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Music-Related Copyright Claims and Twitch

Nov 11 2020

Creators, we hear you. Your frustration and confusion with recent music-related copyright issues is completely justified. Things can–and should–be better for creators than they have been recently, and this post outlines our next steps to get there. Moving forward, we’ll be more transparent with what’s happening and what tools and resources we’re building to help.

Copyright law and the DMCA are not small or simple topics, so this won’t be a brief post. We’ll do our best to keep the legalese to a minimum, though there’s bound to be technical terms here and there. 

DMCA and Twitch

First off, a quick review of what DMCA actually is. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) is a set of US laws that allows you to create and share content on digital service providers like Twitch. We comply with the DMCA and similar laws worldwide. Part of complying means that when a copyright holder thinks a streamer has used their content without permission, we have a process in place for them to be able to request the content be taken down.

When we receive a DMCA notification, we process the notification in accordance with our DMCA Guidelines. This includes removing the content, sharing the details with the channel owner, and tracking the allegation. 

DMCA takedown notifications can affect your ability to stream because we, as part of our efforts to comply with the DMCA and similar global laws, issue and track copyright strikes and ban the accounts of those who repeatedly infringe the copyrights of others. 

This policy is important because we respect the rights of all creators, including those who create or record music, as well as the rights of those who own and control copyrights. As a company that is built around a community of people who create content, we take allegations of copyright infringement seriously. 

Recent DMCA notifications

How did we get to this moment? 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. 

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. 

We were as surprised by this sudden avalanche of notifications as many of you were. We also realized that we needed to provide streamers with more educational programs and content management tools to help you deal with this unprecedented number of notifications coming in all at once. So, while we continued to remove content targeted by these notifications as required by the DMCA, we understood VODs and Clips from years ago may not necessarily reflect your current approach to music. Therefore, we also paused the processing of strikes associated with these batched notifications in order to give you the tools, information, and time that you would need to deal with them.

We have analyzed the notifications we received during that period from the end of May through the middle of October. What we found is that more than 99% of the notifications were for tracks that streamers were playing in the background of their stream. 

The point of the DMCA is to strike a balance between the interests of rights holders (the major record labels in this case) and creators. Because of this, we were compelled to delete the VODs and Clips that were identified in the notifications. This showed our commitment to upholding our obligations under the DMCA, while affording us the opportunity to sort out the best way to handle issuing strikes in these circumstances. Under these extraordinary circumstances, we recognized creators should have a reasonable chance to understand that content created in the past was being targeted as allegedly infringing and be given an opportunity to change their approach to music use before they got hit with strikes.

This led to the current situation, which is understandably frustrating and worrying for many of you. Given the circumstances, the warning email many of you received didn’t include all the information that you’d typically get in a DMCA notification (normally, when we receive a DMCA notification against your channel, we send you an email that includes information about the allegedly infringed work, who the claimant is, how the claimant can be contacted, and possible penalties under our repeat infringer policy, so that you can make an informed decision about whether to submit a counter notification or seek a retraction). We hear your feedback about how frustratingly little information we provided, and we should have made that warning email a lot more informative and helpful.

Over the last several months, we have done our best to manage this situation on behalf of both rights holders and creators. 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 awhile 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.

How to avoid DMCA notifications 

One important question we’ve heard from you is: how can I stream safely and confidently on Twitch without having to worry about getting DMCA notifications from music use?

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.

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. 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. If neither of those apply, consider turning off VODs and Clips. 

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. We understand both of these options have downsides, and we’re working to provide you more and better options as soon as possible. These things will take time to get right, and new challenges may appear in the future. Regardless, we’re committing here and now to investing in building better tools and keeping you posted on our progress.

New products and tools

Ever since the influx of DMCA notifications began, we have been working on building new (and improving existing) tools to help creators (such as the Clips mass deletion tool). This work is still happening. Many of these changes won’t be visible to the community, but we’re focused on three areas where we heard you need more support from us:

First, you don’t have enough control over the recorded content on your channel. We have made improvements to enable you to mass delete Clips, but in addition, we will (1) expand the use of technology to detect copyrighted audio, and (2) give you more granular ways to manage your archive instead of just a “delete all” option.

Second, we’ll make it easier for you to control what audio from your live streams will show up in your recorded content. Soundtrack by Twitch has some of this technology built into it, and we’ll work to make it available for everyone regardless of whether you want to use Soundtrack, for which we’ve cleared all necessary rights, or music from others that provide rights-cleared music.

Third, we need to give you the ability to actually review your allegedly infringing content when you receive a DMCA notification, in addition to the details already provided in our takedown notifications - that is, information about what copyrighted work was allegedly infringed, who the claimant is, and how the claimant can be contacted. We also need to help you more easily file counter notifications if you believe you have the rights to use the content–for example, because you’ve secured a license, believe the use is a fair use,  the claimant does not control the rights, or believe you have the right to use the music without permission.

Some of you have asked why we don’t have a license covering any and all uses of recorded music. We are actively speaking with the major record labels about potential approaches to additional licenses that would be appropriate for the Twitch service. 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. We’re open-minded to new structures that could work for Twitch’s unique service, but we must be clear that they may take some time to materialize or may never happen at all. In the meantime, we’re focused on building tools to better help you manage VODs and Clips and providing licensed music options like Soundtrack, while we explore all options.

And just so there’s no confusion, to music creators: we pay public performance licenses in order for you to perform music live to your communities. You should also avoid using pre-recorded music, and disable VODs and Clips, unless you have the rights to the music and compositions. 

Ways to stay educated

We’ve got work to do, and at the same time, we urge you to keep learning about copyrights. They are important, not only because of the issues we’ve covered in this post but because they are created every single day by songwriters, recording artists, authors and other creators like you. While you can take helpful steps to manage your existing content, you run the risk of getting a DMCA takedown notification whenever you use someone else’s copyrights in your channel without permission. 

In order to help with continuing education around this subject, we’ve added in a “Copyright and Your Channel” Creator Camp page and hosted a follow up livestream where we answered community questions live. Moving forward, our goal is to continue to provide more insight and resources to our community. Starting November 18, we’ll host the first of four additional Creator Camp live sessions. Topics will include a DMCA Overview, Musicians on Twitch and DMCA, and Copyright & Managing Your Twitch Content. These sessions will go deep with insights both from internal and third party experts, and we hope they’ll be useful for you. Be sure to follow Creator Camp to ensure you receive notifications when sessions are live. We will plan additional sessions as needed, informed by the response to those sessions and the ongoing needs of the Twitch community.

Transparency going forward

We know there are probably still many questions that we didn’t get to here. We’ve started to compile some we’ve received from the community and have drafted this FAQ. We always appreciate additional feedback, so we have created a UserVoice forum around this topic as well. 

Finally, please remember to check your security settings to confirm the email associated with your account is up to date as soon as possible and allow email from no-reply@twitch.tv to ensure you’re receiving relevant communication. We send reminders and notices here periodically and want to ensure you are getting the information. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation. 

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