Mass DMCA Takedown Requests Issued on Twitch

Twitch streamers received copyright strikes en masse over the weekend of June 5th due to an influx of copyright infringement claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) by an entity that claims to represent the Recording Industry Association of America (the “RIAA”). These copyright strikes risk causing many popular streamers to be banned from the website, as Twitch permanently bans accounts once they reach three strikes.

The safe harbors in Section 512 of the DMCA require that Twitch “responds expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material that is claimed to be infringing” once it is notified by a copyright owner of claimed infringement. Otherwise, Twitch could potentially be liable for any copyright infringements occurring on its services.

Twitch allows streamers to save portions of their live streams as “clips,” which may be viewed on the Twitch website.  Some streamers have large clip archives with hundreds, or even thousands of clips.

The DMCA takedown requests received by Twitch allege that background music in certain clips from 2017-2019 infringe the RIAA’s copyrights. At the time of the takedown requests, Twitch did not have a method in place by which to sort through or delete clips all at once. In a June 10th update, Twitch indicated that it will be implementing a way to allow streamers to sort through and delete large clip archives. Twitch also plans to extend its use of Audible Magic, a content identification service, to identify clips that may potentially contain copyrighted music and automatically delete them without penalizing streamers with a copyright strike to their account. Twitch indicated that it will take a few weeks for these new features to become available, and that in a few months Audible Magic will also apply to newly created clips (and not just past clips) as well.

Twitch asserts that this is the first time it has received mass DMCA claims, but these sorts of DMCA requests are far from new on other websites. YouTube, for example, has been dealing with large quantities of DMCA requests for years. To avoid having to delete YouTube videos that might potentially include copyrighted audio, YouTube has a function that mutes the audio track of a video for a period of time when the audio track allegedly contains copyrighted material. Twitch might have a harder time implementing such a feature: because Twitch clips can be no longer than 60 seconds, it seems likely that an entire clip might have to be muted if a streamer was playing music in the background.

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