Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts


Dan Hagen


With the advent of social video upload sites like YouTube, what constitutes fair use has become a hotly debated and often litigated subject. Major content rights holders in the movie and music industry assert ownership rights of content on video upload platforms, and the application of the fair use doctrine to such content is largely unclear. Amid these disputes over what constitutes fair use, new genres of digital content have arrived in the form of “Let’s Play” videos and other related media. In particular, “Let’s Plays”—videos in which prominent gamers play video games for the entertainment of others—are big business in the streaming and video upload world. Many video game producers vigorously assert the right to prevent the publishing of Let’s Play videos or to demand a cut of the revenues. This article discusses who legally possesses the right to distribute or profit from Let’s Play content under current law, and the way that courts ought to approach these disputes consistent with the principles of copyright protection. I conclude that the nature of video game content produces conceptual challenges not necessarily present in movies and music, and that these differences have a bearing on fair use analysis as it applies to Let’s Play videos.

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