Earlier this month, a bunch of Destiny 2 YouTube videos, including some by high-profile content creators and even Bungie themselves, have been hit by fraudulent copyright takedown notice generated by fake Google accounts. Bungie is now trying to sue those responsible and has called out YouTube for being tricked by alleged fraudsters in the first place.
the destiny The copyright removal spree began earlier this month, hitting soundtrack videos, cutscenes, and possibly other content, including videos released by Bungie itself. Streamers with hundreds of thousands of subscribers like My Name is Byf and AztecRoss were also affected, leading to a mini-panic that Bungie had changed its content creation guidelines, which had traditionally been extremely lax.
“These actions are NOT being taken at the request of Bungie or our partners,” the company wrote at the time, to allay player concerns. “Please wait for future updates.”
Bungie is now taking the case to court over who is responsible for the rogue takedowns, according to a new lawsuit filed March 25 and first reported by TorrentFreak. The lawsuit filed in the Western District of Washington targets up to 10 currently unidentified John Does accused of using fraudulent DMCA takedown notices to disrupt “Bungie’s gaming, streamer and fan community and causing to Bungie almost incalculable damage”.
While the studio is still subpoenaing information to uncover the identities of the fraudsters, it says in the lawsuit that it believes the rogue takedowns could have been retaliation for destiny the soundtrack videos that Bungie removed from YouTube earlier in the month. The fraudulent withdrawals apparently started a day after authorized withdrawals ended and used a fake Gmail address very similar to the one used in these previous withdrawals.
But wait, it gets weirder. According to the lawsuit, at least one of the people apparently responsible for the rogue takedowns apparently emailed some of the affected YouTube accounts a “manifesto” explaining why. “If you’re looking for blame, place it on YouTube for its botched copyright removal system and on Bungie for ignoring this issue for so long,” it reads.
The lawsuit also targets YouTube’s overall system for copyright takedowns, which Bungie accuses of being easily played and difficult to fix:
Bungie had to dedicate significant internal resources to remedying this and helping its players restore their videos and channels – an effort complicated by the fact that while YouTube has a form for anyone to claim to represent a rights holder author and to issue copyright strikes, it does not have a dedicated mechanism for impersonated copyright owners to notify YouTube of the DMCA fraud. As detailed below, this meant that Bungie had to go through several layers of YouTube contacts before they could communicate adequately and start resolving the issue.
According to Bungie, he first contacted his YouTube account rep on March 19, but got an out-of-office response. He then contacted the head of game publishers at Google and got another out of office response. A day later, he was still tossing emails until YouTube’s director of game publishers and commercial content partners finally responded and asked if Bungie had filed a support ticket. It wasn’t until March 22 that YouTube responded saying it had taken action against fake accounts and reversed fraudulent withdrawals.
“Thanks to YouTube’s easy-to-follow reporting system, the attack was successful and the videos were removed (and the YouTubers were given ‘copyright strikes’ which, according to YouTube rules, threaten the future viability of their YouTube channels) based on the Fraudulent Takedown Notice,” Bungie’s attorneys write. While the lawsuit does not target YouTube, it says filing a civil lawsuit was the only way out. to get Google to share information about the identities of alleged pranksters.
DMCA takedown requests are a mess online, especially on YouTube. They became easily militarized and lead to a lot of headaches for content creators, whose work relies on commentaries, remixes or parodies of source material they do not own. As the Destiny 2 fiasco shows, it can also create problems for service games that rely on enthusiastic fan communities to drive the kind of engagement that funds them and keeps them alive years after release. It’s also a reminder that content creators are ultimately at the mercy of the gaming platforms and companies they produce content for.
Updated: 3/28/22, 3:29 PM ET: Bungie declined to comment on the ongoing litigation. A spokesperson for YouTube provided the following statement via email:
We take abuses of our copyright takedown process seriously and terminate tens of thousands of accounts each year for violating our policies, which prohibit submitting false information in a takedown request. We will continue our work to prevent abuse of our systems, and we are committed to taking appropriate action against those who knowingly abuse our tools.