YouTuber and Call of Duty team owner Justin ‘KOSDFF’ Chandler recently moved into a home in Cobb County, Georgia with a bunch of fellow YouTubers. Their plan? To play games, vlog, and, you know, exist. But then they got in trouble with the law.
It was a strange situation from the get-go. Seemingly out of the blue, Chandler said he received a notification from the Homeowner’s Association that doing YouTube stuff in Cobb County, Georgia counts as running a business from your home. He was warned that he and his housemates could face fines of $136 per day or, if they didn’t comply, eviction, depending on what a court ended up ruling. How did this happen? Apparently a disgruntled neighbor clued in the HOA after they got upset about a parked car. Neighbors! Such fun!
Still, it’s a legitimately difficult situation. In a video, Chandler, who has a background in law, laid out the stakes. “This extremely unique and rare scenario poses the question: [Does] filming and uploading YouTube videos from your home constitute the home as a business?” he asked. “Does it matter how many views I have or how much income I make from it? Because to be honest, I do the same thing millions of other Americans do.”
He noted that his equipment was said to be the main culprit, but added that if that’s the case, what’s to stop an online business from transforming into a home business the second somebody, say, breaks out a webcam to conduct a meeting?
Speaking to AJC, Dana Johnson, Cobb County’s head of community development, said that the problem was actually multifaceted. The county had issued a “notice of violation” because 1) Chandler and friends had too many unrelated people living in the same house, and 2) they didn’t have a business license.
“There are specific rules for running a business out of your home, which differs from those in a commercial area, to ensure that the residential integrity of neighborhoods are not compromised,” said Johnson.
Earlier today, Chandler said he applied for and received a business license, so that part is taken care of. Still, there’s the pesky matter of archaic zoning laws to deal with. On that front, Chandler is less optimistic.
On the upside, Chandler said he’s received invites to set up shop in neighboring counties, so he and his fellow YouTubers are not without options.
That said, I doubt this is the last we’ll hear about this sort of situation. Networks like YouTube and Twitch have blurred the lines between business and hobby, and then they’ve kicked some sand atop those blurred lines for good measure. At what precise point does social media turn from a hobby into a business?
Finding a point that’s universally applicable is nearly impossible, given that subscriber numbers and things of the like are not always indicative of income level or professionalism. And what constitutes the home becoming a place of business under these circumstances? How much equipment usage? What kind? If you’re just streaming a video game, versus say filming yourself and your home while streaming a video game, is there a difference? All that in mind, when does the law get involved, and how? These are big questions, ones I’m not sure local governments are equipped to deal with at the moment.
To be fair, I don’t think it’s some heinous breach of citizens’ rights that Chandler and co had to apply for a business license. It’s not exactly outrageous to suggest that, yeah, a house full of YouTubers with hundreds of thousands of subscribers each probably counts as some sort of business. You don’t generally establish a YouTuber paradise fortress without the intention of making a buck or two. It’s also unlikely that your county is gonna come and bang down your door unless, say, you piss off somebody in a homeowner’s association or other third-party body. But I doubt all cases will be so clear cut. I suppose we’ll see.