Over the past year, as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns, the popularity of streaming sites has grown dramatically. Hosting a whopping 140 million users, the Amazon-owned live-streaming platform Twitch has become the largest in the world and continues to see growth in its userbase.
While users of Twitch generally tend to upload fairly innocuous videos of themselves playing video games with live commentary, there have been a number of instances where videos have been pulled for violating music copyright rules.
Recently, a large number of Twitch users, including those who are partnered with the platform to produce paid content, have received emails from the site concerning the topic of copyright infringement. These emails have informed the recipient that a number of their videos are in violation of copyright rules and are due to be deleted following “DMCA takedown notifications”.
DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is a US copyright law which was implemented in 1998. The law addresses the rights of owners of copyrighted material who believe their rights have been infringed through the misuse of their material.
The notifications have been issued as a way for the streaming platform to avoid being sued subject to these claims. DMCA rules state that sites such as Twitch cannot be sued for the content uploaded by users as long as they inform them of copyright notices and remove the offending content.
While the notices issued by the site are not entirely unprecedented, they have also informed the recipient that they will be unable to issue a counterclaim or seek a retraction from the rights holder in order to dispute the takedown.
Additionally, email recipients are not being told what exactly the cause is for their content being removed. They have instead been informed that their content will be deleted and that the message is a courteous one-time warning from the platform which will not be given again.
The purpose of the warning is to allow users the chance “to learn about copyright law and the tools available to manage the content on [their] channel”, to ensure that the problem does not continue.
Following an angered response from recipients of the emails, Twitch has since issued an apology and explanation in regard to the DMCA policy and what it means for their users.
The post explains that the increased number of warnings issued to creators is a direct result of increased DMCA claims made to the streaming site by representatives of major record labels since May 2020.
In their apology Twitch state:
“We continue to receive large batches of notifications, and we don’t expect that to slow down.
This means two things: 1) if you play recorded music on your stream, you need to stop doing that and 2) if you haven’t already, you should review your historical VODs and Clips that may have music in them and delete any archives that might.”
Twitch have also promised that they will make an effort to offer more educational resources to their users in order to help them understand the copyright laws and how they can abide by them.
The most common offence causing the DMCA notifications appears to have been from users playing copyrighted music in the background of their livestreams. This is strongly highlighted through the company’s statement along with a recommendation that users turn off all recorded music while streaming, unless the End User License Agreement in the game states that the music is licensed to stream.
Twitch has urged its users to be diligent about the content they are uploading, and to check copyright laws thoroughly to make sure they are not violating the DMCA guidelines when it comes to the presence of music in their videos.
Moving forward, Twitch has accepted its responsibility to educate its users on the rules they must adhere to. As part of their apology, the company has assured users that they are beginning to implement resources to help them to understand these rules, and how to correctly fulfil the role of creator on the site.
Words by Hattie Banfield
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