With the rise of do-it-yourself streaming platforms like Twitch and the growing popularity of Let’s Play videos on YouTube, online broadcasting is no longer just a hobby – it’s big business. More and more gamers are streaming their gaming sessions over the web, building both dedicated audiences and massive revenue streams in the process. In fact, gameplay videos are so popular that many industry figures think that the traditional gaming press is becoming obsolete. It makes sense; does anyone really want to read a bunch of words when they can just watch a video instead?
There’s a problem, however. Game broadcasters don’t technically own the content they’re featuring, and many gameplay streams run afoul of copyright laws. At the same time, game streamers and their followers represent some of gaming’s most hardcore fans. This puts publishers in a sticky situation: do they protect their intellectual property and alienate their audience, or do they turn a blind eye and miss out on all that cash?
Recently, a number of game companies went out of their way to make their stance on game streaming (and related projects, like machinima – animated movies made using in-game assets) more clear. Nintendo recently launched an affiliate program for video producers, while Twitch unveiled a royalty-free music library that streamers can use to avoid copyright violations. Microsoft also released a list of rules for streamers, and attached an important caveat: anyone who doesn’t follow the rules risks getting shut down.
That’s all well and good, but one of Microsoft’s restrictions caused some concern; specifically, the rules claimed that video makers wouldn’t be allowed to use the names of the games they were streaming in their videos’ titles. That’s not quite true, says Microsoft. In a clarification published today, Microsoft says that using the name of a featured game is perfectly fine, as long as the title makes it clear that the video is fan-produced, not an official product.
Specifically, the new rule reads:
Your Items may not use the name of the Microsoft Game in their title to give the impression that Microsoft is the source of the Item, or authorized or endorsed the Item. Items that make referential use of our titles are fine, for example, “Let’s Play Forza Motorsport 5” or “Tips and Strategies for Halo 5.”… But we may object to “Halo: Covenant Strike,” for example, if it could be confused as something Microsoft produced or licensed…
Microsoft contends that they haven’t seen “rampant abuse of this” technique, and that they’re not actively hunting down offenders on Twitch and YouTube; the rule is simply in place to protect the company from “abuse.” In this case, Microsoft is on the gamers’ side: they love the passion streamers bring to their products, and they want to make sure that fans continue “to create great works.” Just don’t pretend that you’ve got Microsoft’s endorsement, okay?