Twitch Deletes Content for Copyright Infringement Without Warning

On October 20th, many Twitch streamers received an email from Twitch notifying them that content on their channels was subject to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) takedown notifications for copyright infringement, and that the infringing content had been deleted. Twitch did not identify which content received takedown notices, or give streamers an opportunity to dispute the claims or save the content to their personal storage prior to it being removed. Because of this, streamers are unsure of what content was deleted, as well as what copyrighted material the deleted content contained. 

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.

This follows a wave of takedown notices issued in June over copyrighted music that we previously covered. Since then, Twitch has implemented 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. Additionally, Twitch has created “Soundtrack by Twitch,” a music library that streamers can use during their streams for free without worries of copyright infringement. Twitch has also upgraded its management for clips (small portions of live streams that can be saved, typically of highlights from the stream) to include a better way to sort and delete clips (including all at once), as well as controlling who may create clips of a stream. 

Although Twitch had paused its processing of DMCA takedown notifications following the June influx, its normal policy is to record a strike to a streamer’s account for each violation, and ban a user after three strikes, However, in Twitch’s October 20th email, it referred to this latest round of takedown notifications as “a one-time warning,” and noted that it will “resume the normal processing of DMCA takedown notifications” on October 23rd.

Overzealous and opaque DMCA handling remains one of the most controversial problems in copyright law.  Many see a disturbing trend in content owners abusing automated takedown systems to improperly restrict de minimis use or other fair uses.

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