The landscape of YouTubers who do reviews or takes on video games, including Let’s Plays, and their interactions with the game makers themselves is one that lacks any sort of norm or uniformity. Some game developers understand the value these YouTubers bring to their businesses, while some tend to go on the attack with copyright claims. Some developers appreciate an open and honest ecosystem of reviews, including snarky reviews, while others attempt to suppress any sort of negativity.
But, as far as I’m aware of, Overkill Software, makers of Payday 2, is the first studio to donate proceeds from its DLC content to defend YouTubers from copyright lawsuits.
Ethan [Klein] and Hila [Klein], who run the YouTube channel H3H3Productions, make sketch comedy and “reaction” videos in which they comment on internet and YouTube culture. Last year, the husband-wife team filmed a video mocking YouTuber Matt Hosseinzadeh, or “Bold Guy,” for his video about picking up girls using parkour. In response, Hosseinzadeh filed a complaint with the Southern District of New York District Court alleging copyright infringement. In the complaint, Hosseinzadeh accuses the Kleins of “purporting to discuss the Work in what they believe to be a humorous manner but in fact reproduces virtually all of the Work as nothing more than a prop.”
Now, we’ve discussed this lawsuit previously. It’s a suit clearly designed to shut up two critics who engaged in what seems to be pretty straightforward Fair Use of Hosseinzadeh’s content. Following along with the court proceedings, the last entry seems to indicate the court feels this whole thing, which has already gone on too long, will end with a summary judgement. I can’t be certain the court feels that this is going to end up going in the Kleins’ favor, but that would be my educated guess based on our previous analysis of the suit.
Regardless, Overkill Software has swooped in to try and help the Kleins by baking them into Payday 2 via DLC and using any money made by it to fund the Kleins’ legal efforts.
On April Fools, Overkill Software introduced Ethan Klein into first-person shooter Payday 2. Yesterday, Overkill, who are fans of the Kleins, announced they’ll be making the joke a permanent, and charitable, reality. This Fall, the faces behind H3H3Productions will be playable characters in Payday 2, and Overkill studios will donate all of the DLC’s revenue to the Kleins as they continue to fight their legal battle that, they say, could financially ruin them even if they win.
While the Kleins were initially represented pro bono, a year later, after switching firms, the price of fighting the lawsuit has reportedly snowballed, with the first month allegedly costing over $50,000. And they will continue to fight it, the Kleins say, to protect fair use and prevent a bad precedent. (YouTube personality Philip DeFranco helped raise $170,000 for them in a GoFundMe, arguing that the lawsuit is “an attempt to step on freedom of speech via a broken copyright system and most people’s confusion over Fair Use.”)
This is, to some degree, connecting with fans. Fans, at least, of the Kleins. It’s also refreshing to see a game studio take the stance that they are fans of YouTubers that do some videos based on video games and are actively looking to support them against a bogus copyright lawsuit. Can you imagine, say, Nintendo doing something like this? Given its hardline stance on intellectual property, it’s a difficult thing to conjure in one’s mind.
Overkill, by the way, is taking 0% from the sales of the Klein DLC. It’s a great look for the company.