Twitch streamers are getting DMCA takedown notices (again)

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Twitch’s music problem has flared up again, with the company sending DMCA warning notices en masse to its massive population of streamers. The news was spotted by the indefatigable esports consultant Rod “Slasher” Breslau, who posted news of the impeding takedowns on Twitter.

the Twitch DMCA bloodbath has begun, as hundreds of partnered streamers have received emails from Twitch as DMCA takedown notifications pic.twitter.com/zoIoI7Q7Xp

— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 20, 2020

But there’s some funny stuff going on here. First, Twitch is telling streamers that some of their content has been identified as violating copyright and that instead of letting streamers file counterclaims, it’s deleting the content; second, the company is telling streamers it’s giving them warnings, as opposed to outright copyright strikes.

The DMCA — that is, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — allows for websites like Twitch to host user-generated content under a provision colloquially known as safe harbor. Basically, it says that platforms can’t be sued if they take prompt action to remove or to block access to copyright-infringing material after they’ve received notice of an infringement claim from a copyright holder or a holder’s agent.

So what’s happened here is pretty simple: Twitch got a lot of DMCA takedown notices from copyright holders — presumably from the RIAA, which beefed with the site earlier this summer — and had to take action.

But weirdly Twitch decided to bulk delete infringing material instead of allowing streamers to archive their content or submit counterclaims. To me, that suggests that there are tons of infringements, and that Twitch needed to act very quickly and / or face a lawsuit it wouldn’t be able to win over its adherence to the safe harbor provision of the DMCA.

For its part, a Twitch spokesperson provided this 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-recognized vendors in the copyright space to help us achieve these goals.

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