By FARAAZ AZIZ
Twitch, a live streaming platform used predominantly by gamers, has recently faced the challenge of dealing with copyrighted material––more specifically, how to deal with copyrighted music in streamers’ live stream. In Twitch’s history, there have not been any pressing issues with gamers using music in their streams, with only around 50 copyright notifications a year according to Twitch. However, Twitch started to receive thousands of copyright notifications per week in May this year. This sudden rise in copyright notifications has caused many streamers, big and small channels, the fear of being notified of a copyright strike.
On any platform for sharing content, creators must follow Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) regulations. DMCA allows platforms to share content if they consent to a set of rules. Therefore, Twitch, a platform that has agreed to the rules, must take down any content that includes copyrighted material – in this case recorded music.
What has caused this sudden rise in awareness for DMCA regulations though? Recently, many major record labels have taken the initiative of sending DMCA notifications to Twitch for streams that have included their copyrighted music. The spike in copyright notifications comes as a surprise both to Twitch and streamers, with the cause of this situation unknown. Twitch is now requiring the streamers who have been reported for including this music to remove their videos on demand (VODs), archived livestreams stored in their Twitch channels.
Twitch acknowledges that this sudden change in their policy presents streamers with the challenge of removing hundreds of VODs from their channels. “We have been working on building new tools (and improving existing tools) to help creators (such as the Clips mass deletion tool),” Twitch said in a tweet about DMCA. In their statement, Twitch also said that they are giving creators three days to delete any videos that include copyrighted music.
As of now, Twitch’s only available option for streamers is to completely remove all videos of recorded streams. This is potentially harmful to streamers as they cannot receive views from their old videos that include copyrighted music. Twitch streamer, Kevin Martin, who almost has 100,000 followers, has been impacted by this recent increase in deleted VODs. Martin is one of many thousands of streamers who have been notified about their channel and, as a result of the music copyright strike, have had to delete all the content on his many years old page. Martin described it as “heartbreaking” to lose all the VODs he had on his channel.
While the majority of the copyright strikes are a result of including copyrighted music in streams, recorded in-game music has also impacted many streamers. Twitch is now suggesting that streamers check the game’s license agreements in order to determine if they can use their music in their streams or not. Unfortunately, Twitch has no other option for streamers who play games with copyrighted music. Streamers who are in this predicament are forced to turn off the music or mute their game. While it may seem like Twitch is being harsh on their streamers, they have to enforce these restrictions as it is required by law for all streaming services, one other including YouTube. While most streamers who include music in their streams are gamers, Twitch has announced that streamers who create and post their own music are exempt from facing DMCA strikes.
Even large, well-established Twitch channels are facing the effects of the DMCA stream takedowns. For example, Twitch banned the channel of FaZe Cizzorz, a streamer from the renowned esports organization FaZe Clan, just a few weeks ago. FaZe Cizzorz had over 1.5 million followers on Twitch and was even a partner with Twitch. However, the streaming platform still banned his account despite this being his first DMCA strike. Cizzorz says he had been following DMCA guidelines, but his account was still banned. Even though Cizzorz may have been recently following DMCA rules, robots from record labels are going back to streams from many years ago that include copyrighted music to notify Twitch of the VODs. Twitch claims that they give the ability for streamers to review their content once they have received a DMCA notification. Yet, Twitch also banned another streamer, Voyboy, because of some recorded streams from years ago.
While this recent rise in DMCA takedowns is unfortunate for many streamers whose Twitch accounts are being banned, Twitch has apologized to the Twitch community. In a blog posted on their website, Twitch says that they understand the frustration that creators are facing, and that they should have created the tools earlier to have different options rather than to delete VODs. “We have done our best to manage the situation on behalf of both right holders and creators,” Twitch said, and emphasized that they are truly sorry for any difficulties for both parties.