Aurich Lawson / Getty Images
The streaming platform Twitch surprised many of its users this week when it sent out a large amount of copyright removal emails. Not only did these messages not tell streamers what content they allegedly posted was infringed, but they also said that Twitch had simply deleted content entirely without giving users an opportunity to object.
Many Twitch "partners" – the people who actually make money from their Twitch participation – received an email on Tuesday warning that some of their archive content should be deleted for copyright infringement.
"We are writing to inform you that your channel has been subject to one or more of these DMCA deactivation notifications and that the identified content has been deleted," read a screenshot of the email that streamer Devin Nash posted on Twitter Has. The email then recommends that users familiarize themselves with Twitch's guide to copyright before resuming "normal processing" of DMCA notifications on Friday (October 23rd).
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which has been regulating online copyright issues in the USA since 1998, contains a so-called Safe Harbor provision. Websites that host content, such as B. Twitch, cannot be sued for hosting infringing material if they respond quickly to notices from copyright holders informing them of the violation – hence the deactivation notification. A content owner or bot like YouTube's Content ID system will flag content and the platform will then remove it as soon as possible and notify the person who shared it.
However, under the DMCA, users are also supposed to be able to appeal these decisions with a counter-notice, and Twitch does indeed have a counterclaim process. To submit a counter-notification, affected users must submit a written notice that includes, among other things, identification of which material has been removed or access has been disabled, with a link. full name, address and signature; and a sworn statement under penalty of perjury that the material was "removed or disabled due to a mistake or misidentification".
However, this time users are not given this option. Twitch not only did not tell users what malicious content was associated with their account, it also deleted everything permanently, according to emails:
We acknowledge that by deleting this content we do not give you the opportunity to submit a reply or to request a revocation from the rights holder. In light of this, we have processed these notifications and are giving you a one-time warning to inform you about copyright law and the tools available to manage the content on your channel.
The deletions and notifications appear to be related to a "sudden influx of DMCA deactivation requests for clips with background music from 2017-19" that Twitch received in June. These, in turn, were apparently due to a sudden increase in action by the RIAA at the time. According to a CNN report in August, the RIAA sent more than 1,800 notices of copyright infringement to Twitch in June alone, compared with only about 700 in the past three years.
Part of protecting your Safe Harbor Liability Cover is to process communications as quickly as possible. Sitting on top of a huge pile of notifications to deal with individually for months on end doesn't really qualify as "fast" in any way, so Twitch has found a way to act in bulk. A representative from Twitch confirmed to Kotaku that the company had launched a mass action over "thousands" of backlog infringement notifications from music rights holders.
Once Twitch is overtaken, it plans to treat future violations "normally". In June, the company announced that it is expanding its use of automated technology to scan archived clips to include copyrighted music and automatically delete clips that have been found to be copyright infringing rather than penalizing streamers for them. The company reiterated that position yesterday and this procedure will take effect on Friday.
Just delete everything!
In the meantime, however, Twitch's advice to the streamers is not helpful, to say the least. Not only do users have no way of knowing which of their clips have been flagged, but Twitch's best advice seems to be "delete everything".
"To avoid receiving a DMCA deactivation notification for the recorded content that remains on your channel, we recommend that you take the following measures," Twitch wrote in the emails. "Check your clips, VoDs, and all other content on your Creator Dashboard and delete anything that contains unlicensed copyrighted material. If you are unsure of what is in your archive, you can delete anything."
Twitch did not provide users with a tool to bulk delete or archive their content, although Justin Ignacio, one of the founders of Twitch (who left the company in 2018), made a third-party tool available on Twitter.