This past weekend, YouTube celebrity Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg said the n-word while livestreaming a game of PlayerUnknown's Battleground. Although not confirmed to be a direct response to that particular incident, Firewatch developer Campo Santo issued a DMCA takedown of one of Kjellberg's videos where he played their game in a Let's Play. The move was meant to separate Campo Santo and Kjellberg, but a group of internet users have sprung up against Campo Santo for supposedly setting a dangerous precedent.
The only problem is that it's not precedent when video game companies already reserve the right to take down videos featuring their games.
Note to Self: Add Campo Santo games to list of products I'll never buy.Sir Dankus Memeus (@BentheWriter117) September 10, 2017
I endorse a boycott of Campo Santo and Firewatch in solidarity with Pewdiepie. Enough is enough of this craptivism bullshit. Spread it.Styxhexenhammer666 (@Styx666Official) September 10, 2017
Social media users in support of Kjellberg, or even just against Campo Santo's DMCA action, are arguing for a variety of things like a boycott of Campo Santo—or even weirder—for Kjellberg to sue Campo Santo and win the rights to Firewatch. Some have even cited a post on Campo Santo's website that encourages livestreaming as "false advertising" and grounds for litigation.
you know what'd be really funny? pewdiepie's current network suing Campo Santo and winning the rights to Firewatch as a franchise— Trilllizard (@trilllizard420) September 10, 2017
Like many of the people sounding off on Twitter, I'm not a lawyer. But I'm also not here to mince any words. Campo Santo wanted to separate the company and its game from Kjellberg—who has a history of racist and anti-semitic outbursts—and as lawyers have already commented, it is in Campo Santo's right to issue the DMCA as Firewatch is its own license.
"Ideas are not protected under copyright but the expression of an idea is," lawyer Michael Lee of Morrison & Lee LLP told Glixel in an interview. "Therefore, many parts of a video game are protected under copyright including the look of the game, the dialogue, and the music. The DMCA permits copyright owners to issue takedown requests of people infringing the copyright to a game. Technically, video game companies can issue takedown requests for any gameplay that is posted online and companies like Nintendo have done this in the past."
Lee cites bad feedback as a reason why companies don't usually wield DMCA takedowns, but if Kjellberg's being is something Campo Santo wants nothing to be a part of, that's just how the system works.
Naturally, as my coworker Mike and others have pointed out, DMCA takedowns have been used previously to the detriment of various online communities. Nintendo, Atlus' Persona 5 streaming, and others come to mind. So it's weird that there are those saying Campo Santos' use of DMCA is setting a precedent when the precedents were already set.
The obvious "precedent" here then is that in this particular case, Campo Santo used the punitive action to separate themselves from an offensive, and one could argue, harmful individual. And if that's a move other game developers want to do to keep their games away from being associated with racists or other dangerous individuals—well, I won't say all power to them because that power is already theirs.
If you're someone who's afraid that a video game company can now come after you for saying racist remarks while playing a video game, then maybe you have to reconsider your priorities since they can already come after your video game video for literally any other reason. And if you're wondering why corporations and private interests have so much power over your creative output, as many fair use advocates argue in regards to video game videos, then maybe you should reconsider how you feel about a free market system than you do about an indie game studio that doesn't want to associate themselves with an offensive YouTube personality.