[Update: Wild Game Studio has removed the block on TotalBiscuit's review of Day One: Garry's Incident]
The copyright issue is a ridiculous one. Fair use? Forget about it. Right to criticize for educational, informational or satirical purposes? Don't even think about it. Monetizing creative works by recreating your own spin on copyrighted material? It's like stepping onto a minefield with snowshoes made for Shaquille O'Neal. Well, TotalBiscuit stepped on a copyright mine, but not for the reasons you think.
TotalBiscuit, real name John Bain, is a YouTube personality who happens to be very big in the gaming community (think AngryJoe or PewdiePie). TotalBiscuit's video critique of the greenlit game Day One: Garry's Incident has been pulled due to a copyright claim from the developer, Wild Game Studios.
The failed Kickstarter game was under fire for being a rather terrible game, and TotalBiscuit's video labeled “WTF Is Day One: Garry's Incident” managed to get a strike by the developers in an attempt to curb some of the criticism. The incident reached a fever-pitch due to all the complaints on the Steam forum where people are bemoaning the poor quality of the game, which released back on September 25th. This is in addition to other critics railing on the title as well.
TotalBiscuit – not content to sit around and wallow in sadness over copyright totalitarianism – decided to make the issue known in a video after Reddit got hold of the news and he tweeted the following message.
You can watch the video that describes the series of events below.
Wild Game Studios' lead designer and studio head honcho, Stephane Woods, initially offered a rebuttal to the situation, as well as an explanation about monetizing videos, stating on the Steam forums that...
We protected our copyright because Total Biscuit has no right to make advertising revenues with our license.
That's a little like the Chicago Tribune needing permission from movie studios to get revenue from the articles they publish critiquing a movie. I didn't realize media reviewing as a full-time occupation was a charity.
Users also found suspicious behavior on the Metacritic page for Day One: Garry's Incident, where a lot of copycat positive reviews had been posted for the game in an attempt to tide some of the negativity surrounding the game. In fact, don't take my word for it, read the user reviews on the Metacritic page yourself. There's also a screenshot below highlighting some of the copycat reviews that all seem to highlight and praise the game (just in case they later get deleted/removed).
Also, if you have time. Click on each of the users with copycat reviews and notice how Day One: Garry's Incident is the only game they reviewed, such as Jaffasaid or Tomasbrolin, just to name two of many.
The developers addressed the fake reviews in a post on the Steam forums [via Reddit user josephgee], where they seem to be fighting hard with their own community, stating that...
Wild Games Studio has not encouraged employees to write reviews nor did we hear of someone in the company doing that. However, I have received a message of one of the reviewers telling me he wanted to help and gave us a good review. We do not want people writing reviews that do not express their opinion only in the purpose to help as it is not representative of their experience.
Oh boy... this is why EA has an elite PR team in place to keep incidents like this from making the company look bad. I can already imagine EA performing some textual ballet with a PR response savvy enough to have made Walter Cronkite repeat it verbatim without question.
The fallout over the developers trying to censure criticism caused enough damage to blow up on Reddit and many other gaming websites, so much so that after Kotaku ran a story about the incident, Stephane Woods issued the following acknowledgment of reprieve regarding the copyright strike, saying...
"after seeing all the negative impact today we decided to withdraw our complaint to YouTube."
Well that's good news for TotalBiscuit, though he doesn't seem the least bit worried about losing the video, approaching the situation with blasé repose. Then again, there's nothing lost having a terri-bad game removed from your account, right?
Nevertheless, the lesson learned today is that media is on the dangerous precipice of complete and total dictation by copyright holders. As TotalBiscuit points out, it's going to be awful for the consumer when appropriate and honest critiques will be held up, blocked out or removed to appease a company trying to sell a product at all costs.