Update #2 [Tue 8th Nov, 2022 13:30 GMT]: Lady Decade has deleted all of her tweets back to October, a move which also takes her previous statement (see below) offline.
Update #1 [Fri 14th Oct, 2022 18:40 BST]: Lady Decade issued a statement on Twitter, which has now been deleted.
However, you can find a screen grab of the text below:
We approached Martin McNeil for comment in the light of this Twitter post, and he has given us the following statement:
I stand by the statements of fact that I have made in the video that I published on October 7 of 2022; I respect that the legal advice given to Mrs. and Mr. Varty in relation to the same facts appears to have resulted in an opinion that diverges from my own. Setting that point aside, I remain confident of my position and, equally, am of the opinion that a full and proper resolution of this matter - one that addresses all facts and circumstances beginning on April 4 of 2021 through to the present - is still achievable in a cordial fashion without resorting to a formal adversarial position.
Original Story [Tue 11th Oct, 2022 14:30 BST]: Recently, law student and former professional photographer Martin McNeil posted a video to his YouTube channel discussing a recent dispute between himself and two prominent British retro gaming YouTubers, husband and wife duo Top Hat Gaming Man (121k subs) and Lady Decade (83k subs) – also known as Richard and Kloe Varty.
"Following a lot of speculation and requests for comments in relation to that video about me which was published on August 6 of this year, I now find myself in a situation where I have little choice but to talk about some of the facts and circumstances preceding that video and, more importantly, a few things that have happened since," McNeil's video description reads.
A brief timeline of events goes like this; an image of the late, great Ray Harryhausen taken by McNeil when he was a commercial photographer was used in Top Hat Gaming Man's video on Sega's Altered Beast, published on April 4th. Alerted to this legitimate infringement of his copyright, McNeil got in touch asking for a retrospective fee to be paid for the image's use – just over £470. He also issued a DMCA takedown notice on The Top Hat Gaming Man channel via YouTube, explaining that his previous attempts to reason with copyright infringers seldom bore results.
Rather than pay the fee, Top Hat Gaming Man's wife - Lady Decade - published a tearful video on August 5th entitled "I'm scared" (the video is now set to private). In the video, she alluded to threatening correspondence from McNeil but doesn't refer to him directly, and gives the impression that stern legal action was about to be taken and her (and her family's) livelihood was at risk.
Discord conversations – which have since been leaked online – show the aftermath:
The highly emotive video triggered a predictable reaction online; McNeil was accused of being a 'copyright troll' and suffered threats and abuse, and "at least" two instances where his home address was 'doxxed' (he has passed the details onto the police who are investigating). McNeil, for his part, remained silent during this time, explaining in his recent video that, given that a legal dispute was active, keeping quiet is the best course of action.
On August 11th, McNeil received a letter from Richard Varty saying that he was happy to pay the fee originally asked for, but McNeil refused as he felt the situation had escalated since the original copyright claim was made, mainly via the accusations made in Lady Decade's video on August 5th.
Lines of communication were opened up between McNeil and Varty's solicitor, the latter of which asked the former for bank details regarding what McNeil assumed was a potential settlement. When the original fee of just over £470 was paid into McNeil's account, he tried to return it but got no reply; he has since made a donation of the same amount to Clacton Food Bank in the Varty's name.
The reaction within the retro gaming community has been, at times, somewhat exploisive. Kim Justice, another notable British retro gaming YouTuber, issued the following statement on September 5th:
On October 14th, Kim posted the following video appealing to the Vartys to make a statement on the matter:
As of now, McNeil still considers this an ongoing issue, and neither Top Hat Gaming Man's wife or Lady Decade have referenced the issue since his video went live. The talent agency that represented them at the time the Alterest Beast video went live, Colossal Influence, has removed both of them from its roster, but we've been informed this is due to them moving to another agency.
We reached out to both parties in this matter the moment this piece was published. McNeil has told us that he has nothing else to add to this "fairly accurate summary", but we've yet to hear back from the Vartys. If they get in touch, we will of course update this piece.