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Minecraft and COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act)

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Level 64 : High Grandmaster Soldier
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Legal Disclaimer: I am not your lawyer, I am not giving legal advice, the thoughts expressed here are my own and mine alone.

For some background history on why this is being brought up now, recently YouTube and Google have been fined in excess of 170 million dollars for tracking information on children under the age of 13, as well as having targeted ads directed towards said children. This is a violation of COPPA 15 U.S.C. §§ 6501–6506

YouTube after paying the fine implemented a system that now requires content creators on YouTube to verify whether or not their video is made for adults or children under the age of 13. They can do this channel wide or per video, if they do mark it as either YouTube content creators will then lose the following depending on what they set it as.

Channel Wide
-Notification Bell
-Ability to save the video to playlist
-Comments -Info Cards
-Stories
-Community Tab
-Targeted ads

Individual Video
-Comments
-Targeted ads
-Info Cards
-End Screens

In addition YouTube has an algorithm that can change your intended audience without your input. As well as people manually reviewing videos. So the option you set could very well be changed for you.

The way a video is decided to be intended for children is extremely vague, which is done on purpose to allow the FTC to decide on its own. The way described by the FTC themselves on what is intended for children is based upon the following criteria.
  • the subject matter,
  • visual content,
  • the use of animated characters or child-oriented activities and incentives,
  • the kind of music or other audio content,
  • the age of models,
  • the presence of child celebrities or celebrities who appeal to children,
  • language or other characteristics of the site,
  • whether advertising that promotes or appears on the site is directed to children, and
  • competent and reliable empirical evidence about the age of the audience.
In terms of how this effects Minecraft on Youtube and my opinion based on factual evidence. I believe just about every single Minecraft video will be marked as intended for children under the current system. This has not yet been confirmed or denied by the FTC or YouTube. This opinion is based upon the age rating for Minecraft, and it's large presence on the Youtube Kids website itself. As well as the automatic and manual review done by YouTube, which has been setting Minecraft videos as intended for children without input from the channel owner. My opinion may be wrong.

What this means for content creators on YouTube making Minecraft related content, is that when their video is set for children. They will lose all targeted ads, meaning they will lose 80-90% of their revenue per video.

If you are found to mark your video for adults, but then it is changed for you by YouTube as for children. You could face small and severe penalties depending on the severity from YouTube, such as channel strikes. As well as legal penalties can happen including fines limited to $42,530 per violation.

Good News

Now onto the good news. The odds of getting a fine for a violation is not likely and if you are, it is going to be no where near that $42,540 mark. The FTC will do it on a per case basis based upon the income of the video by applying a multiplier.

The other good news is the FTC does recognize that just because a type of video could appeal toward children, doesn't directly mean it is targeted towards children. The problem with that is the system set in place by YouTube themselves which intentionally limits that kind of option. Since YouTube currently only allows Adult or Child related options on videos. The solution to hopefully take place would be a General Audience option. Meaning that the video is for everyone.

Other good news is that the FTC is reviewing COPPA and what is currently in place could be changed. They are accepting comments on this currently until December 9th. Which you can do here. https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FTC-2019-0054-0001

The biggest issue out of all this is the limitations set in place by YouTube to remain COPPA compliant by removing all targeted ads for videos intended for children.

With all of that said. I would prepare for the worst and accept that as a Minecraft YouTuber that possibly 80-90% of my ad revenue will go away come January 1st, 2020. I would also take steps to ensure that as a Minecraft YouTuber that the majority of my income does not come from YouTube come January 1st, 2020.

Legal Disclaimer: This is not advice, I am not your lawyer. This is simply what I would do. All information given at the date of this posting is subject to change come January 1st, 2020.

If you have any questions about this consult a lawyer familiar with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations.

Important Links:
https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2019/11/youtube-channel-owners-your-content-directed-children

https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/childrens-online-privacy-protection-rule-six-step-compliance

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkRfArvrzheW2E7b6SVT7vQ/community?lb=Ugztj0HNRqbEabtaomB4AaABCQ
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