A large number of Twitch streamers have been hit by a barrage of copyright strikes after a huge wave of DMCA claims were made yesterday, targeting the misuse of copyrighted music in old clips.
A number of prominent creators have revealed that music rights owners are targeting clips – which Twitch says are mainly from between 2017 and 2019 – and are issuing copyright notices, with the threat of permanent channel bans if creators are issued three strikes. This has led to streamers frantically deleting past clips, and Twitch has come under fire for not having better tools for dealing with mass clear outs of old clips with all the work having to be done manually.
Well known names such as Denis ‘Cloakzy’ Lapore, ‘Jakenbake’, and ‘Asmongold’ have all spoken out about their experiences in the last 24 hours. Warzone and Fortnite streamer Cloakzy says that he received a DMCA strike and warns others that his account will be “permanently gone” if he receives two more.
World of Warcraft streamer Asmongold says that he will “probably have to delete all my clips” with the threat of copyright strikes looming.
Got a DMCA 2 more and my twitch account is permanently gone, Kinda crazy 5 years of work can just vanish in 2 seconds.
— cloakzy (@cloakzy) June 8, 2020
And Jakenbake described his copyright notice as “scary,” saying that there’s no way he’ll be able to go through and delete over 100,000 clips.
Any other streamers get hit with some copyright stuff recently? The heckkkkkkk we supposed to do? 🙁
I can’t go through 100,000 clips and delete anything that has some music in it.
If things continue this way doesn’t that mean 90% of the streamers on Twitch are donezo? pic.twitter.com/ZXywc9PznV
— Jake’n’Bake @ LA 🇺🇸 (@jakenbakeLIVE) June 7, 2020
The majority of streamers on Twitch have always taken a relaxed attitude to playing music during their streams, despite Twitch’s Community Guidelines having long advised its users to adhere to copyright laws and only use music to which streamers have the appropriate licence to use. While Twitch has a feature to mute sections of VODs where copyrighted material is used, this feature doesn’t extend to clips.
Attorney Ryan Morrison, who specialises in legal issues within the gaming and esports industries, tweeted out some advice for creators who have been threatened with copyright strikes and channel bans while also reminding them that this kind of action was inevitable.
“Twitch did not change. The law did not change. Just the law we’ve been warning you about for years is now being enforced by record labels,” Morrison says. “You can be angry, but point your anger at the right people.” He goes on to advise streamers to get a lawyer before trying to challenge copyright claims.
Fair use is a defense, not a right. Streaming content with music playing in the background IS arguably fair use (see Lenz v Universal). However Twitch doesn’t get to decide that and neither do you. Only a judge or jury can, and that’s a VERY expensive dice roll.
— Video Game Attorney (@Morrison) June 8, 2020
Streamer ‘Pokelawls’ also claimed yesterday that he had warned Twitch in the past that something of this scale was coming after making the platform aware of a website that could scan Twitch’s clips for copyrighted music.
“I told Twitch about this and Twitch was like: ‘Oh this is interesting, thank you,’” he says. “But they didn’t care until now. Twitch hits me up again and is like: ‘Oh what’s that website again by the way? What’s that thing you used?’ Billion dollar company, are you kidding me?”
There also seems to be some copyright strikes that make no sense at all, yet have still landed streamers with suspensions and marks against them. ‘Masayoshi’ flagged one such incident where he was warned for using a track by rapper Lil Uzi Vert, but the clip linked in the email by Twitch as evidence is of him juggling with generic circus music in the background. the streamer initially thought it was some form of prank, particularly due to the context of the clip, but he still has a strike against his channel.
Following the concerns raised by so many of its streamers, Twitch advises streamers that deleting clips would still be the best practise in avoiding any more hits in this “sudden influx” of DMCA claims and says that it is working on ways to give them “more control” over clips.
This is the first time we have received mass DMCA claims against clips. We understand this has been stressful for affected creators and are working on solutions, including examining how we can give you more control over your clips.
— Twitch Support (@TwitchSupport) June 8, 2020
This is an extremely delicate and complicated topic. Twitch has no choice but to warn its streamers of copyright infringement when it receives a DMCA notice from a record label, for example. But many are now criticising the platform for not giving streamers the appropriate tools to rectify past misuses of copyrighted material, for allowing incorrect strikes like Masayoshi’s reach streamers and still stand, and for not warning streamers more explicitly about the repercussions of streaming with background music.
Some have suggested that Twitch, which is owned by Amazon, should cut a deal with its creators about using music that is available on the Amazon Prime music streaming service, similar to how streamers can now host watch parties of movies and TV shows that Amazon Prime has in its catalogue.
While DMCA claims have been a controversial and long-running issue on other online platforms like YouTube, it seems music rights owners are now wising up to the long history of misuse of copyrighted material by Twitch’s creators too.