The DMCA really needs to be retooled

Too much power.

I woke this morning to an email from Twitch, which seems written to scare the absolute heck out of every streamer who reads it.

“We recently received a batch of DMCA takedown notifications with about 1,000 individual claims from music publishers,” it says. “All of the claims are for VODs, and the vast majority target streamers listening to background music while playing video games or IRL streaming. Based on the number of claims, we believe these rights holders used automated tools to scan and identify copyrighted music in creators’ VODs and Clips, which means that they will likely send further notices.”

Basically: the music industry sent a bunch of bots digging for music, it found a lot in your on-demand videos, and it’s probably going to find more. You need to take care of this, or your channel — courtesy of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) — might be in serious danger.

Look — I get the harm of free music downloads, and how the ability of someone to download a bunch of MP3s from a website could hurt music sales. I get how a YouTube channel that does nothing but put an album up could also be detrimental to sales. Those options give someone unfettered access to a clean track they can listen to as they please.

What I don’t see an issue with — and what the music industry should really chill the frick out about — is music playing in the background of some other activity.

Are people really showing up to Twitch streams just to hear music? Do the bits of a song underneath a streamer’s voice and the sound of Call of Duty gunfire satiate them enough to prevent them from spending money on an album, or from purchasing a Spotify subscription?

Not to mention — there are definitely some other issues with the music industry going this crazy over background audio. If you record a video of you proposing to your partner, but some car comes rolling by playing Metallica, does that make your video unusable? If you upload that to YouTube, will you get a copyright strike and have your video removed over something that was completely out of your control?

It’s ridiculous.

Of course, common sense rarely wins out where there is money to be made and lawyers can lawyer. And now that it has AI on its side, the music industry can pretty much go full Skynet and police the audio of every video that makes its way online. “Sorry, ABC Los Angeles, your reporter was talking over a brief piece of ‘Enter Sandman’ playing on a nearby radio. You need to take this down.”

I think the music industry should have a much higher bar to hit for making these kinds of claims. I think it should have to prove actual harm before it can even sniff the space where a takedown happens. Until some real reform comes to the DMCA, though, and some of this enforcement power is ratcheted back a bit, it isn’t just Twitch streamers who have to worry about the sounds happening around them in their videos — it’s all of us.

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