05 November 2009

YouTube Partner Experiment: Doors closed

A few posts back you may remember that we were going to test out accepting an offer from YouTube to enable revenue sharing on our machinima videos. This offer came after we applied for the YouTube partner program for the second time.

We had some hesitation because even after repeatedly trying to contact Valve we received no replies from them about us joining the YouTube program. Well, we decided to go for it anyway, and here is what we got back from YouTube:

"Thanks for submitting your video(s) listed below for revenue sharing. Because you have not provided adequate documentation that you have the necessary rights to commercially use all the video material and music, we have disabled revenue sharing."

OK, now we sort of expected something along these lines even though we hoped for the best. But here is where the unfair practices kick in, you see, our video is actively being sponsored by the YouTube revenue sharing program over on the Machinima.com YouTube channel.

Yes, that is correct, YouTube says they cannot allow us to join the revenue sharing program on our channel because our videos cannot be verified but we have a video that has revenue sharing allowed on the Machinima.com YouTube channel. Here it is with ads all over it.

Machinima.com is allowed to make advertising revenue off the very same videos that we are not allowed to make advertising revenue on. Not to mention the hundreds of other machinima on Machinima.com YouTube channel that do not contain as much original content as ours.

This has nothing to do with Machinima.com and we are not trying to imply anything negative toward them, it is not their fault YouTube is not clear on what is going on here. Machinima.com is a great site and they have a great YouTube channel and they should be a YouTube partner. But if YouTube is going to let Machinima.com be a YouTube partner by using our videos then why won't they let us be a partner using our videos?

It is very defeating to say the least. It would be one thing if no machinima was ever allowed partner but that is clearly not the case. If we upload all our machinima to Machinima.com then ads will be placed all over them and Machinima.com will get all the revenue sharing but if we upload our machinima to our site, nothing.

Also, the YouTube response is a generic cut and paste denial because we said all the music was original and fully owned by us but they say "...necessary rights to commercially use all the video material and music." We could not possibly have more rights to the music. It is 100% original, created and owned by us. So there is not even any indication as to what the actual problem is so we can try to fix it.

The only assumption that can be made is that Machinima.com somehow has some sort of contract with all the game companies that all the machinima on their site use and have been given full rights to use anything they want on YouTube and has supplied that evidence to YouTube.

So that concludes our YouTube partnership experiment. YouTube will not accept our machinima without some sort of written agreement from Valve (we assume) and Valve will not respond to us in any way about anything we are doing.

Doors closed.

Where to now?


  1. Very interesting. Is there any way to interpret the Valve ToS in your favour? I don't know what the ToS are, but if there is no explicit mention of machinima then the area might be grey enough to interpret in your favour.

    Also, as Youtube is asking about the rights of the video, they will probably be thinking more about TV shows, films, etc getting used. Your actual video is all yours, you didn't create it from another's tv show, film, etc.

    I know, I know, it wouldn't stand up in court, and you would be taking some risk if you said you had the rights to use it. Then again, you might edge Valve along to making a statement which might be in your favour. Unfortunately, the community only moves forward by people taking some risks though I don't know what I would do in your shoes.

    Good luck if you try.

  2. What about trying out one of the indie machinima programs? I would say iclone looking at your work. I'm sorry you've had these problems, these rights issues just go and on, Kate

  3. Have you tried talking to Valve's publishers? We've had more luck going that way in the past.

  4. Thanks for the thoughts everybody.

    Russel, we feel like we have already started taking chances and interpreting the use in our favor since we have been heavily promoting it and have won a couple awards. This YouTube partner experiment was pushing it a bit further and we felt was a bit risky also. We definitely have been trying to push this to advance machinima.

    Hi Kate, that is definitely an option but we chose the Half Life 2 universe for a reason and we feel we would be giving up a lot if we moved in that direction. Of course we would gain a lot also so who knows, maybe that is where we will be forced to go. We also get a bit of a thrill off of making the game do things it was not meant to do. ;)

    Hey Hugh, our attempts to contact Vavle have consisted of repeatedly sending emails to every email account they offer on their site. The truth is we don't know who to contact. We did read about how Valve sued their publishers once in the paste, heh, that does not sound fun.

    I don't know, I guess we will continue to try until we finally get the official word that we must shut down or we realize that the only way to make progress is to move away from Valve games entirely and start working with the movie making programs.

    Thanks again for the thoughts and any advice.

  5. Your explanation of the situation is clear, and it sounds as if you should be suitable for revenue sharing. So why not have the conversation with YouTube as well as here on your blog? It seems you gave up pretty quickly...?

  6. To clear up some things; there's two different partner terms being lumped together here.

    Being a youtube partner, such as machinima.com, is no easy task. They want you to have a ton of subscribers and upload videos very frequently. Very few people are accepted into this.

    Seperate from the partner program is a system where you can enable ads on popular videos, provided you own the rights to them. This does not make you a partner. I don't know why they use the partner term as it just confuses people.

    Actual youtube partners can get away with much more than you or I. They make youtube lots of money, so in turn youtube turns a blind eye to what theyre doing (see machinima.com).

    Your video that you submitted for profit sharing was likely processed by some youtune lacky that doesn't know what he's looking at. I've never gone through the process myself so I can't say if there's anything you may have done wrong.

    Machinima is sort of a grey area as far as game companies are concerned. You are using their assets, but they know it's also free marketing.vIf you're trying to ask Valve if you can profit from videos made in their games, that might not go over too well. Instead you should ask if they have any intention of releasing a set of machinima guidelines such as what Microsoft and Blizzard did (example: http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/community/machinima/letter.html). If you want a response, try contacting Gabe Newell himself, he responds to every email he recieves (gaben@valvesoftware.com).

    Also machinima.com isn't a "great site". Most in the know would agree they're very sleazy.

  7. Hey Anthony, we just don't know who else to contact. We submitted our application and described our video and they turned us down with a generic denial letter. You are right and we will reply to the denial email but I doubt it will get a response. We mainly posted here to share our story and information with the rest of the machinima community.

    And thanks to the anonymous post with the partnership clarifications and great information and advice! :)

    As for machinima.com, we just like to avoid negativity when possible. Our complaint here is with the way YouTube decides who gets to profit from videos and that is not a machinima.com issue.

    We have had several interactions with machinima.com and we can say that the people we have worked with have been great. In fact, they noticed our post and advised us again to join their director program.

    For our goals machinima.com as an entire entity maybe does not necessarily represent what we want to get out of our machinima efforts. I think it should be given credit for the attention it has been able to bring to machinima. However, I would agree that it does not always come across as good attention. ;)

  8. How much does m.com pay the people creating machinima and putting it into their channel?

  9. Hey billius, it is like $2 for every 1,000 views after 20,000 or something. Not much unless you are getting a serious amount of views on a lot of videos. Still cool they offer anything though.

    Well, we sent off our email to Gabe Newell so we will see if he responds to us at all.

    But we still are not sure how to contact YouTube about this again. The denial email is no_reply@youtube.com and I have not found an email anywhere on the site that seems appropriate. I did try to contact through a YouTube editor email or something a while ago and never got a response.

  10. So on 1, 020 000 views, you would make $2K?

  11. Yeah billius, it is probably something like that I guess but I really don't know for sure. Realistically though most videos won't get nearly that many views.

  12. Would sending a written paper letter to the YouTube offices work? Or phone them?

    And good luck with the email to Gabe Newell. If he sees your work, I'm sure he'll be impressed!

  13. Maybe it's worth trying to contact Paul Marino of the AMAS (machiniam.org) about this. He had contact with Valve with getting his ' I'm still seen Breen' music video shown on MTV. Ok that was years ago and I have not heard a lot from him recently. Good luck

  14. Hey Dan, maybe, I don't know. It seems a bit weird to call some number and ask to talk to somebody about machinima, heh. And no we have not heard back from Gabe at all. We sent him a long email about our wanting to start a dialogue with Valve about our work and machinima in general and how we have tried all other contact info with no response from Valve. And we got no response.

    We actually did contact Paul and he said that was a long time ago and that it is more known now that Valve is harder to contact. From our experience they are impossible to contact.