Image: Asmongold

If you search any popular Twitch streamer’s name on YouTube, you’ll find countless videos scraped from their streams. Of these, some will likely come from the streamer, but many are the product of users who upload content that is not, strictly speaking, theirs.

Recent YouTube changes, however, are apparently making that more difficult. Instead of cheering YouTube leeches’ demise, WoW streamer Asmongold has decided to help.

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During a stream yesterday, Asmongold announced that he’s started a new official YouTube channel run by people who used to reap the technically ill-gotten gains of unofficial Asmongold YouTube channels. He explained that, in the wake of a YouTube monetization change that targets videos featuring the same content, a handful of “reuploaders,” as they’re sometimes called, reached out to him to ask if they could help run an official channel.

“Finally no more leeches? Well, it’s actually the opposite,” said Asmongold. “What ended up happening is, they’re not able to make money off the videos as much anymore, right? They want to make it an official thing... This is not their content; it’s my content they’re making. But of course I’m gonna help them out. The amount of people that watch my videos on YouTube and then go watch my stream is huge.”

While some streamers aren’t OK with reuploaders, many turn a blind eye to the practice because, as Asmongold points out, they benefit from it. Twitch is an enormous platform in its own right, but YouTube still dwarfs it with a user base of nearly two billion people. Reuploaders, meanwhile, are doing a form of labor. They’re watching streams that sometimes last 10+ hours, chopping them up into digestible chunks, editing clips together, and figuring out how to package them. That takes substantial time and effort, and it serves an audience of people who might not have time to follow these streamers otherwise. Should they be making money off this while existing in what’s basically a gray area on YouTube’s endless digital frontier, wrangling content that other people worked hard to make? That’s an incredibly thorny question. But the fact is, many people are.

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While laying out his reasoning for hiring reuploaders and paying them an amount that has yet to be determined (but will likely be based on what streamers generally pay people who run their YouTube channels), Asmongold pointed to videos other people had stitched together from his streams. One had nearly five million views.

“It’s fucking insane,” he said. “It’s absolutely fucking insane... One guy told me that he made $27,000 a month by uploading Asmongold highlights to YouTube. I didn’t believe it, but he showed me a screenshot of it. The next month, he made $32,000.”

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So Asmongold stands to benefit handsomely from this arrangement, too. It is not uncommon, then, for streamers to have official channels that serve a similar function. Sometimes they hire from their own communities, a trend that recently led to controversy for leftist streamer Hasan Piker, who was accused of exploiting the labor of an unaffiliated YouTube editor who felt like Piker was stringing him along with the possibility of a job. In response, Piker said he wasn’t even aware the person wanted a job, but that’d he pay them because “people send me videos they edit all the time” and “if they ask for compensation, I pay them.” However he requested that, going forward, nobody else send him videos or memes unless he specifically asked them to work with him, especially in light of the fact that his own YouTube channel “makes zero dollars a month” and is “literally not worth the headache.”

As the top World of Warcraft streamer on Twitch, Asmongold is a much bigger name than Piker, which changes the dynamics of all this significantly. Asmongold already has one official YouTube channel, and this new one, with more regular uploads, will probably make a substantial amount of money. But it will also be a drop in the bucket for Asmongold, who laughed while saying that he recently failed to read an email and missed out on a brand deal that would have netted him “like $100,000 in a day.”

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The economics of unofficial stream editing and YouTube reuploading are messy and fraught, and absolutely not consistent across different tiers of streamer. Some, like Asmongold, who is a millionaire, can easily afford to ignore the lion’s share of it and pop in to help out when it benefits them. Others are less fortunate. Not all reuploaders are created equal, either. Many barely pull any views at all. And depending on how much YouTube has altered the way it handles monetization, it might have just turned the entire scene on its head.

For his part, Asmongold said that other reuploaders are free to keep doing their thing. “I’m not gonna DMCA your channel,” he said. “You have these guys that are making top one percent salaries by uploading videos of my stream. I think it’s funny.”

Kotaku senior reporter. Beats: Twitch, PC gaming.

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