PewDiePie racial slur sparks backlash from Campo Santo, Simogo

[UPDATE] Prominent YouTube streamers brace for fallout from "liability" PewDiePie's actions

Campo Santo co-founder Sean Vanaman has called on developers to file DMCA takedowns for PewDiePie's content, after the popular streamer used racist language in one of his videos.

PewDiePie, real name Felix Kjellberg, used the racial slur while streaming a session on PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds last night. As shown in this video, he quickly offered, "I didn't mean that in a bad way."

For Campo Santo's Sean Vanaman that clarification was far from enough. In a series of statements on Twitter, the Firewatch co-director said the studio would be filing a DMCA takedown for all of Kjellberg's Firewatch content, and would do so for all videos he makes using Campo Santo games in the future.

Vanaman described the racial slur as a "breaking point" in Campo Santo's tolerance of the divisive aspects of Kjellberg's persona.

"I am sick of this child getting more and more chances to make money off of what we make," he said. "He's worse than a closeted racist: he's a propagator of despicable garbage that does real damage to the culture around this industry."

Vanaman also acknowledged that Campo Santo was "complicit" in the situation, noting that PewDiePie's Firewatch video, which has 5.7 million views, helped the studio to make money.

In February this year, Kjellberg courted controversy with a video that used anti-semitic language. In an apparent attempt to satirise "how crazy the modern world is," he paid two men to hold up a sign bearing the slogan, "Death to all Jews."

"I picked something that seemed absurd to me - that people on Fiverr would say anything for 5 dollars," Kjellberg said. "I think it's important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes."

Update: Campo Santo isn't alone in wanting to cut ties to Kjellberg. Device 6 studio Simogo today went public as well, posting on Twitter, "Hi @pewdiepie. Can you delete your Year Walk Let's Plays from your @youtube channel? We don't want our work to be associated with you."

Update: Prominent YouTubers are braced for the fallout after PewDiePie's remarks, with figures like John "Total Biscuit" Bain and Jim Sterling highlighting how problematic Kjellberg has become for his peers.

Few developers have followed Campo Santo's lead in filing DMCA takedowns, but several high-profile YouTubers and streamers have voiced their concerns about the possible ramifications. As highlighted by Kotaku, The Jimquisition founder Jim Sterling said, "PewDiePie is just a liability at this point. For everyone in the business."

Daniel Hardcastle, the founder of Nerd Cubed, also voiced concern about the "fallout" to his 240,000 Twitter followers, stating that Kjellberg had, "once again put YouTube in a precarious place." John "Total Biscuit" Bain spoke directly to the implications of developers filing DMCA takedowns against Kjellberg's content, suggesting that it could bring a prevalent loophole to wider attention.

"The point is they've [Let's Play videos] never been fair use and we've had a tacit agreement to let it lie, until someone went and fucked it up," he said.

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Latest comments (6)

George Williams Owner 4 years ago
You play with fire - sometimes ya gonna get burnt.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.
Fool me weekly, hit the subscribe button.
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Andrew Whitehead Content & Community Manager, Mobcrush4 years ago
I had three reactions after seeing this news.
1. "I am sick of this child getting more and more chances to make money off of what we make" - well, kinda. The reality is PewDiePie drives sales, so we'll call this one even.
2. Filing a false DMCA, as Vanaman has threatened to do, is perjury. There are no two ways about this, if he files it he's breaking the law. You can call out PewDiePie for being ignorant, but you don't get to use the legal system as your own personal ban hammer when someone says something you don't like.
3. PewDiePie is in the wrong, and worse yet he said he'd stop making Nazi jokes after Charlottesville. Now here we are, weeks later and he's saying n****r on his stream. He won't learn, there's no reason to. He makes money hand over fist.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Andrew Whitehead on 11th September 2017 6:43pm

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Show all comments (6)
I'd hesitate a long time before calling it a 'false DMCA' - Ryan Morrison, an attorney who specialises in videogame and IP law seems to think it's quite valid, though he hasn't gone into detail about it yet. Let's Play-style videos like Pewdiepie specialises in have been in a legal grey area for a while but so far the law seems to be on the side of IP holders rather than Youtubers.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 4 years ago
@Andrew Whitehead: His company owns FireWatch, and that company is completely within its rights to demand removal of product featuring its ip . There is no commentary, there is no parody, it's PDP playing the game while screaming and shouting. He is creating a derivative work without permission, and DMCA is entirely appropriate and legal.
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd4 years ago
@Andrew Whitehead

With the greatest respect, I think you've been seriously mislead on the second point there.

Access to IP owners' content by YouTubers is a privilege, not a right. As you point out, if there is a mutual benefit IP owners turn a blind eye - this has always been the way with magazines, too. But if the association becomes negative, that courtesy can be withdrawn. This is what the DMCA (for all its problems) is for. Most people don't pursue the law as stringently as the larger publishers with family friendly images to uphold (Disney, Nintendo, etc.) but it's still the law.

There are a few friendly games industry lawyers who lurk on who can probably give a better overview of how IP law works.


Personally, I'd like to see some of the studios whose work is very closely associated with using Let's Plays as viral marketing, who have actively courted influencers like PewDiePie over the last few years, follow Campo and Simogo's lead. But that seems sadly unlikely.
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