonable. The use of videogame footage on YouTube for Let’s Plays and other videos is still very much something of a legal grey area, although the general rule of thumb is you can get away with it if you add your own commentary, post it for educational purposes and don’t try to monetise it (with pre-roll adverts for example) unless you’re part of an established YouTube channel network.
Yet even established, partnered YouTube content-creators like TotalBiscuit have had strikes against their accounts for Shining-series content. After three strikes you can kiss your YouTube channel goodbye, which is a pretty serious blow to anyone who earns their living primarily from creating YouTube content. A thread on Reddit’s r/Games subreddit has a list of other channels that have been hit by these DMCA claims, some of which have been shut down as a result. There are also allegations SEGA have hit channels with nary a pixel of Shining series footage to be found, just the channel owner THEMSELVES talking on camera in the flesh about how much they love the Shining games. So if even mentioning the word “Shining” on a YouTube video is all that’s required to slap you silly with a copyright violation notice, then amateur internet movie critics with a penchant for Stanley Kubrick had better watch out too.
It’s still a tad unclear whether the person filing the copyright claims is even a legitimate SEGA employee or merely a troll with a warped sense of protectionism towards SEGA. A screenshot posted on the forums of Shining Force Central shows the DMCA claimant has a SEGA Japan address but even this is still no guarantee the claimant is legit: back in 2007 a 15 year-old Australian boy got more than 200 clips of Aussie comedy troupe The Chaser removed from YouTube by pretending to represent the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, with only a Hotmail account and poor spelling. Fujii Mutsuhiro, the name attached to many of the copyright claims against Shining-series videos, is mentioned in the “Special Thanks” section of the credits for several SEGA games (including the SEGA Ages collections on PS2 and Bayonetta) yet not for any of the Shining games.
If this is all the work of a curiously arbitrary troll then they’ve made a fair old effort to seem legitimate, although without actual legal muscle to back up the threats this should all eventually fizzle-out with no serious harm done. When a YouTube channel owner disputes a copyright claim the claimant has 14 days to file legal paperwork and take it further: if the claimant does not reply or chooses not to take it further then the disputed video is reinstated and any strikes against the account are removed. However, if it turns out SEGA really are clamping down hard on anything and everything Shining-related…well, they’ll find out the hard way that you can actually wind up paying quite a price for what would’ve been sweet free publicity.
SEGA will then have to ask themselves if crapping on some of your most dedicated fans is really worth it for the sake of a sodding PSP game.