Twitch’s recent policy of enforcing DMCA claims have wreaked havoc on the platform. Users are reporting getting their streams muted or deleted for copyrighted audio, with no ability to file a counterclaim. Making matters worse, even in-game audio can be flagged by Twitch’s automated system. Players are saying that sound effects like a grandfather clock or a gust of wind are enough to start an automated DMCA claim process. How are players meant to play if even the game audio can trigger a copyright dispute?
This has kicked off an absurd, yet stunning form of protest. Twitch streamers are engaging in a form of malicious compliance by turning off all in-game audio, and either streaming in eerie dead silence, or making their own sound effects with their mouth.
Twitch said "mute all in-game audio" and I said "bet" pic.twitter.com/4B3sN5ofRc— Jambo All The Way (@PlayWithJambo) November 13, 2020
So I took Twitch's advice and muted the game audio!— JayCaulls (@JayCaulls) November 12, 2020
No DMCA Strikes for me! pic.twitter.com/VC6f2KPFxU
Here's the future of Twitch. A completely clean DMCA version of Resident Evil 2. pic.twitter.com/WecW68ToWS— DeadPirateBrandon - ☠️ ☠️ (@DeadPirateB) November 12, 2020
On one hand, it’s legitimately very funny to watch a round of Overwatch in which one person is supplying all of the commentary, from the announcer Athena to the sound Tracer’s guns make when she fires and reloads. On the other hand, it’s also alarming that these are the lengths players are going to in order to try and protest Twitch’s policy. If there’s no way to contest these claims within the system, then streamers have to find another path … even if that’s playing a slamming Rocksmith song in near silence, only punctuated by sounds of effort and the peripheral clacking away.
It’s a surprising look at the transformative nature of streaming. When players are forced to play in dead silence, people still tune in and watch. Even while complying with copyright law to the absolute letter, each stream is different, and each act of protest feels wholly unique.
Twitch recently posted a long statement in response to the controversy, writing: “Your frustration and confusion with recent music-related copyright issues is completely justified. Things can–and should–be better for creators than they have been recently. We should have developed more sophisticated and user-friendly tools long ago. To all the creators who lost their community’s best moments, we’re sorry. This shouldn’t have happened.”
Despite the statement, Twitch has yet to provide concrete solutions for the ongoing problem, and the platform has yet to address the issue of in-game audio triggering the DMCA process (besides a suggestion to mute in-game audio.)