In a controversial move, Sony Computer Entertainment America (allegedly) files to trademark ‘Let’s Play’, the popular term used for gameplay videos featuring narration.
Once upon a time, traditional print reviews were the only way gamers could get a second opinion on games, but the rise of Let’s Play videos means that gamers can now get a first-hand look at what the game is really like (minus gameplay trailer editing). Let’s Plays are so popular, in fact, that they’re responsible for the success of games like Thomas Was Alone, and YouTube even set up the YouTube Gaming platform in order to showcase video games even more (including Let’s Plays and livestreams). Heck, even talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has poked fun at the phenomenon.
It may seem surprising then, that Sony is allegedly attempting to trademark the term ‘Let’s Play’ and submitted a filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office back in October. An entry on Trademarkia.com explains that the trademarked term regards “electronic transmission and streaming of video games via global and local computer networks; streaming of audio, visual, and audiovisual material via global and local computer networks”. Though, it’s important to note that not only is the trademark unconfirmed (Sony has yet to comment) but the USPTO also states that “clarification” is needed, before it makes a decision.
Sony has been quite busy with the USPTO lately, having also filed for ‘Days Gone’ regarding a mystery game with online components, but this filing for Let’s Play is proving to be incredibly controversial. Let’s Play videos are big money, with Internet personality PewDiePie having made millions of dollars and garnered millions of fans off of the back of them. While this perhaps explains why Sony is so keen to get its hands on the term, it could also spell disaster for the thousands of YouTube users who have videos on the platform. Not only may they have to change the name of their videos but it could also result in lost revenue given how popular the search term ‘Let’s Play’ is.
Worse still, some are fearful that this may result in actual takedowns of videos as theoretically, if granted the trademark, Sony could take aim at anyone who uses the term without permission. Hopefully YouTube’s recent expansion of fair usage protection (including payment of up to $1 million towards legal fees) will protect users from the worst, but (with so many Let’s Play videos on the site) it will be difficult for YouTube to protect everyone and content creators may be forced to fight those legal battles themselves. This is, of course, just a rumour for the time being, however.