Game developer Sean Vanaman announced on social media today that Campo Santo, the studio behind the indie game Firewatch, will be filing a takedown against Felix “Pewdiepie” Kjellberg on YouTube over footage featuring their latest game, as well any future releases. This came hours after widely circulated footage showed Kjellberg say the n-word while streaming an online shooter.
“There is a bit of leeway you have to have with the internet when u wake up every day and make video games,” Vanaman wrote on Twitter. “There’s also a breaking point.”
Vanaman appeared to be reacting to the latest controversy surrounding the YouTube star, as this afternoon, a clip in which Kjellberg called a Battlegrounds player the n-word spread widely on message boards and social media. “What a fucking n-” Kjellberg said, while killing an opponent. “Sorry, but what the fuck. What a fucking asshole.”
Campo Santo declined to comment when asked by Kotaku if Vanaman was responding directly to the video clip, but Vanaman’s tweets are pretty clear. “He’s worse than a closeted racist: he’s a propagator of despicable garbage that does real damage to the culture around this industry,” Vanaman wrote.
Previously, Kjellberg uploaded a full playthrough of Firewatch that has been viewed 5.7 million times on YouTube, and in the description for that 2016 video, he calls it “a wonderful story driven game.” If Campo Santo goes forward with its plan, the Digital Rights Millennium Act would be invoked to protect their copyright over Firewatch, meaning the video could be taken down. UPDATE 7:28 PM: the video is currently unavailable.
Kjellberg did not respond to a request for comment, but has been in the spotlight over the last year for a number of contentious reasons, including jokes about Jewish people, ironically embracing nazi references, and tussles with mainstream media. This latest flare-up is actually not the first time Kjellberg has said the n-word on his channel. Actually, on YouTube, hearing a personality with a large following say the n-word isn’t particularly out of the ordinary. The Battlegrounds community is also permissive here: players sometimes scream the n-word before matches start, and in some cases, offensive antics are considered a spectacle by viewers.
“I am sick of this child getting more and more chances to make money off of what we make,” Vanaman wrote on Twitter.
Vanaman also urged other developers to do the same, stating that he would “be reaching out to folks much larger than us to cut him off from the content that has made him a millionaire.”
The legalities around a potential DMCA claim are murky, especially when it comes to Let’s Play-style videos. In the past, YouTubers have argued that uploading footage of a game falls under fair use, so long as the content creator is adding comment, criticism, or identifying some kind of news value. While some game developers allow YouTubers to upload their work and monetize it, other developers might use YouTube’s automated system to claim footage as theirs, thereby allowing them to earn the ad revenue for that video. Some developers might lobby to take YouTube footage down from the internet altogether. Developers draw the line in different places: some might ask players not to capture footage past a certain point in a game, or dislike when players upload full playthroughs of a title.
“I love streamers,” Vanaman continued. “I watch them daily and we sent out over 3000 keys to professional and amateur streamers of [Firewatch].”
“All streaming is infringement but devs and pubs allow it because it makes us money too,” he wrote in the Twitter thread.