Note: This article has to do with a 2008 incident where the AVGN YouTube account was banned from YouTube and restored. It does not have information on the most recent (2012) banning of the account. I will update it as I learn more.
James Rolfe, best known as his persona the “Angry Video Game Nerd“, had his YouTube account suspended for nearly 24 hours following a mistake by one of the sites he partners with to display his videos.
Rolfe, who became famous for his angry, and often vulgar, reviews of classic video games was one of the most popular directors on YouTube and is the tenth most subscribed to user on the site. His Channel has over 130,000 subscribers and over 6.5 million views.
When the suspension was discovered in the evening of the 19th, speculation mounted about the cause. Several commenters looked at the matter with suspicion and tried to blame a competing video game reviewer. Others attempted to blame YouTube accusing them of banning the account to further their own agenda.
These conspiracy theories were furthered by the previous closures of other accounts including Guru Larry and PlayItBogart, both also video game reviewers
However, other evidence pointed to a likely mistake by GameTrailers, a site Rolfe is affiliated with.
Although Rolfe had not been posting full videos to his YouTube account for some time, he had been posting trailers of his new episodes. When the account was down, most of his videos carried a generic “removed for a terms of service” violation”. However, one of the trailers had an error message indicating that it was removed due to a copyright complaint by GameTrailers.
GameTrailers, whose own YouTube account was suspended as well, was quiet during the controversy. However, when Rolfe’s account was restored, it was revealed that it had indeed been an error by GameTrailers that resulted in the removal.
As of the evening of the 20th, Rolfe’s account has been restored and everything seems to have returned to normal. However, it was a day that many fans of Rolfe’s will never likely forget.
Lessons to be Gleaned
The simple fact is that, when it comes to DMCA notices, mistakes happen. This is especially true when you are working for a company that may have more than one person involved in sending out takedown notices.
However, these mistakes need to be kept to an absolute minimum to avoid these kinds of problems. Not only did the incident hurt Rolfe by denying him access to his YouTube account, but also damaged YouTube’s reputation, caused something of a miniature revolt from other YouTube members, hurt the reputation of other reviewers, even though they had nothing to do with the suspension.
Worst of all, it resulted in the suspension of not just GameTrailer’s own account, but the account that provides some of the best promotion for them.
When sending DMCA notices, it is important to always make sure that the notice is valid, that it is for a use that you definitely intend to stop. Though they are very easy to file, they are typically very difficult to undo.
If you have someone else file notices on your behalf, ensure that either you have full editorial control over the action taken or that the person has a full understanding of the nuances of how your site works and what reuse is permitted.
This no easy task, but it is important to both ensure the effectiveness of your DMCA process and that incidents like this one do not happen to you.