My relationship with Twitch goes back a long way, I registered as a user in 2014, although previously I already saw some live, mainly flight simulation. It wasn’t until late summer 2019 that I started consuming streams more regularly, and I remember that it was November 11 when a specific channel caught my attention more than the rest. Since then I have a daily appointment with the platform, and as an active member of it I am living the last hours with a mixture of strangeness and anger. Not for me, no, for the streamers.
And it is that, although there had been some movement in past days, it has only been in these last hours that, by surprise, streamers around the world have begun to receive notifications from Twitch, informing them that some of its content includes music protected by copyright. Some notifications that, unfortunately, do not remain in a notice and the deletion of the content reported on the basis of the DMCA, but carry penalties for the authors. Penalties that can lead to permanent account blocking (they remained). In other words, in the final closure of the channels.
There is also a very striking circumstance, and that is that it is not about recently generated content, far from it. In some cases, streamers have been reported for content generated five years ago. I was talking, for example, to Jose, a friend and recent streamer, and he tells me, for example, of a clip by Nepentehz about FIFA, with a song whose rights Electronic Arts had then. The problem is that, over the years, EA Sports no longer has such rights, and the streamer has been denounced and sanctioned by Twitch, as he himself has told on his Twitter account.
Worse still, even in infractions committed years ago, and about which neither Twitch nor the rights managers had so far ruled, there has been no prior notification to the streamers, there has not been a single Cease & Desist, not a single prior communication. Nothing. Directly the punitive measures and that, taken by surprise, have plunged the streamer community into a situation that combines helplessness, fear, indignation and grief.
Helplessness Because, in the case of Twitch streamers that already have years of experience, or those that still have less time but have a fairly active community, the clips (fragments of a maximum of 60 seconds taken from a live show) number in the thousands or tens of thousands. The “ideal” solution would be to review all those clips, one by one, to detect and eliminate all those that could be denounced for having the fragment of a song copyrighted.
Fear, because of the inability to undertake this task, and the lack of knowledge of whether there have been more complaints that are still pending. Many Twitch streamers have gone to sleep Sunday night through Monday without knowing whether, during Monday morning or Monday afternoon, they will receive the dreaded infringement communications which, at best, will result in a stain on their proceedings. At worst, in the accumulation of three or more claims and, therefore, in the final loss of their channel.
Indignation and grief Because, in these circumstances, many of them had no choice but to remove all the clips from their channel. Cutbacks that, until now, allowed to know the evolution of a channel from these small pieces, from these “snacks” of stream that, unlike the recordings of the live shows, are not automatically eliminated after the established deadline. Reminders fondly kept by streamers and viewers, which due to the restrictive behavior of Twitch today have been deleted forever.
Twitch and copyright
The problem, and at this point I understand that the pressure from the copyright managers must have definitely influenced, is the way in which Twitch has managed what happened. I accept that the end of the story, regardless of its development, would always go through the elimination of all clips with protected content. And it is that, and I really feel bad saying this, the platform has turned its back on the creators, the streamers without whom, it would be absolutely nothing.
And is that It wasn’t until a couple of hours ago when much of the damage was done, that the official technical support account of Twitch on Twitter have given some explanation in this regard, a message has been retweeted by the official account of the platform. By the way, and in this regard, so far not a word from the official Twitch Spain account. This is the explanation of the platform:
Week 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
Since the start of the pandemic, the number of streamers and Twitch users has grown very markedly, as many professionals from all fields (from musicians to athletes, to youtubers) who have been forced to suspend their professional activity, They have found in the platform’s live shows an interesting way of communication and, in more than a few cases, also of monetization.. Its managers are aware of this and have taken some measures, such as the agreement with Soundcloud that we talked about a few weeks ago.
It was reasonably foreseeable, therefore, that more glances than ever landed on Twitch, and that also includes that group of difficult qualification (in other words, I prefer not to comment) that watches over copyright. And I am surprised that they were not prepared in case something like this happened, to combine strict compliance with the law with, given the particularity of the circumstances, some type of margin in the application of punitive measures. Unfortunately this has not been the case.
I just took a quick tour of a few (quite a few) channels, spaces where you normally talk about video games, entertainment, life … and in 90% of them (I have done a quick check on 50 channels and this happens at 45) the topic of the conversation is the massive infractions received by the community of streamers. Some streamers that, I know, have always valued Twitch, and still do not finish understanding the blow they have received from it.
I am aware, and I don’t want to stop mentioning it, of the difficult situation for Twitch. Perhaps the basis of the problem, although this is to open a melon the size of a soccer field, is the DMCA, a rule dictated letter by letter by the copyright lobby, and that allows the development of coercive and punitive actions far, far above the alleged harm caused by its alleged offenders. Like the Metallica lawsuit against Napster users (I was there): killing flies with gunshots.
However, we must not lose sight of this, and this is a key point, which until two days ago (literally) Twitch has consented without any problem a situation and, overnight, it has rotated 180 degrees, taking many people ahead in that movement. Without margin, without a minimum of flexibility, it almost seems that forgetting that the history of its success as a streaming platform could not have been written if not for the streamers. You cannot feed on what they do to, one fine day and suddenly, punish them for it.
And what about streamers?
So that it is better understood I will tell you with a personal story. As I commented at the beginning of the news, my relationship with Twitch changed substantially on November 11, 2019 at about 19:45. It was a bland afternoon when I was looking for some distraction on the Internet, which led me to look for some stream, and he wanted the chance that at that moment he found Anaïs, streamer of the SweetAnaïs channel. I’m talking about the person who posted this tweet on Sunday night:
Out of nowhere I received a ‘strike’ message from Twitch today, where they have removed a clip because such a song (commercial song) was coming out. And if they hit the third notice, they would stick with me on Twitch.
How could a 2018 clip be removed from nowhere for 1 song ?! + pic.twitter.com/BM8RGLwAS8
– Anaïs🧸 (@ SweetAnais94) June 7, 2020
Obviously, the tweet was only a small part of the reaction to what happened. The bulk of it is shared by the emotional response to an unexpected attack by a platform that, yes, has given her a lot, but to which she has also contributed, and the immediate action that many streamers have had to take, erase all their clip history at a stroke. Hundreds, thousands even of memories that, thanks to the DMCA, no longer exist.
The operation of the gallery of clips for deletion, throughout the night of Sunday and the early hours of Sunday to Monday, has been extremely irregular. And it’s normal, Twitch CPD should be running at 125% of capacity. The odyssey of the clips, we could call it. Many streamers have asked their vievers to help them by deleting clips that they have created in the past.
I speak of the Anaïs case because it is the one I have lived most directly, because of the friendship I have with her, but I know that thousands of similar stories have been lived during Sunday night and today. The company itself, on its Twitter channel, speaks of a massive demand. The problem is that when we use that term, we sometimes forget that each unit of that “mass” is a person. And I think that Twitch’s big mistake, in this case, has been treating their streamers the same way whistleblowers have done. And it seems to me a mistake of bulk and hardly justifiable.
Today Monday, like every day, I will not miss my evening appointment with Twitch, I plan to continue enjoying the platform and supporting streamers like Anaïs as much as I can. But that does not mean that yes, okay, many streamers have received strikes (a term that comes from YouTube, actually), but what the platform is perhaps not so aware of, is that, for all the criticism of its way of Act, Twitch have also received a huge amount of strikes from the community, and I am concerned about the effect they may have in the future.