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Super Mario Maker Exposes More YouTube Copyright Stupidity

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Two days ago, I uploaded a video to YouTube. It featured some awesome automatic Mario Maker levels that basically play themselves. Today, I was dinged with a copyright notice for that same video. The claimant was none other than...Playboy?

I’m serious. I didn’t get flagged by Nintendo. Rather, I got flagged by Hugh Hefner’s operation.


Playboy, obviously, does not own Mario. It did not create Mario Maker. It did not build the level on display in my video. And yet my video was still flagged. What gives?

Specifically, what was being flagged was the level called “Don’t touch that controller!” by Wii U owner Alex, a level that begins around the 1:09 mark in this video:

After speaking to Kotaku friend Mike Rougeau—who is Playboy’s gaming editor—I found out that Playboy had actually uploaded a video of that very same level yesterday:

This, he reasoned, must be the source of the copyright claim. Because automatic Mario Maker levels play out the exact same way for everyone that experiences them, that segment of footage was identical for both of us—down to the very last frame. YouTube’s automated system seems to have flagged it for that reason, even though my footage was uploaded first. Pretty silly!


Funnily enough, I wasn’t the only one who was affected by this:

Personally, I submitted a dispute and it got resolved immediately. The people at Playboy are also aware of what’s going on. “I spoke to our video department about it this morning and we were dismissing all claims as soon as we were notified of them,” Rougeau told me.

This is good. I’m glad Playboy was so responsive—especially given that this problem wasn’t their fault. It was YouTube’s automated system. Players in the future might not be so lucky, though. When you get flagged, the claimant has a whole 30 days to review your dispute, during which your video typically stays up while also making money for the claimant. Sometimes, the claimaint will even be able to block the video from being viewed entirely. Even if the dispute gets dismissed, it might mean waiting days if not an entire month for the motion to actually get through. In the meantime, any YouTuber who supports themselves with ads and just wanted to show off the level to their subscribers, or perhaps added some good commentary to the footage, will lose revenue (as well as gain an unnecessary headache.)


And, more importantly, automatic levels like these are actually pretty popular in Mario Maker. The top-voted creations always have a handful of “don’t touch the controller” type levels, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that continued to be the case once the game is actually out for the general public. People will record these levels and upload them to YouTube, because they’re cool and ripe for sharing on social media. And unless something in YouTube’s copyright system improves, that means a bunch more Mario Maker players will get dinged unfairly for uploading these automatic levels. That would be a bummer!