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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Streamers

 There has been a lot of buzz in the industry about DMCA’s and today we’re joined by Will Hanisch of GreenRoom, Inc. A law firm that offers a wide range of creative legal solutions for content creators and digital entrepreneurs to help you better understand what’s going on.

What has been going on?

Streamers on Twitch faced a new reality when the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a conglomerate representing 85% of all music labels, issued huge numbers of “takedown notices” following review of Twitch’s back catalogue of VODs and clips.

 

 

These notices drew attention to the use of three songs featured in streams between the years 2017 and 2019 and were the result of Twitch’s forced compliance with the requests to maintain DMCA safe harbor protection. Twitch now has to balance the rights of copyright holders and the streamers who make the platform a success.

With Twitch’s “three-strike” policy, streamers are penalized for actions from years ago and without any means to correct the actions. The shocked community continues to beg the platform for a better way. Twitch has stated that they will work with the community to enable better content management options, but unfortunately for many, the damage is already done.

While streamers and those in the industry knew that dealing with this issue is unavoidable, the sweeping application leaves many wondering why Twitch did not learn from the mistakes of its competition. It is becoming common knowledge that as the digital media industry continues to grow, more traditional outlets lash out in a desire to get a piece of the profits and stay relevant.

 

What’s happening on other platforms?

Twitch is not alone in being forced to deal with the grim reality of compliance with the DMCA and the interplay of creating and controlling content on streams. YouTube encountered the same issue beginning in 2015 and still struggles with its approach to this day. YouTube instituted dramatic changes in how it regulated copyrighted material and how “takedown notices” were processed leading to a near universal outcry from creators on YouTube. The volume of content on YouTube, and Twitch, indicates that inspection, issuing of notices, and enforcement has been done via bulk computer-based review.

This over broad approach on YouTube leaves many without answers for weeks as creators and streamers rely on clumsy appeal processes and manual re-review to either get their video monetization, avoid punishment, or to reinstate their video on the platform. Either way, creators and streamers lose out on valuable views and growth, but more importantly, they face the very real possibility of being removed from the platform without the ability to respond.

If YouTube is any guide to how Twitch will handle this process, streamers should prepare for even more growing pains as Twitch attempts to balance the demands of traditional media, the law, and the needs of streamers everywhere. One of the most substantial hurdles for streamers on Twitch is the lack of control over what the audience clips. Twitch will need to ensure that there is a method to control audience generated content.

The continued controversy surrounding DMCA on digital platforms is unlikely to change. Streamers and creators will have to rely on the response of the platforms rather than government intervention. No particular agency has the authority to regulate or change the DMCA, which means that only an act of Congress can change the current predicament. Unfortunately, streamer and content creator rights are not a hot button issue at the federal level and no relief is on the horizon. Due to the widespread effect of the DMCA requests in the past week, we hope that Twitch will make incremental and meaningful change.

 

How can you avoid getting DMCA notices?

Prudent streamers must be extremely cautious of the content they use, and steps to ensure that the music they play during streams is properly licensed. There are several options to avoid this issue. Streamers can play music from copyright-free services or, as long as the streamer complies with the terms, using services that offer music under Creative Commons. Streamers can also subscribe to music licensing services such as Epidemic Sound, BMIPretzel Rock, Monstercat, Streambeats or ASCAP.

(Editors Note) At Pipeline – we use Epidemic Sound for our streams and video content. We reached out to them to get you 30 days free access to over 32,000 tracks and 64,000 sound effects for your streams and videos. Over 100,000 creators use them to sound track their videos. If you’re looking for copyright free music then I would recommend giving them a shot!

 

 

 

You got a DMCA takedown notice – what can you do?

If a streamer or creator receives a “takedown notice” the creator must decide how to respond. The streamer or creator should evaluate whether they have a right to use the content through a license. If they do, then the creator must assemble the appropriate documentation and or reach out to both the rights holder and the platform. Each platform has an appeal process and the streamer may be able to resolve the issue without resorting to outside help. This follow through adds additional data to the platform’s machine learning program and helps others avoid the same false allegations in the future. With machine learning, a larger dataset has the highest likelihood of yielding more accurate results.

If the streamer or creator does not have any identifiable right to use the content, then they face  a difficult decision: delete the content, be banned from the platform, negotiate with the rights holder, or forfeit monetization and or be subject to the potential legal consequences. Many creators are now relying on online tools to delete their expansive back catalog, hoping that this will be enough to protect accounts that they have spent years building. This is a difficult and personal decision with a huge impact on the future of the creator’s channel.

Every platform has a slightly different approach and in the coming months, we shall see how Facebook and Mixer evolve their response to this very issue. If you are facing a DMCA-related action on Twitch or any social media platform, there are many factors to evaluate when determining how to respond. GreenRoom Inc is available to help should the need arise. Please do not hesitate to reach out to them!

This article is for educational purposes only.

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