Imagine hundreds of viewers engaged in watching your epic battle unfold when suddenly the lights go out and your stream is interrupted. Your viewers anxiously refresh the page only to be greeted with a message stating that this content is unavailable. What just happened?
Among the streaming community you’ve surely come across streams with enormous production value as well as those focussing purely on enjoyment that streaming brings. Whatever the stream may be, music for content creators is huge. The right tune can add a completely different dimension to a stream and attract greater audiences. Unfortunately music copyright infringement is one of the most common reasons for account suspensions across streaming platforms. And it’s all because of DMCA.
It sounds like YMCA, but trust us, it’s scarier. It’s the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which has been around since 1998. You may be forgiven for thinking it has little to do with the modern streaming world as its been around since the age of the physical cassette. It applies to the digital age and holds an even greater footprint than it did two decades ago.
With faster internet speeds and content being easily accessible – from streaming platforms all the way to dubious Torrent sites – artists have the right to earn royalties for their efforts, and DMCA helps to enforce this.
The subject gets a little more tricky when you hear music in a stream’s background. Certain platforms automatically detect the audio that is transmitted in the background of a stream, even if it is not the main source of audio. Ever Shazamed a song in a room filled with a lot of background noise? That’s pretty much how it works.
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It’s a question asked by streamers who want to make sure their stream stays in good standing with the platform. Do not fear - there’s a few things you can do to make sure you stream music legally.
Consider which platform you stream on. YouTube uses Content ID which generates a copyright claim once it detects music that requires broadcast rights – the infringed music rights holder can decide on whether the content is issued with a takedown notice.
When it comes to Twitch, the platform is also focussed on strict following of DMCA guidelines. The platform states that they “will promptly terminate without notice the accounts of those determined by us to be “repeat infringers”. What this means in practise is that if you do get a DMCA, you need to make sure that you get rid of clips and VODs from your stream - otherwise you’re not only putting your channel at risk, but also potentially being the subject of a lawsuit. The lawsuit part is probably most relevant to streamers who gather larger audiences, but hey - best not to test the waters.
Facebook Gaming recently allowed partnering streamers you use copyrighted music during streams. The platform has worked out deals with a number of labels including Universal, Warner, Sony, Kobalt, and BMG. This has initially rolled out for Facebook Gaming partners, but we envision this to roll out to the wider community in due course.
Consider using licensed music for your stream. There are a number of sites that allow you to stream music from them directly for free. Of course these sites have a paid option that will provide further features, but it’s a good place to start. Check out Pretzel Rocks and Epidemic Sound.
Browse channels for royalty free music. Similarly to above, you can find channels on platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo that are home to royalty-free music which will ensure you don’t get DMCA’d. Here’s an example.
Identify amazing artists who want you to help you grow. The very own T-Pain has shared a library with hours of music to be played, royalty free, on streams. Check it out at www.pizzlepack.com - make sure you read the legal disclaimer first, however if you’re just streaming, there’s nothing to worry about.
Sign up to Twitch Soundtrack. Latest feature released by Twitch itself, promises access to royalty-free music safe to play during your livestreams. Although the service is currently in beta version and there is a waiting list to get into it, sure this curated library is something to consider: https://www.twitch.tv/broadcast/soundtrack.
We believe everyone should have the right to monetise their content – whether it be artists or streamers, without fear of reprisal. Fortunately, change is coming.
To imagine the scale of changes we can expect, consider this: streaming platforms are a medium to promote games. But a decade ago, streaming content from a game carried its own risk for the platforms that made it possible. Even Twitch’s investors, Bessemer Venture Partners, estimated the likelihood Twitch will be sued by game publishers for copyright infringement at 15% (more on this here).
Fast forward to today and voila – Twitch is not sued by game publishers, instead it is seen as a platform to promote games thanks to the streamers who play them.
With that in mind, can we expect the same change of approach when it comes to playing copyrighted music during streams?
What matters most, however, is that we should consider substance over form. As long as streamers are not acting in a DJ-esque capacity where music is the sole focus of a stream, streamers can essentially be seen as a “platform” that promotes music artists through their channel. It’s a reciprocal relationship.
Times are changing. Let’s hope this change catches on soon.