As Hank Green famously said: “We have destroyed copyright law.”
Prior to the internet, piracy still existed of course. We still recorded television, radio, etc. It was just much harder. It wasn’t until the late-90s that Napster introduced peer-to-peer file sharing, allowing users to mass share things across the internet with almost zero effort.
YouTube and the age of internet piracy.
At its birth, YouTube played a large part in piracy. The platform certainly would not be where it is if not for pirated episodes of The Daily Show where I could watch Jon Stewart be an absolute genius.
With pressure from Viacom, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), and others, YouTube eventually created and delivered an algorithm to check every moment of every single video and check it for copyright infringement.
In Hank Green’s video, he eloquently explains — as he usually does — how the rights-holders, nor YouTube for that matter, do not actually want to stop copyright infringement entirely. Most of the content given copyright notices on the platform are given “copyright claims” where the money that would’ve gone to the creators is now redirected to the rights-holders.
Now, this is questionable in a variety of ways, as you can imagine. Because if I upload a music video that I made for a Taylor Swift song, obviously the BMG nor RIAA would be having any of that. But if I wanted to parody or make fun of certain content, maybe a corporation — like Walmart or Shell — and they didn’t like that their logo was in the video, this could still technically fall under a “gray area” of internet copyright. And it gets messy.
Prior to the age of YouTube and the rest of the internet, piracy was dealt with just like most civil rights cases: the rights-holder would sue an individual, alleging that they ‘stole’ and profited from another creator’s content, and they’d settle the case in court. On YouTube, meanwhile, they’ve placed themselves in some fantasy island world where there’s arbitrary lines between what classifies something as “fair use.”
In 2015, Ray William Johnson even won a lawsuit after his viral-video show was sued for using a Jukin Media-owned viral video in one of their clips. Thankfully, the judge ruled that Johnson was perfectly fine to use the clip since it complied with fair use. You shouldn’t be able to just buy up viral videos and take 100% ownership of the entire thing to sue people for using it?
YouTube was the very first platform to deal with copyright on a large scale. Since then, Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitch all have placed some sort of copyright policy on content to manage some of the effects…But that last platform — Twitch — is where it gets a little interesting.
A lot of people still never really understood how YouTube’s copyright system works (unless you took the time to learn, but it’s not obvious). Essentially, if a user uploads content that is not their original content, YouTube would send a notice to the rights-holder, not YouTube itself. The rights-holder has a few options: they can track the claim and do nothing, they can claim the video and receive all of the ad revenue the creator would’ve otherwise made, they can block the video so it’s not viewable online (in some countries or everywhere), or they can take the video down from YouTube and issue the user a copyright strike.
That final option is the only legal one. It’s the only option that can only be done manually (rights-holders can set up filters for certain copyrighted content otherwise) and requires an electronic signature. Channels with three copyright strikes can have their channel taken down, along with all of the content from that channel.
Some would actually argue that this policy is a good one, or at least it has become that. Creators can actually interact with intellectual property without fear of being sued or having rights-holders screaming at congress to get YouTube taken down.
This policy exists so YouTube can exist.
Now, to Twitch and why Amazon is ruining the platform.
In October, tons of Twitch streamers were issued DMCA takedown notices suddenly, and this is a problem for many reasons. First, a lot of Twitch users weren’t actually sure how they were breaking the rules and which content was breaking them. Second, users are obviously upset because their content is being deleted without their involvement.
Twitch doesn’t allow users to appeal these claims, instead opting to delete the content entirely. The platform also does not provide a way for users to easily archive all of their content. In other words, it’s just a mess.
Back in October, Twitch also introduced Soundtrack, which was an effort to clean up its music copyright issues…And it didn’t really do that at all.
In summation, Twitch Soundtrack licenses music but doesn’t pay the musicians for the license, instead giving them something creators love called “exposure.”
The new program from Twitch does absolutely nothing to actually solve the problem and has resulted in several lawsuits from the RIAA.
Let’s talk about Twitch Soundtrack
Today Twitch announced Soundtrack. At Pretzel, we are excited to see all of the work we have done thus far be…
This doesn’t make any sense because Amazon-owned Twitch could’ve literally just drawn together a licensing package through Amazon Music, which Amazon already has. Even Facebook Gaming decided to actually pay musicians for the licenses.
Cyberpunk 2077 (which I also talked about here) developers told users to “turn off copyrighted music when streaming” to avoid DMCA claims. The RIAA has even developed an algorithm to give broadcasters DMCA strikes while they’re actually streaming.
Amazon could have easily developed Twitch into a service worth using, much like YouTube is. God knows they have the money for it. But unfortunately, it’s a situation where it seems that Amazon just doesn’t care enough. If they did, they’d have the resources to navigate their DMCA issues, they’d maybe include an option to disable all copyrighted content in-stream. They could even really turn it into a service that can compete with fucking YouTube — in both live and video streaming — which hasn’t had any real competition for the almost entirety of its existence (until the popularity of Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services in the last four years).
Regardless, Amazon hasn’t developed Twitch the way Google (or Alphabet for that matter) has developed YouTube.
YouTube delivered with creative spaces users could make productions in for free; they built an experience that benefits both the user and the creator that makes YouTube seem like the place for the future of entertainment. Twitch, by contrast, hasn’t done any of that. Even though it’s owned by a man who is literally worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Twitch is losing to YouTube and needs to change that quickly.