Twitch DMCA Purge Deletes Thousands Of Streamers’ Videos

Twitch DMCA Purge Deletes Thousands Of Streamers’ Videos
Image: Twitch

It’s finally happening: Twitch is cracking down in a big way on the use of copyrighted music in streams. Today, hundreds of streamers received emails from the company stating that videos or clips in their back catalogues had run afoul of copyright rules, resulting in deletion. This, it seems, is just the beginning.

Something similar occurred back in June, but this time, Twitch isn’t taking any chances. Instead of simply informing streamers that they’re skating on thin ice per the rules of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and allowing them to take initiative — which could include disputing specific copyright claims — Twitch has straight-up deleted offending clips. In a mass email sent to streamers who, at some point in the past, had broadcasted copyrighted content, the company did not specify what it had deleted.

“We are writing to inform you that your channel was subject to one or more of these DMCA takedown notifications, and that the content identified has been deleted,” reads the message Twitch sent to streamers. “We recognise that by deleting this content, we are not giving you the option to file a counter-notification or seek a retraction from the rights holder. In consideration of this, we have processed these notifications and are issuing you a one-time warning to give you the chance to learn about copyright law and the tools available to manage the content on your channel.”

So basically, Twitch is cleaning house and doing its best to get streamers to finish the job. This is not ideal for streamers, whose VODs and clips represent the totality of their work. Just like that, some of that material has vanished forever, and though Twitch has released new music tools to aid with future streams, the company’s email encourages them to delete additional content — up to and including using a new tool to unilaterally delete all previous clips.

“It is insane that Twitch informs partners they deleted their content — and that there is more content in violation despite having no identification system to find out what it is,” business streamer and industry insider Devin Nash said on Twitter. “Their solution to DMCA is for creators to delete their life’s work. This is pure, gross negligence.”

“Count me among those that received a DMCA strike today,” said longtime Twitch partner Ellohime, encouraging fans to download clips of their favourite moments while they still can. “Sadly, the only safe answer seems to be ‘delete all old content.’ People who scrubbed their VODs previous to this wave of strikes didn’t avoid it. In-game music going forward is going to be a real issue. Help us, Twitch.”

“I seriously don’t understand why Twitch is so unable to provide documented reasoning as to what rules you break when you break them,” said Twitch partner Teawrex. “There is a giant throughline for years now of people not knowing why they are suspended, hit with a warning, and now what content is DMCA’d.”

It appears, however, that Twitch has once again failed to effectively communicate the full extent of what is actually happening here. Going forward, this system of automated, anonymous deletion will not be the norm; instead, DMCA takedowns will be specific and live, rather than vague and part of a backlog that spans an indefinite time period. However, after the big DMCA kerfuffle earlier this year, Twitch paused its standard DMCA process to develop the aforementioned new tools.

What happened today, according to news streamer Zach Bussey, was the result of a backup at Twitch, the result of many copyright violations across the platform, given that streaming with music in the background is the norm for streamers. “From what I gather, they were backed to the wall — and the previous DMCAs are going to be ‘grandfathered’ as a generalised notification (deleted vods/clips) as the only punishment,” Bussey told Kotaku in a DM. “But when the system starts up again on October 23, it’s open season.”

Speaking to Kotaku in an email, a Twitch spokesperson verified that the company took this approach because it was dealing with “thousands” of notifications from music rights-holders. “Twitch is required to process these notifications and notify streamers and take action against repeat infringers by law,” said the spokesperson.

Twitch has also issued a statement: “We are incredibly proud of the essential service Twitch has become for so many artists and songwriters, especially during this challenging time. It is crucial that we protect the rights of songwriters, artists and other music industry partners. We continue to develop tools and resources to further educate our creators and empower them with more control over their content while partnering with industry-recognised vendors in the copyright space to help us achieve these goals.”

Twitch is changing. In the short term, this means growing pains that, for many streamers, are proving agonising, in no small part due to Twitch’s communication issues. In the long run, streamers will have tools to mitigate future situations like this, but as ever, it’s important to ask who’s really benefiting from any of this. Arguably, artists — who already barely make any money from people listening to their music online — were getting free advertising from streamers playing their music. However, instead of evolving with the times in a way that might benefit artists, music labels — not artists — continue to employ draconian methods of cracking down so as to retain control.

Twitch’s new systems mainly kowtow to this control, rather than offering streamers real flexibility. Streamers can now delete all of their clips at once — something they need to do, sure, but it’s still a misery. Streamers also now have access to rights-cleared music via Twitch’s new “Soundtrack by Twitch” feature, but it’s curated by Twitch, meaning that after big companies limited streamers’ options, a different, singular big company is now in control of what little they can do. Is this just how the music industry works? Yes. Should it be, especially in an age when remixing and transformative content are what’s driving art and culture forward — and, in fact, that is the entirety of what streaming is? That’s the far more important question.

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    • I would say No.
      YouTube spent 100s of millions of dollars developing their DMCA content ID system, despite its flaws its better than…

      Twitch just went “ARGH!!! Its too much work! Just delete them!!!”

      • Correction…

        Youtube spent hundreds and millions of dollars AFTER mass deleting, demonetising or flagging content when the DMCA hammer first hit especially on lets plays because they realised they were gonna get slapped by a lot of class actions and claims THEN they finally put the tools in to help the actual content creators..

        Which pretty much sounds like what Twich is doing without the whole trying to give their creators the tools to cope. Though I will agree Twitch is being bloody lazy here since they’ve seen YouTubes ongoing issues with DMCA and frankly should have long since had the tools to help their creators by now

  • It’s moderately amusing how the current and next generation of consoles have been pushing sharing and streaming as much as possible, trying to get everyone to partake and yet streaming effectively and without breaking any rules is still years behind where it should be.

    • Yeah the only real control I’ve seen for this is there’s an option in Quantum Break to disable licensed music for this very reason. I don’t believe I’ve seen the option in any other game. Unless a lot of games that have licensed content like Forza(s) include a clause to allow streaming. Come to think of it, streaming is one of the legal problems they have republishing backcompat titles, too. Marques and music licensing is a key reason we’ll probably never see the Project Gothams released on backcompat.

      • I can think of a few games that have either a “streamer mode” or an option to disable licensed music that could trigger a copyright strike. Control is an example of the latter.

    • The consoles are actually in a good position to facilitate legal streaming. They can easily make support of the OS level streaming feature a requirement for distributing games on the platform.

      This would give users certainty that anything they stream using the console is legal, and for services like Twitch that any streams originating from one of the consoles is (likely) legal.

  • The DMCA needs to be abolished. It should never have been legislated in the first place, and everyone knew at the time that it would be a complete mess twenty years down the line.

    • The DMCA itself is fine, It’s the people abusing it and how hard it is to punish abusers of it that is the problem.

        • No its fine,

          The problem is the difficulty of punishing those who abuse it. The US court system is expensive.

          You would have to spend hundreds of thousands to take someone to court over abusing the DMCA system. Thats what these companies abusing it rely on, They don’t think you will take them to court. Because even if you did with a solid case, They could appeal you into bankruptcy.

          Look at the H3H3 case. That cost them an insane amount of money and time before they got a ruling in their favour.

          • Section 1201 needs to be hard abolished forever, as it’s absolutely fucked up and takes away the right to own things you legitimately paid for.

            Section 512 (the safe harbour protection) is somewhat fine, but should be extracted out into its own law, with the dodgy wording that allows for copyright abusers fixed up.

  • Who would’ve thought broadcasting unlicensed music on your stream would be a bad idea?

    Cry unfair as much as you want. You don’t have the legal right to broadcast copyrighted music entirely, without permission and generate revenue from those streams.

    • So, every single one of those takedown notices was legit then. Since we know that DCMA takedown notices never get it wrong, after all.

      • No, But a fair few of these steamers seem to think they should be allowed to broadcast copyrighted music they don’t own. And generate revenue off it.

        Radio stations have to license music. Why shouldn’t twitch streamers?

    • That was my initial reaction but I think there’s a bit of sympathy for people who play games with licensed music, like GTA or Tony Hawk or whatever.
      But yeah I imagine the people being effected by this are largely in the former camp.

      I have yet to recieve a DMCA warning for any of my past VODs, including a few with song requests on, so I’m guessing a lot of these DMCAs are for songs that would have common sense would say “hey, this one is probably gonna get taken down”.

    • Yeah and it absolutely sucks that this is the case. I would love to be able to pay a small fee to APRA or whoever to cover licensing for playing music on-stream, in the same way radio stations do.

      Even if it was like $20 per stream or something I’d pay it because I’d love to be able to do radio-style streams where I play and talk about music.

      A friend of mine looked into doing it a few years ago for his League of Legends streams, and they wanted thousands of dollars per stream just to do it. It’s stupid and ridiculous.

      • Yeah I think the music industry should embrace modern media. A simple license process for their libraries would be great.

  • I don’t understand how this can happen. I don’t understand how Twitch, Youtube, and even Facebook don’t already come under the same laws that, say, Aus Post does, were there a ‘common carryer’ and there for, not them selfs responsible for anything on there.

    This is, yet again, the old gard of the Music industry, the last vestige of old rules, still fucks everyone over. It dose not help that Amarican Idol is still so big. It alone is probs holding the industry up with the idea that ‘anyone can be famous’ thing. Like, sure, anyone who can sing well can. Or atleast they used to, before the rise of Mainstream Media on Youtube, the No. 1 thing that fucked it all up.

  • When streamers say their ‘life’s work’ has been deleted, aren’t they being a little melodramatic?? Nobody would be going back years and watching old streams, the entire appeal of twitch is that it is live!
    And they made their money from those streams, it surely can’t mean much that an old stream nobody was gonna watch anyway is now deleted off the platform.

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