Will AI Avatars Ease Creator Burnout?

Makena Binker Cosen

Jordi van den Bussche, known online as “Kwebbelkop,” has been uploading gaming videos and reaction content to YouTube for nearly 12 years. He started when he was just 16 years old and has continued almost every day since then. With more than 5,000 videos, his channel has amassed 15 million subscribers and 7 billion views.[1] Over the past 4 years, Mr. van den Bussche has experimented with various content creation strategies, such as transitioning channel hosts and creating a virtual avatar. These endeavors were aimed at maintaining his channel’s momentum while addressing the burnout associated with daily uploads.[2] However, his latest innovation has sparked great controversy.


Pictured left to right: Jordi van den Bussche in a recent video;[3] first generation of Kwebbelkop AI;[4] second generation Kwebbelkop AI[5]

As of last August, Mr. van den Bussche handed his channel over to “Kwebbelkop AI,” a photorealistic avatar of himself. He maintains its dialogue and gestures are controlled by artificial intelligence.[6] Kwebbelkop AI continues his legacy of gameplay and reaction content.[7] Mr. van den Bussche explains that his channel aims to showcase the future of AI-powered storytelling. He also claims to be testing commercial AI content creation tools he is building under JVDB Studios.[8] Fellow creator Jelle “Jelly” van Vutch challenges the idea that AI can generate dialogue reacting to YouTube clips. Instead, he hypothesizes that Mr. van den Buscche uses existing AI programs to overlay his likeness onto recordings of a human actor’s reactions.[9]

Even without AI involvement, the reaction video genre has faced significant criticism. Reaction videos capture the raw, unfiltered responses of an individual or a group of people encountering a piece of content for the first time. Viewers enjoy watching reaction videos to feel connected to the person reacting or—in the case of an unsympathetic reaction—to other viewers in the comment section. Reaction videos may also provide explanatory comments that contextualize the underlying content for viewers.[10] Creating a reaction video often involves using copyrighted content, such as viral videos, movie scenes, or music releases. By law, this requires permission or a license. Yet, the commentary and criticism in a reaction video may allow the creator to use parts of the content without permission under the fair use doctrine.[11] However, not all reaction videos are created equal.

Many reaction videos are admonished for exploiting other creators’ content for views. In the landmark case Hosseinzadeh v. Klein, the U.S. District Court distinguished that “[s]ome reaction videos . . . intersperse short segments of another’s work with criticism and commentary, while others are more akin to a group viewing session without commentary.”[12] The latter constitute copyright infringement. These videos tend to attract viewers by compiling similar content, suggesting that viewers are interested in the video’s underlying content, not its “reaction.” While most cases have not been litigated, a growing number of content creators are using YouTube’s copyright removal request form to remove their clips from reactors’ videos.[13]

Does the introduction of AI avatars change the standard of lawfulness for reaction videos? Taking Mr. van den Bussche at his word, let us assume he owns all inputs used to train the AI powering Kwebbelkop AI. As for the AI’s outputs, the US Copyright Office has refused to register wholly AI-generated works, since courts do not recognize AI as an author for legal purposes.[14] Yet, it is rare for YouTubers to rely on copyright to monetize their videos, looking instead to AdSense and brand sponsorships. Moreover, a work need not be copyrightable to be a fair use. Under Cariou v. Prince, the court examines a work’s transformative nature by considering how it will “reasonably be perceived” by viewers.[15] In effect, an AI’s lack of authorship likely does not factor into the analysis. Therefore, assuming Kwebbelkop AI provides substantive criticism or commentary, his reactions would probably be non-infringing. Mr. van den Bussche still must, and does, disclose his use of AI in his videos as per YouTube regulations.[16] Barring further legislation, creators are free to explore the use of AI avatars in videos, including reaction videos, in the US.

AI avatars may alleviate creator burnout temporarily by facilitating daily uploads. However, their use may also exacerbate existing stressors by normalizing industry demands for continuous output. Furthermore, it is questionable that AI avatars will be accepted onto platforms like YouTube that value authenticity, or genres like reaction videos, where viewers seek out human connection. Creator burnout may be better addressed in other ways. For example, platforms could adjust their content discovery algorithms and incentive structures to reward creators with posting schedules that promote their mental and physical wellbeing. Many creators give themselves breaks by streamlining their content creation process—e.g., filming multiple videos at once to post throughout the week. Finally, creators can retire from their channels without shutting them down by transitioning hosts. This works particularly well with channels that are driven not only by personality, but also video format and subject matter.


[1] @kwebbelkop, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/@kwebbelkop/videos [https://perma.cc/7X32-CZT5] [https://web.archive.org/web/20240207154416/https://www.youtube.com/@kwebbelkop/videos] (last visited Feb. 6, 2024).

[2] @creatorsupportpod, AI YouTubers Are Already Replacing Us, YouTube (Sep. 21, 2023), https://youtu.be/DYRmf0WoxQw?si=Np6O1nSZH9byQN16 [https://perma.cc/79GD-U2M9] [https://web.archive.org/web/20240207155755/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYRmf0WoxQw].

[3] @kwebbelkop, It’s Time We Talk . . ., YouTube (Jan. 4, 2024), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqO79lB9f2M&t=1s [https://perma.cc/TU85-BRAR] [https://web.archive.org/web/20240207185245/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqO79lB9f2M&t=1s].;

[4] Sam Gutelle, The Gaming Star Who’s Turning Himself into a VTuber Has Premiered “The Digital Kwebbelkop,” TubeFilter (Aug. 2, 2023), https://www.tubefilter.com/2023/08/02/kwebbelkop-gaming-star-ai-vtuber-character-bloo/ [https://perma.cc/RK8K-PE4G] [https://web.archive.org/web/20240207185518/https://www.tubefilter.com/2023/08/02/kwebbelkop-gaming-star-ai-vtuber-character-bloo/].

[5] @kwebbelkop, The End of Kwebbelkop AI . . ., YouTube (Sep. 22, 2023), https://youtu.be/HrJWZezQwNw?si=A30DqRCs7TkxJI0o [https://perma.cc/9PCR-RKWL] [No Wayback Archive].

[6] @kwebbelkop, The End of Kwebbelkop AI . . ., YouTube (Sep. 22, 2023), https://youtu.be/HrJWZezQwNw?si=A30DqRCs7TkxJI0o [https://perma.cc/9PCR-RKWL] [No Wayback Archive].

[7] See, e.g., @kwebbelkop, Roblox Break in . . . (Story), YouTube (Sep. 25, 2023), https://youtu.be/LgMiongG3U8?si=JFiGjhJxc6LyRFwN [https://perma.cc/QH2C-HKBZ] [No Wayback Archive]; @kwebbelkop, The Grand Theft Auto 6 Trailer Is Here!!, YouTube (Dec. 5, 2023), https://youtu.be/Cj4ZN2brb8E?si=O2g5ozkV6Rvz3_py [https://perma.cc/4AFM-MYNG] [No Wayback Archive].

[8] @creatorsupportpod, supra note 2.

[9] @Jelly2_0, The Truth Behind Kwebbelkop AI, YouTube (Oct. 5, 2023), https://youtu.be/ec3q5Jk8gIo?si=hQRA20C7lJZxOSWV [https://perma.cc/8MHG-MZWL] [No Wayback Archive].

[10] Podcastle Team, Reaction Videos: Why They're So Trendy and How To Make Them, Podcastle (Aug. 8, 2023), https://podcastle.ai/blog/what-are-reaction-videos/ [https://perma.cc/G3HQ-EPV6] [https://web.archive.org/web/20231120053626/https://podcastle.ai/blog/what-are-reaction-videos/].

[11]17 U.S.C. § 107.

[12] Hosseinzadeh v. Klein, 276 F. Supp. 3d 34, 40 n.1 (S.D.N.Y. 2017).

[13] Makena Binker Cosen, #CreditTheCreator: Using Copyright Law and Online Norms To Combat Freebooting, JLA Beat (Nov. 20, 2023), https://journals.library.columbia.edu/index.php/lawandarts/announcement/view/671 [https://perma.cc/N7UH-7R5S] [https://web.archive.org/web/20231202173310/https://journals.library.columbia.edu/index.php/lawandarts/announcement/view/671].

[14] U.S. Copyright Office, Copyright Registration Guidance: Works Containing Material Generated by Artificial Intelligence (Mar. 16, 2023), https://copyright.gov/ai/ai_policy_guidance.pdf [https://perma.cc/3SX9-9KZW] [https://web.archive.org/web/20240207163004/https://copyright.gov/ai/ai_policy_guidance.pdf].

[15] Cariou v. Prince, 714 F.3d 694, 707 (2d Cir. 2013).

[16] Jennifer Flannery O’Connor & Emily Moxley, Our Approach To Responsible AI Innovation, YouTube (Nov. 14, 2023), https://blog.youtube/inside-youtube/our-approach-to-responsible-ai-innovation/ [https://perma.cc/B5RB-BEQC] [https://web.archive.org/web/20240122153915/https://blog.youtube/inside-youtube/our-approach-to-responsible-ai-innovation/].