Long has streaming giant Twitch skirted around the murky waters of copyright infringement, playing chicken with that day of reckoning when lawyers will realize that hours of unlicensed media are used with impunity in various ways on the platform. Well, that day appears to be now as major Twitch streamers are reporting that their old footage and channel clips are being hit with music copyright claims that not only threaten their archives but potentially puts channels at risk for removal.
Reports abound in the past few days about archived clips being hit with copyright notices, including major Twitch personalities Fuslie and Jake’n’Bake. As Jake put it in a June 6 social media post, “I can’t go through 100,000 clips and delete anything that has some music in it. Scary. If things continue this way doesn’t that mean 90% of the streamers on Twitch are donezo?”
This week, we’ve had a sudden influx of DMCA takedown requests for clips with background music from 2017-19. If you’re unsure about rights to audio in past streams, we advise removing those clips. We know many of you have large archives, and we’re working to make this easier.
— Twitch Support (@TwitchSupport) June 8, 2020
Twitch acknowledged the copyright claims early this morning in a series of social media posts, essentially saying that the guidelines for DMCA notices have not changed and those content creators are beholden to the rules, no matter how arbitrary. Those Twitch legal guidelines are pretty restrictive, which includes a ban on playing music in a radio show-style, DJ sets, karaoke performances, lyric of music descriptions that aren’t a part of Twitch Sings, and even just covering songs. Not immune to these strikes are also games with a heavy musical component, such as Just Dance, Rock Band, and more. It’s even hitting creators who simply listen to music in the background while playing games and interacting with their community.
There is a real rock/hard place at work here for major streamers that have used copywritten content with no worry. Do you remove your entire archive for fear of losing your channel but also losing some of your strongest ways to attract viewers and retain subscriptions? And what about variety streamers known for playing music or covering songs? One legal expert’s response is that this is part of a reckoning that stems from Twitch ignoring the out of date, but still enforceable laws for too long.
Los Angeles lawyer and professional fighting game commentator David “UltraDavid” Graham said in a Twitter thread made shortly after Twitch’s social media response, “The copyright cops have come to Twitch, one of the biggest infringement machines of the last decade, which built its popularity on a total disregard for rights holders in games, emotes, music, & more? Ah well, so it is for mainstream culture, which Twitch has definitely become.” Graham points out that Twitch’s empire is built on essentially ignoring copyright claims, as video games have always existed in this nebulous region of law-breaking that is allowed simply because game publishers would be silly to pass up on free advertising.
For now, Twitch has drawn a line in the sand: Follow the rules or they will enforce them.