Over the weekend, many streamers discovered an unpleasant surprise in their inbox: an email from Twitch saying that they had received one or more copyright warnings on the clips in their streams . If the streamers receive three strikes, they risk an unlimited ban. The problem? The alleged clips were not recent, but streamers had received no prior indication of the presence of time bombs in their archives.
After many streamers reported last week and the weekend their clips received DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) treatment thanks to the copyright of an entity claiming to represent the Recording Industry Association of America, Twitch clarified what happened in a post on Twitter.
“This week we had a sudden influx of requests to remove DMCA for clips with background music from 2017-19,” the company wrote. “This is the first time that we have received massive complaints from DMCA against clips. We understand that this has been stressful for the creators concerned and we are working on solutions, in particular by examining how we can give you more control over your clips. “
DMCA claims exist in part to protect large companies and platforms from direct liability when individuals infringe copyright laws. This means, on the one hand, that users can publish what they want, rather than platforms have to put a blanket ban on all kinds of content that could be illegal, but it also forces companies to delete the offending content as soon as it is claimed, for fear of legal reprisals, and to reoffend with more severe consequences.
Twitch has a system in place that automatically (albeit inconsistently) cuts VOD segments that include copyrighted music. Clips, however, are a different animal: small stream segments of 60 seconds or less that viewers can create at the click of a button in Twitch’s video player. Even when a VOD is deleted, clips made from that VOD persist by default, although streamers can choose to delete individual clips or all clips associated with a particular stream. It’s not the most elegant process, and the system doesn’t work well when a streamer’s fan base has made thousands of clips over the years. In addition to that, streamers no longer know which clips to delete, as a business or organization could target anything containing music streamers that are not technically proprietary, and, according to DMCA rules, Twitch should remove it and give them a strike. So, for now, some streamers are removing all of their clips, just to be sure. Or at least they are trying to do it.
“I chatted with several Twitch staff members saying that my best option was to delete all of my clips ever,” Fuslie, one of the first streamers to shed light on this issue, said on Twitter. “In addition, it is almost impossible for me to delete> 100,000 clips, the creator dashboard does not load any of my old clips. How am I supposed to protect myself here? ”
On a fast-paced, tunnel-vision platform like Twitch, clips aren’t just snap-sized, shareable snacks. They also represent rare memories of bygone eras. Streamers delete them, but it is a high price to pay: “I will do anything to keep my channel, even if it means deleting all my clips and memories from the past few years,” said Fuslie. “I feel so helpless right now. I created this channel for 5 years and potentially lose it all so quickly to something like that would be devastating. ”
Many streamers have expressed similar feelings. Others reminded fellow streamers that it was far from the first time that copyright claims had taken their toll on Twitch. In 2018, a whole series of popular streamers have been suspended for the same song. Earlier this year, several political streamers have been suspended for what turned out to be a false DMCA claim from a false legal organization. Twitch finally apologized for the latter.
Unclear or false DMCA deletions are also not limited to Twitch. “Confused because I’ve already navigated the minefield that DMCA is on YouTube since years ” says YouTuber LaurenZSide on Twitter. “How did so many people think Twitch was just immune for some reason?” “
At first glance, the solution to this problem seems obvious: streamers should simply stop playing copyrighted music. After all, it is up to other creators, that DMCA rules exist at least theoretically to protect. But the reality of the situation is more complicated than that. On the one hand, it has become common and accepted for streamers to watch YouTube videos, TikToks and the like alongside their audiences. This may involve licensed music, although often as a distant background element. Is this fair dealing? Even if it doesn’t, does it hurt anyone? These are all questions raised by the modern streaming ecosystem, in which everything – not just the background music that streamers use to fill the space – exists in a gray area.
“Many creators are panicking about the DMCA”, says ex-Twitch and current mixing streamer Gothalion on Twitter. “If that makes you feel better, any publisher / developer could give you DMCA to monetize their game if they want to. Our domain is not secure (for the most part). The only thing you have is you. ”
Of course, most companies don’t make the flows go away because they appreciate what essentially amounts to free, large-scale advertising. Since music is not at the center of the flow in the same way as games, you can say that artists benefit less than game creators. But individual artists rarely crack down on streams and videos. Most of the time, it’s gargantuan entities like the record companies or the RIAA who prey on streamers. To hear some experts say, more of these large organizations are now paying attention. It’s logic; after all Twitch increased enormously during the pandemic and attracted a lot of general attention.
“Universal Music Group and Warner have invested in this company that monitors every stream on Twitch,” says Noah Downs, video game and entertainment lawyer in a stream hosted by Twitch creator development director Marcus “DJwheat” Graham. “They have the ability to broadcast DMCAs live. They haven’t done it yet. It is extremely important to note that this level of application has not even been reached yet, where you live and you are retired live to play music. At the moment, we only see clips and VODs. ”
There are also other problems related to this. Some games, like Just dance, which has a large streaming scene, doesn’t work without licensed music.
“I have been broadcasting a rhythm game for 5 years”, says popular Just dance LittleSiha streamer on Twitter. “The music is in the game. So … I’m screwed up in this situation. ”
At this point, we could consider a total change to the Twitch sea, or it could just be another one-time salvo. Streamers prepare for the worst by removing clips and transition to music without copyright, but some also discuss ways that DMCA rules were established at a time when the Internet was not the colossal and constantly evolving remix machine it is now.
“The idea that a repeat counterfeiter loses his count is fine in theory but it cannot be without human judgment”, said esports lawyer Bryce Blum on Twitter. “It must also be said that the value of a popular Twitch or YouTube channel in today’s environment was simply not envisioned when the DMCA was written. It’s not just accounts, it’s the product of years of personal investment, dedication and sacrifice on the part of the creator. A rigid system made a lot of sense when it was created and always does in some contexts, but the DMCA must be re-evaluated in light of the climate of modern influence. This is a big deal, and it deserves more consideration than three non-judgmental hits and you are away. “