For almost a year now, streamers have talked about how to avoid DMCA strikes on Twitch. Depending on who you ask, you get a variety of answers. Some of it is good advice, some of it is okay, and some is just downright wrong. Even the solutions coming from the platform itself are widely criticized as being ineffective or confusing. We’ve seen this ongoing confusion play out for months now, and while Twitch has more recently communicated more – it’s clearly still not enough. So, while DMCA issues on Twitch are likely to get worse (confirmed by an incoming ‘intensive enforcement‘), I can try to help creators avoid problems in the meantime.
Why the Confusion Among Streamers?
One of the main reasons why the platform struggles with DMCA confusion among streamers is the vacuum of information. While Twitch shouldn’t have to hold hands with streamers through everything, they should have done more about DMCA. They still CAN do more about it. One of my biggest issues with Twitch right now is their failure to address DMCA outside of music. Many streamers believe that DMCA ONLY applies to copyright music. Spoiler: It applies to ALL copyright content, including music.
When an information vacuum exists, especially from an authority, many strange things are believable. NickMercs was widely quoted in the media saying that Drake would let him play his music on Twitch. Many believed this meant anyone could. Fresh off the cover of Sports Illustrated, he recently deleted all his VODs/clips. Others believe that simply asking an artist on Twitter grants them a license – not realizing that song ownership can be complex. Some don’t see the big deal and are willing to risk it. From there, the beliefs become more and more ridiculous.
Cheat Sheet to Avoid DMCA Strikes on Twitch
Let’s start by making this AS EASY as possible. I have spoken with experts in the music industry to compile a simple DMCA Cheat Sheet for Twitch. I had it checked out by @MyLawyerFriend, Noah Downs, for further review. Once satisfied, I published it first on Twitter. This cheat sheet does NOT constitute legal advice – it’s simply aimed at making DMCA easier to navigate. Also, thanks to SaltyWyvern, Lordsp, and Saysera, we have German, Spanish, and French translated versions as well!
The Basics of Avoiding a DMCA Strike on Twitch
- Don’t play music you don’t have a valid license to. Don’t play it live and don’t have it in VODs or clips. (Paying for Spotify does NOT grant you streaming rights. Asking a musician on Twitter may or may not be valid, depending on their rights to their own music (it’s complicated!)) So, to be safe – just don’t play music you’re absolutely sure you’ve legally licensed.
- Make sure you set up Soundtrack by Twitch correctly. FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY AND TEST IT! If done correctly, you shouldn’t hear any Soundtrack music on your VODs or Clips. Songs on Soundtrack are only licensed for live play, not recordings.
- Cover Songs may be safe. There’s some dispute about whether additional licenses are needed for video content versus just a public performance. But, assuming Twitch is honest and upfront, carefully, we’re calling this ‘possibly safe.’ Just make sure there are no VODs or Clips.
- DJ Sets are not permitted on Twitch. Although Twitch has courted DJs to stream on the platform, it’s explicit that DJ sets playing pre-recorded music are not okay. There are other rules in there you should know too!
- Getting a License is the ONLY safe way to stream music. Services that offer music that is safe for streaming are the literal only way to be safe for DMCA (well, other than not having music at all). I’ve curated a list of services (as well as artists who own their music and can, at the time of publishing, grant permission).
A Grim Battle on the Horizon
While we don’t know for sure what the future holds, I believe that DMCA on Twitch will get worse before it gets better. We see ongoing enforcement against VODs and Clips on the platform, and I think LIVE takedowns are around the corner. I have been documenting an increase of live takedowns on TV and MOVIE content in recent weeks, but we have not seen that against music so far. The technology exists and is actively tracking; we are just lucky so far. Perhaps because of ongoing negotiations or a show of good faith by the music industry. When it does, it’s going to spark a new round of chaos for the platform.