Will a copyright strike put an end to PewDiePie's racist behaviour?

The world's most subscribed YouTuber is under fire, again, for using a racial slur. 

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Less than a month ago, YouTube's biggest star, PewDiePie, apologised for making Nazi jokes. The YouTuber, real name Felix Kjellberg, became a hero for white nationalists after paying two Indian men to hold up a sign reading "Death to all Jews". Though critics inside and outside the media called PewDiePie out for this act of anti-semitism back in February, the 27-year-old ignored the criticism, saying his behaviour was taken "out of context". Then Charlottesville happened.

"I thought now would be a good time as any to just say I want nothing to do with these people," he said, referring to the white supremacist protestors and yep, actual, flag-waving Nazis. "I don't think anyone that watches me thinks I'm an actual Nazi, but I know a lot of people might still have doubt." The gaming YouTuber then vowed to stop making Nazi jokes in his videos.

Yesterday, he said the word "n*****" on a live-streamed broadcast.

"I don't mean that in a bad way," he then told his 57 million subscribers. It is yet to be seen whether he will issue a formal apology, and whether this will be as authentic as his former vows to change. 

So what will stop PewDiePie? Though Disney dropped the star after the incident in February, he nonetheless enjoys great success alongside his fondness for racial slurs (he has gained four million subscribers since February). Now, however, things might finally change.

Sean Vanaman, a co-founder of video game company Campo Santo, tweeted last night that his company are filing a DMCA takedown of any of PewDiePie's content featuring their popular game, Firewatch. In essence, a DCMA takedown is when content is removed from the internet at the request of the copyright owner. In the past, Campo Santo have allowed PewDiePie to use footage of their games as it benefited both brands, a move Vanaman now says made him "complicit".

"I'd urge other developers & will be reaching out to folks much larger than us to cut him off from the content that has made him a milionaire [sic]," he tweeted last night. 

Were other companies to follow suit, PewDiePie's income would quickly suffer. Though he occasionally vlogs, most of his content relies on filming footage of video games that he's playing. Though he has lost many brand deals and contracts because of his behaviour, he could always fall back on his (substantial) YouTube income. This may no longer be the case.

PewDiePie's most common defence is that he's "just joking", with many defending his racism as ironic. Yet in a world where actual Nazis thrive, the star is about to learn that life isn't just a game. 

Amelia Tait is a freelance journalist, and was previously the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer. She tweets at @ameliargh