Twitch.tv has partnered with Audible Magic to scan saved streams and clips for copyrighted content. In the past, the company mainly ignored background music, but is now cracking down on streamers who violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Let’s take a look at what this means, and which music you can use.
What This Means for Twitch Streamers
On June 8, 2020, the official Twitch Support Twitter account issued a statement about an influx of take-down notices. It asked streamers to remove all video clips that could potentially include copyrighted content under DMCA rules.
📢 This week, we've had a sudden influx of DMCA takedown requests for clips with background music from 2017-19. If you’re unsure about rights to audio in past streams, we advise removing those clips. We know many of you have large archives, and we're working to make this easier.
— Twitch Support (@TwitchSupport) June 8, 2020
On Twitch.tv, there’s a general rule when using music on your streams: if you play any music for which you don’t have the proper licensing, you can be penalized by the legal owner. This includes anything on Spotify, YouTube, the radio, and so on.
Like all digital content hosts, Twitch operates under the 1998 U.S. law, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA. However, Twitch also leverages the DMCA’s “safe harbor” provision. This shields content-hosting platforms from liability for copyright violations by people on their sites, as long as they promptly respond to take-down requests from rights holders.
Twitch and other streaming platforms are legally obligated to remove any allegedly infringing content and notify the person who posted it.
A full disclosure of Twitch’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act Notification Guidelines can be found on its website.
Streamers on Twitch are given three strikes for copyright violations before their account is ultimately banned. People who believe their content has been flagged by mistake have the option of contesting the decision by submitting a counter-notification through Twitch Support.
When a streamer issues a counter-notice, the host (in this case, Twitch) is obligated to manually review the complaint, notify the rights-holder (in this case, the music publisher), and potentially restore the content in question.
That’s Twitch’s obligation under the law. In practice, however, hosting platforms (most famously, YouTube) generally don’t bother reviewing counter-notices with much care. A DMCA takedown notice is usually final, even if it’s issued in error.
More information on appealing muted audio can be found on Twitch’s support page.
Twitch and Audible Magic
Twitch has been working with Audible Magic to implement a system that will automatically remove unauthorized third-party audio from Videos on Demand (VODs). The VOD is an archive of content previously streamed live on Twitch, otherwise known as “Clips,” “Highlights,” and “Past Broadcasts.”
The company hopes this will protect both broadcasters and copyright owners. However, this technology won’t scan live broadcasts.
Twitch’s guidelines for audio content haven’t changed—list of what is and isn’t allowed can be found on the company’s community guidelines website. Regardless, the addition of an automated scan and takedown process might result in the unexpected removal of older VODs. This doesn’t reflect a change in policy, but rather, just a change in enforcement.
Music You’re Allowed to Use in Twitch Streams
Quite simply, you can use any music you own or have a license to use during your Twitch streams. Having a license to play music for your own enjoyment (for example, a Spotify account) doesn’t mean you have a license to broadcast that music on your stream.
Amazon Music provides DMCA-safe music for monetized streams and VODs. You can use it on Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, or Facebook without worrying about content strikes or muted content.
Below are a few more DMCA-safe music programs:
- Pretzel: A curated catalog of music specifically licensed to be used while streaming.
- Monstercat: You can subscribe to the company’s Gold Plan for $5.00 per month to stream its music on your channel. You can read more about licensing on Monstercat’s FAQ page.
- Anjunabeats: Twitch references this site in its setup guide under the “Channel Trailer” section.
Music You’re Not Allowed to Use in Twitch Streams
You can check out the full list of music you can’t use on Twitch on its community guidelines page. Below are a few examples of videos that would likely cause you some problems:
- A radio-style broadcast: A Twitch stream or VOD which focuses on playing music you don’t own isn’t licensed for you to share on Twitch.
- A lip-synching performance: Pantomiming, singing, or pretending to sing music you don’t own isn’t licensed for you to share on Twitch.
- A cover of a song: Performance of any song owned by someone else, with the exception of a live performance on your Twitch stream. If you do perform a cover song in a live stream, make a good faith effort to perform the song as it was written by the songwriter. Create all audio elements yourself, without incorporating instrumental tracks, recordings, or any other element created or owned by others.
If you’re new to streaming on Twitch, figuring out which music you can and can’t use on a stream can be tricky. But if you follow Twitch’s guidelines, you can prevent your content from being muted or, even worse, banned from the platform.