A Redmond gun-maker is suing a YouTube video producer over a sponsorship agreement that fell short of expectations, possibly because of changes in YouTube’s terms of service that restricted gun-related content.
Radian Weapons alleges in a lawsuit in Deschutes County Circuit Court that GY6vids LLC of Texas misrepresented that it could advertise Radian’s products, failed to inform viewers that the promotion was a paid advertisement and purposely kept the video private, in an effort to keep YouTube from discovering the video violated the terms of service.
The video, “Getting Shot at Point Blank Range — Part 2,” obtained 3 million views, but it was published as “unlisted,” meaning it couldn’t be promoted by YouTube or found in any search, according to the lawsuit. And the link to Radian’s website that GY6vids posted with the video generated only four clicks, the lawsuit says.
Now Radian questions the veracity of the view count and is trying to get back more than $15,000. GY6vids was a YouTube channel specializing in gun demonstrations with more than 600,000 subscribers, but it has moved to an advertising-free platform, Patreon, in the wake of YouTube policy changes.
“It was strange that it got so many views, being that it was unlisted,” said Paul Barton, an attorney at Olsen Barton LLC in Lake Oswego representing Radian. The lawsuit was filed April 6 after both sides traded demand letters, he said.
GY6vids said that Radian breached the sponsorship agreement signed in September and wanted more than $600,000, said Josiah Underwood, operations manager at Radian, which was founded by his brother, Joshua Underwood. Radian had agreed to pay 3 cents per view over a six-month period, according to the agreement. That would translate to $90,000 if the count of 3 million views is accurate.
GY6vids owner Andrew Boetjer didn’t respond to messages left on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. His attorney, Matt Levin at Markowitz Herbold PC, also did not respond to a message from The Bulletin.
Radian makes AR-15 rifles but is best-known for its charging handle, an after-market replacement product that makes it easier to load the weapon or clear malfunctions.
Radian executives weren’t aware YouTube had changed its terms of service in April 2017, according to the lawsuit. YouTube banned advertising for firearms, firearm components and ammunition, and GY6vid’s channel became restricted content, the suit says.
“Because of the change in YouTube’s advertising policy, GY6 was losing revenue and was desperate to find new sources of income,” the lawsuit says. As a result, GY6 intentionally failed to inform Radian of the change in YouTube’s policy, and that would keep GY6 from advertising Radian’s products as required under the agreement, the lawsuit claims.
Without informing Radian, the lawsuit says, GY6 published the video as “unlisted,” the lawsuit says.
In the video that Radian sponsored, Boetjer fired weapons at objects from point-blank range to observe the effects, the lawsuit says. GY6 opened the video with a 15-second segment that discussed Radian, mentioned the video was sponsored by Radian and included Radian’s logo in the top-right corner for the first 15 seconds. The video’s page also included a link to Radian’s website.
YouTube content creators split advertising revenue with the site, but that income stream has dried up for channels like GY6.
“As many of you know YouTube Ad Revenue (My usual funding put toward filming new content) is at a all time low right now … this is due to many factors that are to (sic) long winded to get into at the moment,” says a note posted on GY6’s Patreon site, which has 299 patrons.
“Your Pledges help a ton, and allows us to focus on all future video productions without having to pander to YouTube BS … If we want to do something that is ‘NOT SUITABLE FOR ADVERTISERS’ we can just do it!”
Despite the backdrop of controversial YouTube content, Radian’s dispute with GY6vids will boil down to contract law, said Mohsen Manesh, associate professor at the University of Oregon School of Law. “Did GY6 have a duty to disclose the change in YouTube’s terms of service?” Manesh said. “Generally no, there’s no duty.”
But that doesn’t mean GY6vids could misrepresent the expected return on advertising to lure Radian into a contract, Manesh said. Radian might have a valid claim that GY6vids lied, but the gun-maker also has to show that it relied on GY6vids’ false claims, he said.
The two-page sponsorship agreement’s all-caps disclaimer, which says, “large amounts of traffic CANNOT BE GUARANTEED by GY6vids,” could make it difficult for Radian to prove that it relied on GY6vids, Manesh said. “It’s not a slam dunk, given the language in the contract,” he said.
Radian’s lawsuit alleges fraudulent inducement related to GY6’s failure to disclose YouTube’s terms of service, but it doesn’t make a claim relating to the dubious view count.
Business owners could protect themselves from these kind of disputes by negotiating for payment based on clicks, rather than views, or through third-party auditing of the views, Manesh said.
“This kind of arrangement and disputes it’s going to engender are about as old as click-bait advertising on the internet,” he said. “How many people saw our ad, and why did so few click through?”
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