Twitch evolved from a video-game streaming site to include creative content and, in 2018, music. During COVID-19, many DJs have been using Twitch as a way to keep their local music scene alive. In Minneapolis, for example, Dave Eckblad produces the Twitch stream for music collective Intellephunk, including live events that engage fans and draw in tips. StreamElements reports that, over the course of one year, the number of hours users spend streaming music and performing arts skyrocketed from 3.6 million to 17.6 million. However, complying with copyright regulation may have an impact on this trend.
Wired reports that Twitch got overwhelming backlash after, last October, it informed streamers that any channel that featured video with copyrighted content must take it down to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) — and that offenders risked their channels being deleted.
Twitch apologized within 24 hours but “it was just as surprised as content creators were by the volume of DMCA requests it had received.” Twitch has a three-strike policy for its users; if a user accumulated 3+ strikes, he or she could be banned.
Wired opines that, although there’s always been a struggle between creators and copyright enforcement, “the larger issue [is] uneven and confusing copyright enforcement on the Internet.” That’s especially the case with “streaming in general — not just livestreaming,” said DJ Sarvesh Ramprakash aka Icarus Redux, who is avoiding Twitch.
“DMCA takedowns are perhaps something that one can take in stride, because audio isn’t muted while the stream is going,” he said. “But it’s not a good long-term solution if you’re trying to build up some kind of brand via a specific channel.” Because identifying copyrighted music is “entirely automatic,” it is “more [to] likely catch popular, well-known music than obscure, underground sounds.”
But original music isn’t entirely exempt from issues. DJ Plastician noted that a lot of the music he plays is “unreleased.” When he “first started out … a lot of the music that received DMCAs was music by [his own] label.” “So I’m seeing DMCAs for stuff that I owned,” he said. “I had to speak to my distributor … because my personal stance is, I don’t mind people streaming my music on their streams. I am quite happy for them to do it.”
Once it was removed from a database called Audible Magic, the takedown notices stopped.
DJs like Eckblad are avoiding Twitch altogether to end DMCA takedowns. He said he is “definitely working towards a custom self-host solution.” Because he never used Twitch’s tipping system, he isn’t losing any revenue. The Lot Radio in New York helps DJs by “finding or building alternatives to Twitch for music streaming,” using a Vimeo service it shares with DJs.
The Bunker New York worked with The Lot Radio for a “personalized streaming experience” and founder Bryan Kasenic “thinks the new platform is a huge improvement in both design and audio quality.” “From a branding and feel perspective, it’s a lot better,” he added, stating that neither he or The Lot Radio have had problems with DMCA takedowns on Vimeo.
Twitch Dubbed Metallica’s BlizzCon Performance to Avoid a Copyright Claim, Engadget, 2/20/21