Do commentary YouTube videos go too far?


Molly Wetsch

YouTuber Danny Gonzalez recently came under fire for a commentary video he made about a local radio show.

Molly Wetsch, News Editor

YouTube has always been a platform for users to share their opinions and create content that can be consumed by the entire Internet. Recently, a genre of video called “commentary” has become incredibly popular on the site. Commentary videos revolve around content creators watching and providing their opinions on a piece of media, such as another YouTube video, a social media account or a TV show. Some popular creators even react to and comment on their old videos.

Although this genre is popular, it is not without controversy, especially among those that they criticize. Recently, one prominent YouTuber named Danny Gonzalez almost got into legal trouble regarding his videos. In this video, he reacted to and criticized a local radio show called “Waiting by the Phone,” where listeners call in to try and reconnect with people who ghosted them after a date. One of the show’s fans sent the video to the host over Twitter, and she responded by saying that Gonzalez should expect to get “slapped by legal” for using her face and voice on his channel. The only problem with the host’s statement is that her show falls under fair use laws, which means that as long as Gonzalez sufficiently altered the footage and added something to it (an entire commentary video, for example) he could not get into legal trouble with the radio show or its parent company, KIIS-FM. Gonzalez commented on this issue days after it occurred in another YouTube video, calling the host’s response “nasty” and “completely unsubstantiated.” But does the host have a right to be upset that her face and voice is being used for criticism, essentially making her a laughingstock to Gonzalez’s 3.5 million subscribers?

The short answer is yes. She can be as angry as she likes, but in reality, fair use protects any content creators from facing real consequences. However, with the rise of sites like YouTube where it becomes incredibly easy for anyone to upload anything without much backlash, a community has risen calling for a reevaluation of fair use laws regarding online platforms. Some commentary creators on YouTube can be very harsh to those they are critiquing, which can cause many problems when that creator’s fans go on to harass the critiqued person in question. There have been instances in which, after a famous creator reviewed a video or social media account, the user receives so much hate that they delete their account altogether. Many times, the user has not even done anything wrong, necessarily; Gonzalez’s video revolved around how “cringey” and “scripted” the show was, even going on to make fun of the hosts’ voices.

So, where do we draw the line? These creators have a right to use people’s content however they like under fair use, even if it is for harsh criticism and a quick laugh for viewers. Movie and music critics are never attacked for having an opinion on a piece of art; it is their job to critique it and share their opinion. Should we treat these YouTube commentary creators any differently? Some may say no, but the truth is that these creators could potentially be truly harming people’s lives. They are not professional critics that get paid to give their opinionthose people are trained in their field and have a college degree or some other credentials that makes them qualified to critique people’s work. Commentary creators typically don’t have any of these things, and worse, they have armies of fans behind them willing to go to war based on their idol’s opinion. Although these creators are technically protected under fair use laws, rather than using others’ content to make their own mediocre videos, they should try to be more creative and engaging rather than bullying others in order to rise to fame.