Last week, a series of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) copyright strikes rocked the world of Twitch. Predominantly from music record labels, the DMCA strikes were in response to creators using unlicensed music in their broadcasts. Whilst these strikes have sent the creator community into somewhat of a frenzied state with streamers panicked that their channel would be struck to oblivion, this new normal does present creators, their marketing agencies as well as Twitch with some new opportunities.
DMCA copyright strikesFirst and foremost to explain what has happened, music record labels and rights holders in the entertainment industry have started filing DMCA copyright strikes on Twitch live-streams. Although Twitch has operated a three-strikes policy for quite some time now, the threat of DMCA strikes has never really existed on the platform. Whereas YouTube channels have received copyright strikes due to unlicensed content for several years, the Twitch ecosystem has operated with immunity. Now, however, strikes on clips and VODs (Video on Demand) dating back to 2017 are coming in left, right and centre. These strikes are not only reaching the creators on Twitch who stream to a smaller audience but they are also affecting gaming giants like Cloakzy and Nick28T who generate tens of thousands of dollars through influencer marketing campaigns.Whilst one would be forgiven for scrutinising the creators and their lack of effort to stop using unlicensed music, a certain level of culpability should be left at Twitch’s doorstep too. Amidst the strikes bombarding an otherwise healthy and prosperous live-streaming ecosystem, Twitch has implemented no new tools to aid users in their efforts to delete old clips and VODs en masse.Understandably, with their livelihoods at risk, the Twitch community has come together and shared ways in which all their clips, VODs, and the majority of their digital footprint on Twitch can be removed. Users such as DNP3 and Commander Root have designed and coded tools within days of the strikes being made to enable creators to delete the now-damaging clips of gameplay. Whilst many streamers will likely find it distressing to have to delete their entire history on Twitch, these processes should protect creators in the short-term.Although the new landscape of Twitch may appear bleaker with increased scrutiny from rights holders who are eager to strike down channels for any minor breach in the DMCA, the status quo does introduce an interesting path forward. In the future, live-streamers may have to consider subscribing to royalty-free music packages. Whilst the barrier to entry for these services is definitely low enough for creators who actively work with brands, it’s likely that chart-topping records and superstar music artists will be heard far less frequently on stream. Whilst it is likely that music’s biggest songs will be heard less often on stream, it’d be unwise to rule their presence out completely. It’s important to remember that there’s every reason for Twitch’s most influential creators to collaborate with the world’s biggest music labels. Back in 2018, Universal Music Group and ESL, a leading esports tournament organiser, launched a joint music venture. More recently, esports organisations such as 100 Thieves and FaZe Clan have made ties with mainstream music artists.
Gaming and traditional entertainment lines blurThe lines between gaming and traditional entertainment have continued to blur, and with record labels forging more and more relationships with organisations in the world of gaming, it wouldn’t be too foolish to suggest that certain music labels may sign deals with influential creators on Twitch. Such an agreement would provide influencers and marketing agencies with yet another potentially significant sponsorship opportunity, and it gives music labels a chance to target specific gaming audiences.Matthew Woods, CEO of AFK Creators, said: “Whilst the new DMCA strikes have sent shockwaves through the Twitch community and have ruffled a few feathers, they could prove to be very useful. “The newfound significance of licensed music may birth a series of unprecedented conversations and deals between key stakeholders in the entertainment industry. I’m confident that there is no reason to immediately panic. Content creators and streamers, in the end, bring value to record labels and Twitch should have the resources to build out the tools necessary for a viable solution.”
Twitch to YouTubeOne other unintended consequence of this DMCA crackdown could be the transition of Twitch creators to YouTube. Although YouTubers, video and live creators alike are required to follow similar guidelines as those set out by Twitch, the processes and routines around copyright strikes are far more established and better handled on the former than the latter – partially due to its age and experience in handling DMCA strikes. With this in mind, it isn’t totally unrealistic to expect some, possibly smaller, influencers to transition to YouTube where an audience is already waiting for them.This early on it’s difficult to say for certain whether the latest DMCA strikes will benefit or damage the Twitch ecosystem that has rapidly grown over the last few years. What is for certain, however, is that the current climate could yield a number of partnerships and sponsorship deals for creators and music labels alike.