Never thought I’d be so happy to see a game company embroiled in lawsuits. Tea good kind of lawsuits, as we’re seeing with Destiny 2 developer Bungie. First, they sued a bunch of cheat-makers to get them shut down, now they’re going after DMCA trolls on YouTube who posed as Bungie and their affiliates to hit big and small Destiny YouTube channels with copyright strikes, threatening to get them erased .
Bungie has now filed lawsuits against ten unnamed defendants on counts of fraud, false designation, copyright infringement and business defamation. They are moving extremely quickly, as this just happened earlier this month, and in addition to potentially punishing these specific parties, many hope this could get YouTube to pay attention to its absurd content policing process which essentially lets anyone pose as anyone and issue DMCA threats against channels, potentially wiping them off the map.
While YouTube makes it incredibly easy to report content for alleged DMCA violation, it literally has no system in place for reporting DMCA reporting abuse on the other side of things, as Bungie says in the lawsuit:
“Bungie had to devote significant internal resources to addressing it and helping its players restore their videos and channels—an effort complicated by the fact that while YouTube has a form that allows anyone to claim to represent a copyright holder and issue copyright strikes, it has no dedicated mechanism for copyright holders who are being impersonated to let YouTube know about the DMCA fraud.”
Bungie goes on to describe YouTube’s DMCA policies as having a “gaping security loophole” that allows anyone including “a disgruntled infringer or a competitive content producer” to file claims against a channel.
Bungie is not doing this purely out of the kindness of their heart. One of the main points of the lawsuit is that this event produced real reputational damage to Bungie, a company that prides itself on close relationships with creators. The community quickly lashed out at them when they saw these copyright strikes on channels being issued with Bungie’s name attached, and it’s likely not all of them got the eventual memo that this was not in fact Bungie, and even Bungie’s own Destiny videos had been hit with some of these claims.
This has long, long been a problem on YouTube, where you can accuse anyone of copyright/DMCA violation with essentially no evidence and no burden of proof, putting it on the accused to prove their innocence, which can be a lengthy, frustrating appeals process that can achieve no results. In addition to companies getting their reputation damaged like Bungie did here, for the creators themselves, this is real, meaningful loss of income. One more copyright strike in this situation, and some of these creators would have lost six figure income streams with their channels wiped out. It’s a truly understanding system YouTube has in place.
Again, Bungie is not suing Youtube here. It is suing the people who filed the false claims. But this whole situation does make me wonder if “safe harbor laws” which protect companies like YouTube or Facebook from being sued over content posted to their platform, would extend to something like not reigning in abuse of their own reporting tools which can do real damage to companies and individuals. That seems like a different category to me, though I am not surprised that Bungie doesn’t want to go toe to toe with Google lawyers in this situation.
We’ll see what the result of this ends up being. Hopefully this discourages further DMCA abuse and gets YouTube to take a look at its increasingly terrible reporting system. Hopefully. But probably not.
Follow me on Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and instagram. Subscribe to my free weekly content round-up newsletter, God Rolls.
Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and The Earthborn Trilogy.