How Twitch is Handling DMCA
November 18, 2020
Twitch.tv is a rather well known website in gaming, art, music, and even more as the forefront of live streaming. It’s been going strong since its launch in 2011, despite various controversies and struggles with the community.
It’s latest struggle has been not with its users or their own systems, as before, but instead with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a 1998 copyright law passed to protect the rights of copyright holders in the digital age.
A lot has changed in 22 years though as the internet has gone from talking about the new Snow Patrol song on AOL then pirating it off Limewire to being able to stream music for free anywhere in the world and even listen in sync with a friend over long distance. The field has changed yet DMCA stays stagnant, living in the past.
When it comes to Twitch, music is used in a rather unique way that DMCA isn’t built for. Streamers often play or create music on their streams, be it as the focal point or as background music. 99% of recent twitch DMCA strikes were filed against streamers who used music in the background, not as the focus of the stream. The music was more like an ambient noise you hear walking down the street than actually listening to it and paying attention.
In most cases, it’s easy to argue that viewers are there for the streamer, not for the music. DMCA was built to combat piracy and theft of intellectual property. It was not built to combat background noise, which is what it’s doing.
Many musicians even agree that background music on streams are good for creators as it introduces the songs to more people and brings more revenue to the creator by generating more popularity.
In the eyes of the law, none of this matters. Music was in your stream? You get a DMCA strike. People have been striked for even passing someone on the street who was playing music. One of the few platforms to be relatively safe from this threat was Twitch, who sat on the sidelines as YouTube creators suffered constant DMCA strikes, some even being blatantly illegal on the claimant’s side.
That was the case up until this May when Twitch went from receiving around 50 claims a week to thousands of claims a week even to present day, 6 months later. Both Twitch themselves and content creators were caught off guard by the sudden influx of claims, many filed against content several years old.
Twitch’s response to these claims was to delete all claimed content and give a rather unhelpful email to users subjected to the strikes. Since then, Twitch has come out to say, on November 11th, 2020, that they had made a mistake in their handling of the DMCA claims and neglected to implement the proper tools to help creators deal with these kinds of issues before it was too late, but they promise in the future to be more transparent, work harder to quickly and effectively implement new features, and to take further steps in educating content creators on how to handle copyright law.
These aren’t just empty promises either. Twitch has already held Q&As, live streamed to discuss these topics, started work on more features, and is even planning four more educational live streams starting November 18th on their Creator Camp.
Whether you are a viewer or a creator, the way Twitch and similar services are taking action could affect how you use their platforms, and I encourage you to to pay attention to what they do as it could determine the future of live streaming for many years to come.
Twitch is trying to walk a fine line to abide by the laws while protecting its users and the DMCA only serves to make that line thinner.