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Even the biggest YouTube stars can get their ad revenue taken away in a copyright claim. At least temporarily.
PewDiePie, the most popular YouTuber in the world, uploaded a video on Tuesday with an old clip from Steve Irwin, the “Crocodile Hunter” and wildlife enthusiast who was killed by a stingray in 2006. And by Wednesday, he had received a copyright claim. “Kinda annoying when you’re trying to commemorate someone and the footage gets claimed,” PewDiePie tweeted, as Dexerto noted.
The tweet has since been deleted, but the problem is over PewDiePie commenting on his channel about PETA’s recent controversy surrounding Irwin. Last month, on Irwin’s birthday, PETA said the Crocodile Hunter died while “harassing a ray” and that the Google doodle that was used that day to commemorate him “sends a dangerous, fawning message.”
That statement was met with plenty of Twitter criticism, and as PewDiePie reviewed those memes on his 88-million subscriber strong channel on Tuesday, he used a short clip from an old Irwin show.
Although the clip was reportedly about 30 seconds and even though PewDiePie could have made a good case that it fell under the “fair use” standard, the entire video was copyright claimed by Nine Entertainment.
In YouTube’s guidelines, that means Nine Entertainment gets to take all the ad revenue produced by the video—which, as of this writing, had more than 4.6 million views. The original content creator can appeal the decision of the copyright claim, but that doesn’t work much of the time because the appeal goes directly to the person or company who made the claim in the first place.
Eventually, the original content creator can be punished by YouTube if they continue to appeal the claim. Which is why the copyright claim system has been so widely controversial in the past several months, as YouTubers like TheFatRat, AngryJoeShow, Smelly Octopus, Star Wars Theory, Dash Cam Owners Australia, and 2nacheki have spoken out about the perceived unfairness of the system after they were hit with claims.
In this case, though, PewDiePie used his enormous popularity to his advantage. He deleted the Irwin clip from his video, and he said later Wednesday that the copyright claim had been removed.
Yet, this is an issue that’s probably far from over. PewDiePie has previously spoken out about the claim system and in support for the YouTubers who have been flummoxed by it. But at the same time, he’s also feuded with female Twitch stars Alinity Divine and Pokimane for their threats to copyright claim other YouTubers’ content.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.