Twitch explain and apologise for DMCA poker video purge

Jon Pill
Posted on: November 13, 2020 08:21 PST

A couple of weeks ago, we covered the sudden deletion of hundreds of hours of poker content from Twitch. This was in response largely to poker streamers who had played copyrighted music while they streamed their play.

DMCA notices were filed. Videos were deleted. And players had to take down even more content or else run the risk of losing their channels entirely.

Twitch has taken a long breath to work out what to do about this. Yesterday, a few weeks on from when the story broke, they issued a response on Twitter.

"Your frustration and confusion with recent music-related copyright issues is completely justified," they tweeted. "Things can–and should–be better for creators than they have been recently."

The Twitter thread goes on to explain that "three days was simply not enough time for most creators to sort through all their VODs and Clips. We should have developed more sophisticated and user-friendly tools long ago."

And they link to a longer blog post explaining what changes they're making "going forward."

Why this happened

It probably shouldn't have come as a shock to poker streamers that you can't use other people's music on your stream. But it did.

In part, the blame falls on Twitch, who allowed this to be more or less standard practice for years. That legacy is why enforcing the rules now has been such an omnishambles.

Before this, Twitch says, there were fewer than 50 of these takedown notices issued each year. Since May 2020 there have been 1,000s per month. Someone at the record label has clearly only just started watching their kid's Fortnite stream.

Twitch admitted that "normally when we receive a DMCA notification against your channel, we send you an email that includes information about the allegedly infringed work. Who the claimant is, [etc ...], so that you can make an informed decision about whether to submit a counter-notification or seek a retraction."

The emails issued in October did not contain this info. That was yet another mishandling of the situation. To see why this matters we might need a short digression on:

How does the DMCA work?

The close enough for government work version — with the usual caveats about this not being legal advice and me not being a lawyer — is that websites that host content (in this case Twitch) are not culpable for copyright breaches in the same way a physical medium would be.

Instead, online platforms have to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Under this, sites like Twitch can host content without checking the copyright of everything creators stream or upload. But in turn, they do have to respond to notices of copyright breaches from copyright holders (the record labels in this instance). And they have to demonstrate that they do so promptly and effectively, or the copyright holders can hold the platform to account expensively.

This usually means the platform takes the content down and issues some sort of warning to and/or strike against the content creator (the streamer).

To protect against frivolous takedown notices, the content creators can technically sue the people who file an unjustified takedown notice. But that is hard work. Legal fees are expensive. And the DMCA is U.S. law, so you need to be able to file in a U.S. court.

What Twitch is doing about it

What this means for streamers is, as Twitch put it in their blog, "1) if you play recorded music on your stream, you need to stop doing that and 2) if you haven’t already, you should review your historical VODs and Clips that may have music in them and delete any archives that might."

Twitch says they are adding tools for mass deletion and sorting through of clips, as well as adding educational resources on how to identify places where creators can use copyrighted material and to help creators understand what their duties are under DMCA.

It is an impressive admission of guilt from so large a company, they understand they done screwed up. And they're also looking to fix their errors rather than cover them up.

That might just seem like basic decency, but it feels kind of impressive in these troubled times.

Featured image source: Twitter