Last month Twitch streamers found themselves hit with a wave of DMCA takedown requests for clips that feature licensed music. For creators with hundreds of clips saved featuring various music in the background, this became a huge headache as they were asked to manually remove violating clips, which for some could be as many as hundreds of videos saved.

What Is DMCA?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a federal law that’s become quite infamous with the rise of social media services, particularly YouTube. Essentially, it gives the copyright owners the ability to call out unlicensed use of its products and request they be taken down.

While YouTube creators are familiar with the DMCA Twitch’s situation is unique in that the requests seem to come all at once, very quickly. Twitch’s official Support account acknowledged the takedown requests, but simply advised users to remove those clips. For users with large archives, Twitch says it’s “working to make this easier.”

Twitch’s DMCA Guidelines

Twitch’s guidelines on DMCA states that “It is our policy to respond to clear notices of claimed copyright infringement that fully comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In addition, we will promptly terminate without notice the accounts of those determined by us to be “repeat infringers”.”

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How Does DMCA Affect Streamers?

The DMCA is infamous, but it’s also misunderstood. The Act primarily protects the interests of the copyright holder while also giving protections to digital platforms that would previously be liable for hosting copyrighted content that was uploaded without their knowledge.

“Most people think of the DMCA as something used against infringers,” says David Hoppe, Managing Partner at SF-based Media/Tech law firm Gamma Law. “But actually DMCA takedown requests are not sent to infringers. DMCA takedown requests are sent by copyright owners to sites that have content posted by users, and that content infringes the copyright. This could be a product review on Amazon, an essay posted on Medium or a YouTube video, for example.”

The purpose of the DMCA is to protect those platform owners, like YouTube or Twitch, from liability from the copyright holder, in case a user on the platform posts infringing content. “Any legitimate site will take a takedown request seriously and notify the user to take the content down so that the site will not have the risk of being sued by the copyright owner,” Hoppe says.”

Is there Free Music Twitch Streamers Can Use?

Owning an iTunes MP3 file or a Spotify Premium subscription doesn’t grant you the license to songs from those services. Streamers hoping to avoid a DMCA takedown may have better luck using royalty-free licenses through Creative Commons, or a variety of services that offer royalty-free music for generic use. Some streamers may look into commissioning custom tracks from musicians for exclusive use on their channel.

What Can Content Creators Do If They’re Hit With a DMCA Takedown Request?

Hoppe says that creators, like streamers, can send a counter-notice through the platform and their content will be put back up. “The copyright owner then has a limited time within which to file a lawsuit against the user. So if the creator gets a counter-notice back, they have to decide quickly whether it’s worth escalating to a lawsuit. Otherwise, the content could just stay up indefinitely.”

While platform holders will followthrough with DMCA takedown requests, there are steps creators can take if their content is taken down. However, these extra steps could lead to further litigation.
“The [content creator] will have to evaluate the legitimacy of the takedown request. If there is a credible claim that the creator’s content infringes on the other party’s copyright? If there is no credible basis, then the creator should file a counter-notice, and the site will be required to put the content back up. If it’s a closer call and there could be infringement, then the creator should consult a copyright lawyer and make the decision whether to file the counter-notice and possibly wind up in court.”

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Matt T.M. Kim is a reporter for IGN.

Source: After Twitch's DMCA Music Takedowns, Here's What Streamers Can Do