Copyright and the Internet have never gotten along. Standing between rights holders like music labels and streamers or YouTube stars is the so-called DMCA takedown notice. We explain what it is and how you can avoid it.
Although the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) came into force in 1998 and has long been the nightmare of many YouTubers, it is currently making a real comeback.
At its core, the US copyright law with its focus on online content hardly differs from similar collections of laws. But for the video creator community, it has a huge significance.
What is the DMCA takedown notice?
There are good reasons why the streaming platform Twitch has been receiving DMCA takedown notices since autumn 2020 and has therefore deleted millions of videos:
Many Twitchers use background music in their streams for which they have no license. So far, the platform has been able to get away with it in this regard, as live streams are much harder to check for copyright infringement.
But with the growing number of archived streams and the not inconsiderable market power of certain twitchers, rights holders have now sounded the counterattack. And the DMCA takedown notice is their weapon:
If a copyright holder discovers that their protected content has been unlawfully used by a third party for digital content, they must send the service provider or platform operator a DMCA takedown notice – in other words, report the copyright infringement.
The provider must review this notice and notify the accused. Because the provider must assume that the allegations in this notice are true, virtually all platforms respond by immediately deleting the content in question.
Twitch points out in its DMCA FAQ that the platform “is not a court for hearing copyright cases and [is] not in a position to judge whether or not you or the rights holder is in the law.”
So the site operator sees itself more as a mediator. To avoid being hit with lawsuits, deleting the affected content is something he is only too happy to honour.
For the streamers, twitchers or YouTubers on display, on the other hand, a DMCA notice is always a problem. It is true that they have the right to comment on the accusations or to present licenses, but deleted is deleted. In addition, they are threatened with a platform ban in the event of repeated violations.
How do I get around a DMCA notice?
It’s best to always assume that music or creative content that isn’t yours is covered by copyright law – whether it’s U.S. or international.
Or, as a Twitch blog post on the subject puts it, “If you’re not sure you own all the rights, you probably don’t.”
Twitch offers the soundtrack library of licensed music without DMCA risk. Other libraries like Monstercat Gold are also recommended. For Let’s Plays specifically, you should also check what the end user license says about streaming the game and the music it contains.
Every content creator on every platform should also check their entire archive as soon as possible and look for possible copyright infringements.
Deleting it yourself and uploading it again “cleanly” is unfortunately currently the best way to prevent warnings. Even if this means that your hard-earned ranking will be lost.
Copyright is a sensitive subject in digital content creation. And with the current DMCA wave against Twitch, the end of the road is far from being reached. The safest way through this legal minefield is to go around it!