Skip to content

Creator Camp

Understanding Copyright Law and the DMCA as a Twitch Streamer

What Is a Copyright and Who Owns It?
A copyright is a form of intellectual property that gives the owner of an original work of authorship the exclusive right to prevent others from doing certain things with that work (for example, streaming the work on Twitch or creating a VOD or clip that includes the work). Copyrighted works include things like music, artwork, novels, TV shows and movies, video games, computer code, and a host of other creative works.

Copyrights are initially owned by the “author(s)” of a work: for example, the musicians who compose and perform a song, the artist who paints a mural, or even the streamer (like you) who broadcasts an entertaining livestream. But authors often “assign” their rights to others (a person or company - such as a record label or film studio) who then become the owner and controller of the copyright.

Copyright Infringement:
“Infringement” basically means “violation.” Under U.S. law (other countries’ laws may vary slightly but have the same underlying principle), copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a “derivative” work (a work based on one or more already existing works) without the permission of the copyright owner, unless some legal justification (like fair use, described below) applies. To avoid copyright infringement, you shouldn’t use someone’s copyrighted work without their permission, including in your Twitch livestreams, VODs, clips, emotes, or channel pages.

DMCA Notifications:
If a copyright owner believes their copyrighted work is being reproduced, performed, displayed, etc. by someone using an online service (like Twitch) without their permission, they (or one of their authorized agents) can send the service a notification of claimed infringement, sometimes called a “DMCA notification” or “takedown request.” The online service is then legally obligated to remove or disable access to the allegedly infringing material and takes note of the incident under its repeat infringer policy. 

If Twitch receives a complete and valid DMCA notification asserting that content you streamed or uploaded infringes upon a rightsholder’s copyright, Twitch will email you about the notification and what your options are. You’ll also find this information in your Creator Dashboard. Twitch will also issue a copyright strike to your account.

Counter-Notifications and Retractions:
If you believe a rights holder or their agent sent Twitch a DMCA notification because of a mistake or misidentification, you can:

  1. Ask the claimant to retract that notification (Twitch will provide you the claimant’s email)
  2. Send Twitch a counter-notification. Sending a counter-notification opens you up to legal action by the claimant, so you should make sure the DMCA notification was sent because of a mistake or misidentification before choosing to send a counter-notification.

If the claimant retracts the notification or if you send a compliant counter-notification, Twitch will remove the copyright strike from the DMCA notification and if possible restore the allegedly infringing content.

Repeat Infringer Policy:
Twitch, like other online services that allow users to share user-generated content, operates under global copyright laws that require we terminate the accounts of “repeat infringers.” If Twitch receives a DMCA notification identifying content that you shared, you will receive a copyright strike on your channel under our repeat infringer policy. While copyright strikes may expire after a period of time, our repeat infringer policy is to terminate an account with 3 strikes, so you should carefully review any DMCA notification you receive so that you can understand whether you made a mistake and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Fair Use and Fair Dealing:
Fair use and fair dealing are legal principles that sometimes allow for the limited use of copyrighted works without permission from the copyright owner. Common examples under U.S. law include using copyrighted works for  criticism, commentary, news reporting, education, or parody. Many countries and regions don’t recognize these principles, and the protection provided can be narrow. Remember that fair use and fair dealing are defenses that would be raised in court, and do not prevent you from being sued for copyright infringement. On services like Twitch, it may not prevent your content from being subject to an initial DMCA takedown notification..

Learning key points about copyright law will equip you to create and share content on Twitch that respects creative rights. Keep in mind this article is not legal advice, and if you aren’t sure what to do in a specific situation that involves your or someone else’s copyrighted work, you should consult a legal professional specializing in copyright and digital media law.