Twitch Faces Sudden Stream of DMCA Notices Over Background Music

There is obviously a great deal of action going on currently in the streaming world, spurred on in part by the COVID-19 crises that has many people at home looking for fresh content. Between the attempts to respond to social movements and tamp down “hateful” content to changes to the competitive landscape, streaming services are having themselves a moment. But with the sudden uptick in popularity comes a new spotlight painting a target on streaming platforms for everyone from scammers to intellectual property maximilists.

Twitch has recently found itself a target for the latter, suddenly getting slammed with a wave of DMCA notices that appear to focus mostly on background music.

Copyright strikes are an occupational hazard for many Twitch streamers and content creators, but a recent surge of DMCA takedown requests has overwhelmed the community. Now, Twitch support staff has responded to complaints, stating that the claims are focused on clips with background music from 2017 to 2019, and recommending that streamers remove them. The tweets also state that this is the first time that Twitch has received mass DMCA claims against clips.

Given that Twitch is still most popular as a site for live-streams and let’s-plays of video games, the speculation is that a great deal of this is targeting clips that include video game music. And, as we’ve seen elsewhere, it’s also the case that scammers are currently using game music as a method to try to takedown or monetize the videos of others. Whether or not that’s what is going on here is anyone’s guess, as Twitch is making it fairly clear that the flood of notices is so large that it’s simply taking down content and advising its streamers to proactively take down anything that might include this sort of copyrighted content.

Except that leaves no room for a number of things, including arguments for Fair Use of certain music, not to mention streamers that may be using game music from individuals or companies that don’t mind their work being up on Twitch. In the case of the latter, this is where scammers can most insidiously insert themselves into the mix.

And, what’s more, even the lawyers are telling streamers not to counter the claims without getting an attorney, so fraught is the copyright landscape.

The action also prompted a response from advocates like Ryan Morrison, better known as the Video Game Attorney. Morrison advised content creators not to counter the claims without speaking to an intellectual property lawyer. “You are quite literally telling them you are going to continue what you’re doing unless they sue you,” he tweeted. “Don’t threaten billionaire companies to sue you. Lawyer up.”

So here’s this newly thriving ecosystem of Twitch streamers, creating content that is not a mere copy of anything, but may use some copyrighted content in streams, and a huge chunk of it could get disappeared either out of legal compliance by Twitch or proactive fear-based takedowns by the streamers themselves.

All over some clips including background music? I’m trying to picture myself explaining all of this to the framers of copyright law, but somehow I don’t think they’d get it.