Twitch explains confusing copyright crackdown, urges users to delete videos

 Twitch explains confusing copyright crackdown, urges users to delete videos

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Twitch today apologized to users for how it handled a copyright crackdown last month, but the site still told streamers that they will have to stop using copyrighted recordings to avoid further takedown notices. Twitch—the popular game-streaming site acquired by Amazon for $970 million in 2014—was forced to take more aggressive action on copyright by record labels. But Twitch’s mishandling of the crackdown left users in a state of confusion about which videos violated copyrights and about how users can comply with the rules without simply deleting all their past videos.

In a blog post today, Twitch said users have been asking how they can stream “without having to worry about getting DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] notifications from music use.” The answer is that users need to stop using recorded music on their streams if they don’t own the copyrights and delete old videos that have copyrighted music in them.

Twitch explained:

Most importantly, don’t play recorded music in your stream unless you own all rights in the music, or you have the permission of the necessary rights holder(s). Doing this is the best protection for your streams going forward. If you’re unsure whether you own all the rights, it’s pretty likely you don’t. If you want to include recorded music in your stream, use a fully licensed alternative like Soundtrack by Twitch, or other rights cleared music libraries such as Soundstripe, Monstercat Gold, Chillhop, Epidemic Sound, and NCS.

Twitch said that 99 percent of the copyright notifications it recently received from record labels “were for tracks that streamers were playing in the background of their stream.” But that doesn’t mean in-game music is completely safe to use.

“While we haven’t received more than a handful of DMCA notifications targeting in-game music, if you’re playing games with recorded music in them, we recommend you review their End User License Agreements (that wall of text at the beginning of a game) to see how the terms cover streaming with that music,” Twitch said. “One way to do this is to search for a game’s official EULA online and then do a ctrl+f (Command+f on Mac) search for words like ‘stream,’ ‘licensed,’ and ‘music’ to point you toward the correct sections. If you’re unsure about the rights, some games allow you to turn off music when streaming, or you can mute the game audio yourself.”

While that covers future streams, Twitch users still have to worry about their previous videos. “For your stream archives (VODs and Clips), right now your only options, if you think they contain unauthorized music, is to either go through them one by one, or, for Clips, use the ‘delete all’ tool we’ve provided,” Twitch wrote. “We understand both of these options have downsides, and we’re working to provide you more and better options as soon as possible.”

Confusing crackdown

Twitch’s copyright crackdown occurred about three weeks ago. As we wrote at the time, Twitch surprised users by issuing a large number of copyright takedown emails that “not only didn’t tell streamers what supposedly infringing content they posted, but… also said that Twitch had simply deleted content outright without giving users a chance to appeal.”

Twitch said in today’s blog post that it had to impose the crackdown because of a gigantic increase in copyright notices from record labels:

Until May of this year, streamers received fewer than 50 music-related DMCA notifications each year on Twitch. Beginning in May, however, representatives for the major record labels started sending thousands of DMCA notifications each week that targeted creators’ archives, mostly for snippets of tracks in years-old Clips. We continue to receive large batches of notifications, and we don’t expect that to slow down.

As CNN reported in August, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) issued more than 1,800 copyright notices to Twitch users in June alone, after issuing only 710 such notices since 2017.

Mistakes were made

In the blog post, Twitch acknowledged making several mistakes and promised to provide a better system for users in the future. Warning emails sent to users “didn’t include all the information that you’d typically get in a DMCA notification,” making it hard to “make an informed decision about whether to submit a counter notification or seek a retraction,” Twitch said.

Twitch said it also didn’t give users enough time to respond to the notices and that the tools it provides are inadequate:

One of the mistakes we made was not building adequate tools to allow creators to manage their own VOD and Clip libraries. You’re rightly upset that the only option we provided was a mass deletion tool for Clips, and that we only gave you three days notice to use this tool. We could have developed more sophisticated, user-friendly tools a while ago. That we didn’t is on us. And we could have provided creators with a longer time period to address their VOD and Clip libraries—that was a miss as well. We’re truly sorry for these mistakes, and we’ll do better.

Twitch promised to “expand the use of technology to detect copyrighted audio” and give users “more granular ways to manage your archive instead of just a ‘delete all’ option,” but the site didn’t say how long that will take.

Other future changes will include “mak[ing] it easier for you to control what audio from your live streams will show up in your recorded content.” Twitch said it will make sure to give the necessary details to users when they get DMCA notifications, specifically “information about what copyrighted work was allegedly infringed, who the claimant is, and how the claimant can be contacted.” Twitch also promised to provide better tools for filing “counter notifications if you believe you have the rights to use the content.”

Twitch could also negotiate a new licensing deal with record labels, but a comprehensive agreement doesn’t sound likely.

“We are actively speaking with the major record labels about potential approaches to additional licenses that would be appropriate for the Twitch service,” Twitch wrote. “That said, the current constructs for licenses that the record labels have with other services (which typically take a cut of revenue from creators for payment to record labels) make less sense for Twitch. The vast majority of our creators don’t have recorded music as a part of their streams, and the revenue implications to creators of such a deal are substantial.”

Twitch also provided a FAQ on DMCA and copyright questions, and it set up a user forum for discussion of the topic.