Microsoft has updated its 'Game Content Usage Rules', in a likely bid to cater more towards streamers and Let's Play videos – as well as almost any other piece of video content.
The real crux of the changes revolve around one key section, granting a: “personal, non-exclusive, non-transferable license to use and display Game Content and to create derivative works based upon Game Content”.
Essentially making a large bulk of content being created by Xbox/PC gamers now permitted by Microsoft and free from legal prosecution. Of course, don't go ahead and grab a Game Capture HD just yet; there are still some caveats which you need to take into consideration.
These rules apply to all Microsoft Studio games (think Halo, Fable, Forza – all games published and owned by Microsoft Studios). There is a longer list, but the best and most effective way to check is to go on the specific game's Community page on the official Xbox website. That way there are no arguments if the copyright lawyers come knocking.
Firstly; you must include the following template in you video description/somewhere on the page you are creating content: “[The title of your Item] was created under Microsoft’s “Game Content Usage Rules” using assets from [Name of the Microsoft Game], © Microsoft Corporation.” Plus a link to the official rules (which can be found at the bottom of this article).
Secondly; you're not allowed to reverse engineer to access hidden assets which don't normally appear in the full game, or modify the games to create pornographic, racist, vulgar, or hateful content. Though it does appear modding is permitted, as long as you follow the above guidelines. Which all seems reasonably fair from Microsoft's perspective.
Thirdly, and likely most importantly; you're not permitted to sell or make compensation from your content. This means you're not allowed to sell your video to viewers, put it behind a subscription paywall, or put the video on the same site as you sell other merchandise or services (even if they're not connected to Microsoft at all).
DON'T PANIC YET. Microsoft did make it clear you're more than welcome to have optional donations (i.e. Paypal, or presumably Patreon) available, and earn money from advertisements on the page (i.e. YouTube or Twitch advertisements). So the only major change to the current status quo is the inability to put advertisements in the videos themselves. Including product placement or brand deals with other companies.
Oh! Finally; by creating the content you grant Microsoft “a royalty-free, non-exclusive, transferable, worldwide, license to Microsoft and any of Microsoft’s partners to use and distribute that Item for any purpose and without obligation to pay you anything or credit you.” So should you produce the next viral hit, or DayZ expansion, don't expect to get a bank transfer from Microsoft.
While these new guidelines do seem a little restrictive in places, it's refreshing to see Microsoft taking some positive steps towards Let's Play/Streaming content. Especially with the open permission to use on-page advertisements and Patreon.
When Nintendo stepped into the same world last year the outcome was very different - with Nintendo taking a personal cut from pretty much everything created.
If you want to read the guidelines in full for yourself (which is highly recommended if you are a content creator) you can find them right here: http://www.xbox.com/en-GB/Community/Developer/Rules