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'World of Tanks' company criticised for their war on critique

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The video game publishing company Wargaming has been under fire recently for alleged censorship of a critic’s views. But what really happened, and are they in the wrong?

The controversy began on 18th May when YouTube user SirFoch uploaded a video about Wargaming’s ‘World of Tanks’, critiquing their latest addition to the game, the ‘Chrysler K Grand Finals premium tank’ (priced at $80, or £62).

SirFoch’s argument was that by introducing such an overpowered item into the game, Wargaming is forcing its players (of which there are 140 million) to buy premium items in order to stand a chance of being competitive, despite it’s free-to-play model.

The company’s response? To issue a copyright strike against his video on YouTube and have it taken down.

Whilst this situation seems to be pretty straightforward, with the company attacking a critic’s views, there are a few more nuances to the tale.

Most importantly, it’s worth mentioning that SirFoch was reviewing this new product as one of Wargaming’s “community contributors”, users who “go the extra mile in order to help other players” and help each other out through reviews such as this.

In their statements regarding the dispute Wargaming stand by this fact, claiming that the copyright notice was issued due to SirFoch “defam[ing] our company image with the tone and language he used”. To give you an idea of what this is referring to, here’s a snippet of SirFoch’s review:

“F*** Wargaming, f*** their terrible way of making these premium tanks lately, and f*** this premium tank in particular.”

Are Wargaming entitled to expect better from their “community contributors”?

Well, yes. They’re paying them to represent the company through the premium items that they review, so at the very least Wargaming should be allowed to restrict the language utilised by its reviewers, with users of the game being potentially as young as seven. They want to present a good image of the company, and employing profanity-riddled reviewers probably doesn’t fit within their business plan.

However, what crosses the line is Wargaming’s method of enacting revenge against SirFoch. Withdrawing him from the “community contributor” programme is as far as this should have gone, and using YouTube’s copyright system to remove his review was a step too far.

YouTube’s Content ID system is to be used to remove infringing material from videos, such as when someone uploads an entire film to YouTube illegally. Using clips underneath a voiceover in a review of the said film is perfectly acceptable. In this case SirFoch’s video falls into the latter category, known as Fair Use.

Abuse of YouTube’s copyright system by companies is a well-known problem across the website, and has been at the centre of many reviewers’ lives for years. Critics like Jim Sterling, Alex Horton (I Hate Everything), and Doug Walker (The Nostalgia Critic) have been vocal about the problems that YouTube’s Content ID system has caused for their livelihoods, and though YouTube has implemented some changes it clearly hasn’t removed all abuses of the system.

Adding a copyright strike to someone’s video is not how you should respond when you disapprove of their views. That’s a sure way of seeming like you want to censor their views, as opposed to merely seeing it as “defamation”.

Now, Wargaming has retracted the copyright strike and apologised after all the backlash, asserting that they “could have handled the situation a lot better”. Understatement much?

According to a statement released on their website, the company say that they “strongly support our players’, including our Community Contributors’, right to speak critically about us and our games”, and that “Wargaming will not take copyright action against opinions based on our publicly released content”.

This is a big step for a video game company, and could be a sign of important changes occurring within the industry. We can but hope.

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