Learn the Basics

Copyrights and Your Channel

 

Twitch is committed to supporting creators and it is important that you respect their rights in the content you stream and share on your channel. If you use another person’s intellectual property in your content, they can send Twitch a takedown notification. It is our policy to act on those notifications under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) and similar laws worldwide. It is also our policy to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers–i.e., a person who on multiple occasions has been accused of infringing the rights of others. 

We know copyright law and the DMCA can be confusing, and that confusion can lead to unintentional copyright infringement by creators.  We’re here to help you understand the basics of copyright law and the tools available to you so that you can make informed decisions about using copyrighted material–including music, art, videos, etc.–in your stream to avoid copyright infringement in the future.

Copyright law and how it impacts your stream

A copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner exclusive rights to certain uses of their creative work. In other words, it protects a person’s original, creative expression–in literature, art, education, or music–from being used by others without their permission. Copyrights are created every day by songwriters, recording artists, authors, visual artists, video producers and other creators just like you. In fact, every time you create a recording of your live stream, you’re likely creating a new piece of copyrighted work.

A couple of things to note about copyrights. First, the law distinguishes between different “uses” of copyrights. This means the rights that you need to secure for copyrighted material in your live broadcast may be different than the rights needed for the same material in your recorded content (e.g. Clips or VODs). Finally, copyrights last a long time; actions you took many years ago can still infringe a copyright owner’s rights today. To put it simply: if you do not have the rights to use a copyrighted work, you should not use it in your stream–and if you are not sure if you have the rights, you probably don’t.

We recommend you take the time to read Twitch’s DMCA Guidelines, Community GuidelinesMusic Guidelines, and Terms of Service. At first glance, it may seem like a lot of words about challenging concepts, but in reality, they offer more detail on what is and is not allowed on stream so that you can make informed decisions about the content you share on your channel. 

How to manage the recorded content on your channel

If there is copyrighted material in the content shared on your channel–and you have not received explicit permission to use that material from the rights holder– you are at risk of receiving a DMCA takedown notification. This includes music, art, sculptures, other peoples’ videos, or any other copyrighted material. 

Since 2014, we have used a technology service called Audible Magic to proactively scan your VODs. If Audible Magic detects copyrighted audio, we will automatically mute that portion of the VOD. We recently expanded this service to scan Clips as well. If copyrighted audio is identified in any of your Clips, we will automatically delete those Clips. That being said, like all technology, Audible Magic is not fail safe and is not a substitute for you following the rules–to be sure you are respecting the rights of others, you should not play music on your stream that you don’t have the rights to. 

You can guard against receiving DMCA takedown notifications for content stored on your channel by reviewing all of the content in your Creator Dashboard (including Clips, VODs, and Highlights) and removing any content in question. You also have the option of limiting Clip creation to your followers and/or subscribers in your Stream Settings. Visit the help pages for VODs and Clips to learn more about managing the content on your channel.

We understand that for some creators, the task of reviewing each Clip of your channel may be daunting. To save you time, we added functionality that allows you to “delete all” the Clips of your channel at once. If you decide to do this but want to retain certain Clips with non-infringing content that are too good to lose completely, you have the option to download to your personal files.

 

How to permissibly use music on your channel

We know that many of you use music in your streams for a variety of purposes. In an effort to keep your stream sounding great without putting your channel at risk, we developed a new tool that’s free for all Twitch creators: Soundtrack by Twitch. Soundtrack provides a library of music that is licensed for use in your stream and that doesn’t transfer to your Clips or VODs, so you can share the music-free version on other sites. Learn more about Soundtrack’s features and how to download it for your stream here. You can also see it in action at Twitch.tv/soundtrack.

In addition to Soundtrack, there are a number of other companies that make music available for streamers. Monstercat Gold and Soundstripe, for example, offer membership options for music licensing.

It’s important to note that receiving a DMCA takedown notification is not a determination that you have engaged in copyright infringement. That is because these notifications can be sent even if: 

  • You haven’t used the copyrighted work–they’re simply mistaken that their work was used.
  • You didn’t engage in an impermissible use–you used their work in a way that doesn’t violate any of their exclusive rights.
  • You’ve obtained a license to use the copyrighted work–in other words, you have permission from them to do so. 
  • You’ve used the copyrighted work in a way that constitutes fair use–for example, you parodied a portion of a TV show or provided commentary on a newsworthy event. 
  • The work is not copyrighted, for example, because it is in the public domain–think Mozart or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
  • The person sending the DMCA notification isn’t the copyright owner or isn’t authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner–for example, because they themselves transferred or never had the necessary rights or are “spoofing”, or pretending to be, the rights holder.

Twitch is not a copyright court, and isn’t in a position to judge whether you impermissibly used someone’s copyrighted work without their permission or authority. We respect the rights of copyright owners and process all DMCA notifications we receive in an expeditious manner. We also respect your rights as a creator, and maintain a policy that empowers you to take action against wrongful allegations of copyright infringement by sending a counter-notification or by asking the copyright holder to retract their claim. Please review our DMCA Guidelines if you believe your content was flagged as the result of mistake or misidentification. You can also consider the information on addressing incorrect DMCA notifications from the Berkman Center and Copyright Alliance, as well as resources available through a legal services organization, which can be contacted in the event you have questions or concerns about a DMCA takedown notification that targets your channel.

FAQ

Copyright Infringement Claims

Q: A section of my VOD was muted for sound on stream. Is that the same as a DMCA takedown notification?

A:  No, that is not the same as a DMCA takedown notification. For many years, we’ve used a third party service called Audible Magic to reduce the amount of potentially copyrighted music in recorded videos on Twitch. Audible Magic proactively scans VODs (including stream archives, Highlights, and Uploads) in search of copyrighted music, and if detected, it will automatically mute that segment of the VOD. This does not mean you have received or will receive a DMCA takedown notification.

That being said, it’s still possible to receive a DMCA takedown notification targeting music in a VOD on your channel even if Twitch has already run that VOD through Audible Magic. There are a few reasons. First, the music being targeted in the notification might not exist in Audible Magic’s library, meaning it wouldn’t be detected in a VOD. Second, no technology is perfect, so Audible Magic might not have detected music even if that music is in its library. Finally, we only started using Audible Magic in 2014, so VODs created before 2014 likely have not been scanned.

Q: What is the law behind parody / covers? If I’m creating my own lyrics but using a karaoke version of the copywritten song, is that allowed?

A: We’ll answer your question first, then address each of these topics (covers and parodies/fair use) separately, as these each involve different rights and merit consideration. You can also refer to our Music Guidelines for additional information on cover songs.

First, a disclaimer–we unfortunately aren’t in a position to give you legal advice on the specific piece of music you’ve created (though there are some folks who can). However, we can tell you that when someone owns a copyright, they get the exclusive right to create  “derivative works”–that is, creative works based on their original copyrighted work. They also get to decide whether to allow someone else to create a derivative work, unless that work can be defended as a fair use (more on fair use below). 

A “cover song” typically refers to someone performing a musical composition–that is, the combination of lyrics, melody, song structure and other elements that people would consider to make up a “song”–owned by someone else without using someone else’s pre-recorded music–for example, you singing and strumming out your own version of a popular rock song. Twitch pays public performance licenses in order for you to perform live cover songs to your community.

A parody is a creative work designed to imitate, poke fun at, or comment on somebody else’s work. Creating a parody of someone else’s work can infringe their copyrights in that work, unless the parody can be defended as a “fair use” of the work under U.S. law or a similar defense under other countries’ laws. Courts can find and have found that parodies comment on the work being parodied and are considered a “fair use” under copyright law. Though we’re not able to give you cut-and-dry rules here, since fair use is determined by US courts on a case-by-case basis, we can tell you these determinations are made by balancing several factors, including the purpose and character of the use and the “transformative” nature of the use. If you’re curious, you can read about one famous example of a fair use musical parody, involving 2 Live Crew’s very unique take of the Roy Orbison song “Oh, Pretty Woman.”

Q: Is there a strike system when it comes to DMCA on Twitch? If you’re actively trying to not play DMCA content but keep getting hit, will it affect your Twitch account?

A: Yes, Twitch maintains a repeat infringer policy and will terminate accounts if it receives multiple notifications that suggest you are a repeat infringer. We encourage you to review your archived content for material that may infringe others’ copyrights. A few things to be aware of - make sure you don’t play recorded music in your stream unless you own all rights in the music, or you have permission from the necessary rights holder(s). Doing this is the best way to protect your streams going forward. If you’re unsure whether you own all the rights, it’s pretty likely you don’t. If you want to include recorded music in your stream, consider using a fully licensed alternative like Soundtrack by Twitch, or other rights-cleared music libraries such as Soundstripe, Chillhop, and Epidemic Sound. For further information about our repeat infringer policy and guidance on making informed copyright decisions, you can also read our DMCA Guidelines, recent blog post on music-related copyright claims and Twitch, “Copyright and Your Channel” Creator Camp page and our recent Creator Camp live sessions - DMCA Overview and Copyrights and Your Channel.

Q: GitHub recently announced that DMCA claims will go through a review process by their own legal experts to see if it is a valid takedown notice. Could a similar process be used on Twitch in the future to reduce the amount of takedowns of fair use content?

A: We are always looking for ways to improve our processes, and appreciate our community sharing ideas like these. We do review incoming DMCA notifications for completeness and other factors, and may expand the number and types of factors we consider in order to ensure that our policies make sense. These types of internal operations changes can be difficult to set up and carry out both quickly and at scale, but we will continue to look for ways to issue-spot and address abusive DMCA practices. 

Q: What if I believe I was targeted by a DMCA takedown notification due to a mistake or misidentification?

A: If you feel like you have been wrongly targeted by a DMCA notification, whether you own the rights, believe it to fall under fair use, or think the rights holder is mistaken, you can submit a counter notification or reach out to the rights holder to seek a retraction. We’ve provided guidance for how to do so here: https://www.twitch.tv/p/legal/dmca-guidelines/

Q: If I receive a DMCA notification, can I purchase the licensing and send it to Twitch to not be penalized?

A: If the rights holder is willing to give you a license and retract the DMCA notification, we will note this under our repeat infringer policy and may be able to reinstate the challenged content. If you believe that your use of music is covered by a license, you can send Twitch a counter notification by following the instructions in our DMCA Guidelines or seek a retraction from the rights holder. Neither process involves sending Twitch a copy of your licensing agreements or any other documentation.

Q: How do I deal with false claims that are submitted against my channel maliciously?

A: You have the ability to submit a counter notification or seek a retraction if you receive a DMCA notification that you believe is the result of a mistake or misidentification or is from someone pretending to be the rights holder. There may be legal consequences, including damages and attorneys’ fees, for submitting a DMCA notification that materially misrepresents that material is infringing. 

Q: If I submit a counter notification and it’s approved, will that prevent me from getting a DMCA notice for the same song again?

A: It will not. Twitch is not a copyright court and isn’t in a position to decide who’s right and who’s wrong between you and the rights holder–a counter notification is a mechanism to inform Twitch that you dispute a particular takedown request, and does not constitute proof of non-infringement. Submitting a counter notification does not prevent a rights holder–even the same rights holder–from submitting a subsequent takedown request for a song included in your channel. Moreover, the terms of licensing agreements vary and often have an expiration date.

Q: I received a DMCA notification for copyrighted music used in approved Bit extensions. What should I do?

A: Extensions are tools that can be used in a variety of ways, including ways that involve the use of music. Even when you’re using an extension, you are responsible for ensuring you have the necessary rights to any music used in content on your channel.

Licensing Agreements

Q: If I have a license to content I already purchased before the use, how do I share this license with Twitch to prevent automatic muting/DMCA claim?

A: If you’ve purchased a license to use content in your Twitch stream, and your stream is muted by Audible Magic, you can submit a request to unmute the audio through the Twitch help article How to Appeal Muted Audio. If you receive a DMCA notification for the activities covered by your license, you can submit a counter notification or seek a retraction from the rights holder. You don’t need to share this license with Twitch as part of either process. Instead, please follow the instructions in our DMCA Guidelines, which outline the information and statements you would need to send to Twitch, including that you believe the DMCA notification was the result of a mistake or misidentification.

Q: Is it possible to proactively authorize your channel for music you own or have secured licenses to use (e.g. singing to your own backing tracks)? 

A: Because of how Audible Magic is set up to scan Twitch, we do not have a mechanism in place for exempting certain channels or recorded music in those channels from Audible Magic’s scanning. That said, it is unlikely that Audible Magic will find a “match” if you are singing to your own backing tracks, unless there is something very similar in Audible Magic’s library or you’ve submitted or given someone permission to submit your music to Audible Magic. If Audible Magic mutes a section of your VOD and you believe you have the rights to play the audio in that segment, you can submit a request to appeal that determination by following the instructions here.

Q: Can I play songs and avoid DMCA if the musician is dead?

A: Sometimes, but not always. Copyrights in the U.S. generally last for the life of the author plus an additional amount of time (for works created after January 1, 1978, an additional 70 years). Please see this link for additional information on copyright terms.

When thinking about public domain music, it’s important to consider that a piece of recorded music generally involves two sets of copyrights–one in the underlying musical composition that is created by a songwriter or composer, and one in the sound recording that is created by a music performer. This means, for example, that even though the composition “Jingle Bells” is in the public domain, the Frank Sinatra recording of “Jingle Bells” is not. Likewise, if a work is in the public domain, it’s possible to create your own copyrighted arrangement of that work. So for example, even though the Ukranian folk chant “Shchedryk,” a melody you probably know as “Carol of the Bells,” is in the public domain, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra composition arrangement of “Carol of the Bells” is not; nor is the band’s prog-rock cover of this holiday tune.  

Q: Do we need to get our own public performance license to play sheet music on Twitch?

A: As noted in our blog, Twitch pays public performance licenses that allow creators to perform music live to their communities (so long as no unlicensed recorded music is used) including songs you perform by reading from sheet music. These licenses do not extend to use cases such as creating recorded content (like VODs and Clips) or displaying lyrics or sheet music onscreen.

Q:  How do I know if I have a license to play music that’s in the game I’m streaming?

A: This is a difficult situation, as we do not know the specifics about what music is included in video games, whether that music was developed in house (so-called “first-party content”), whether that music was licensed from a rights holder (so-called “third-party content”), or the terms of game publishers’ deals with copyright holders about third-party content. Some game publishers may provide details about the scope of the licenses they grant you and instructions for streaming, recording, and monetizing their games, including in-game audio and music, in their End User License Agreement (also known as a EULA). We frequently get questions about what are permitted streaming activities for particular types of games and, while we can’t speak for those publishers, you may be able to find more information through their EULAs or other public statements.

There may also be some games that have a combination of first-party and third-party licensed content, and different rules may govern how you may use these types of content. Some publishers have even gone so far as to include streamer-friendly options in their games such as muting all or some (for example, third-party) in-game music, which you can use to help better control what content you share on Twitch. Some examples of such games are: 

  • Fortnite
  • FIFA 21
  • Jackbox Party Pack
  • Friday the 13th

Ultimately, creators are responsible for reading, understanding, and agreeing to these licenses before sharing content on Twitch. If you are not sure about your rights to stream games that may include third-party music, for example popular music, turning off VODs and Clips or turning off in-game music are steps you can take to avoid DMCA notifications.

Q:  What about public domain music in VODs and Clips?

A: If you stream or upload content with music that is in the public domain (for example, a very old recording of a classical music song), then you should not be at risk of a DMCA takedown. Note, however, that new recordings and arrangements of old songs may still be subject to copyright protection.

Q: I am a musician and would like to give permission to creators to use my songs during their streams. How do I go about that?

A: When you give someone permission to use your music, you are giving someone a license. Licenses come in many forms – from a public statement published on a website to a private contract.You’re in the best position to determine, in light of any commitments you’ve made or agreements you’ve entered, whether you have all the rights you need to give someone a license to stream your music on Twitch. If you’d like to let creators use your music on Twitch, and would like to give creators some peace of mind, consider issuing a statement confirming that you control the rights and that creators have your permission to use your music in their channels. This is something that creators can reference in a counter notification or retraction, if they ever need to respond to a DMCA notification. 

Additionally, independent artists and labels can submit their music to Soundtrack using one of Soundtrack’s preferred distributors, DistroKid or SoundCloud. These partners provide the ability for artists who submit their music to Soundtrack to indicate that they are a Twitch Creator, and this information will be sent to the Twitch Music Curation team that reviews all music for editorial consideration.

Q:  I have the license to play music in my stream but still received a  DMCA takedown notification for the song. How do I resolve this?

A: DMCA notifications can be inaccurate. If you believe you have the necessary rights to stream music on Twitch or include music in your recorded videos, you should consider submitting a counter notification or contacting the person who submitted the DMCA notification to seek a retraction. Follow the instructions in our DMCA Guidelines to submit a counter notification. 

Q: What happens if I had a license to use the content, and then the license changed or was revoked?

A: You are responsible for ensuring that you have the rights to live stream or store copyrighted material on Twitch. If the terms of your licensing agreement change and you no longer have the rights to use the content, it is your responsibility to remove the content from your channel. If you receive a DMCA takedown notification but believe that your license covers your use of the copyrighted material, you can submit a counter notification or ask the rights holder to retract their claim. In addition, if you believe your license covers your activities and your content was muted, you can refer to our help article on how to appeal muted audio

Q: I’m a professional musician. Can I play recordings of my own music on stream?

A: First off, we’re honored that you’ve arrived at Twitch and are interested in streaming. We believe that you’re in the best position to determine, in light of any agreements you have entered, if you have the necessary rights to include your own music in the content on your channel. Our Music Guidelines provide additional guidance about how you may and may not use music on Twitch, depending on the terms of your licenses.

Q: Do I need to worry about a DMCA notice if the artist has given public approval to use their music?

A:  If an artist has given the public authorization to use their music and you receive a DMCA notification for that music, you might consider submitting a counter notification or seeking a retraction. It’s worth noting that it’s possible for an artist to say they’re giving you a license to use their music when they don’t actually have the authority to do so because another party–for example, a record label or a music publisher–controls the rights to that music.

Managing the Content on Your Channel

Q: I’ve heard that some Clips that creators tried to delete using Twitch’s mass deletion tool were not deleted and that some received DMCA notifications for these Clips. Should I be worried about this?

A: For approximately 20 creators, Clips they tried to delete using our mass deletion tool were mistakenly not deleted and were targeted by DMCA notifications. We’ve fixed the issue and will reach out to affected creators. They won’t receive a DMCA strike for this error with our tooling.

Q: I have hundreds of Highlights and VODs saved. What can I do to effectively manage this content?

A: We do not currently have a mass-deletion tool for VODs or Highlights; most creators have the ability to host a small number of VODs hosted on their channel, which can be reviewed one-by-one. For the smaller subset of creators with large archives of VODs and Highlights, there are third-party tools that exist to help creators mass-delete those archives. It’s important to note that once you delete content from your channel, it can not be restored.

Q: Do you advise that I search for and delete Clips with copyrighted music? Or is it best to leave it to Twitch to delete the Clips for me?

A: Your content is your responsibility. Consider reviewing and removing recorded content from your channel (including Clips, VODs, and Highlights) if you are not sure whether you have the necessary permission or authority to include copyrighted music in them.

Soundtrack by Twitch

Q: Copyrighted music is available to stream with Soundtrack. Should I be concerned about receiving a DMCA takedown notification?

A: No, provided you install and use Soundtrack properly. Soundtrack is designed to add music solely to your live streams, and any music played using Soundtrack has been licensed for this use. To learn more about Soundtrack, check out the Soundtrack Help Article.

Q: If I use Soundtrack, do I need to worry about licensing the music for my VODs?

A: Twitch is primarily a live streaming service, and we think the best discovery will come when Twitch creators and their fans can listen to tracks together. We’ve focused on ensuring that music from Soundtrack is available in live streams, and we’ve made it easy for fans to listen to songs they discover on their music service of choice. To facilitate this, we’ve engineered Soundtrack to preserve game and creator audio in VODs while removing the music from Soundtrack, which is a much better experience than muting the whole audio.

The licenses Twitch secured allow Twitch to make these materials available to you for use in live streams on your Twitch channel. Music and other materials made available through Soundtrack have not been licensed for your use in pre-recorded content, in content that can be streamed on-demand (such as VODs and Clips), or outside the Twitch services. If you’re looking to source licensed music for recorded content like VODs, consider music libraries like Soundstripe,  Monstercat Gold, Chillhop, Epidemic Sound and NCS.

Q: Are you working with music labels to expand the artists available on Soundtrack? 

A:  Yes. We are currently working with a number of labels to expand the Soundtrack library, including independent and genre-specific labels. During the beta phase of development, we are continuing to add new music. Interested labels should check out the Soundtrack FAQ for information on how to submit a request. 

Soundtrack will continue to evolve and improve over time based on community feedback about what resonates most with both creators and fans. Expect more playlists by Twitch and others, including streamers and artists, covering an expanded range of genres, themes and use cases. There will be tons of great new content, and more ways to listen to and interact with your new favorite artists.

Audible Magic

Q: Can my VOD be muted for content that isn’t music (e.g. in-game sound effects)?

A: It’s possible. Audible Magic, a service we use to proactively scan VODs and Clips for copyrighted music, generally indexes recordings from music rights holders but may also include in its database audio files that it considers “matches” to some in-game sound effects or other sounds, resulting in the removal of that audio or file. If you believe one of your VODs has been incorrectly flagged by Audible Magic, you may be able to appeal that determination by following the instructions here.

Q: A section of my VOD was muted for sound on stream. Is that the same as a DMCA takedown notification?

A:  No, that is not the same as a DMCA takedown notification. For many years, we’ve used a third party service called Audible Magic to reduce the amount of potentially copyrighted music in recorded videos on Twitch. Audible Magic proactively scans VODs (including stream archives, Highlights, and Uploads) in search of copyrighted music, and if detected, it will automatically mute that segment of the VOD. This does not mean you have received or will receive a DMCA takedown notification.

That being said, it’s still possible to receive a DMCA takedown notification targeting music in a VOD on your channel even if Twitch has already run that VOD through Audible Magic. There are a few reasons. First, the music being targeted in the notification might not exist in Audible Magic’s library, meaning it wouldn’t be detected in a VOD. Second, no technology is perfect, so Audible Magic might not have detected music even if that music is in its library. Finally, we only started using Audible Magic in 2014, so VODs created before 2014 likely have not been scanned.