Few laws are applied as stringently as copyright laws. We live in a world of crossovers, franchises, multiverses, and Space Jam sequels, where just owning a property can see you set for life if said property is valuable enough. It’s why Disney has repeatedly pushed to change copyright laws to keep its characters out of the public domain, and why the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is the bane of many a Twitch streamer. DMCA law is complicated, but for now, let’s keep it simple; it means you can’t play music you don’t own on Twitch. There’s a new solution for that problem, and it seems to be a pretty ingenious one, but exactly how sustainable is it?
You’d think the solution to this issue would be simple - don’t play any music while you stream and you’re golden. The only issue is that many games come with licensed music these days - especially GTA, consistently one of the most popular games on Twitch - and DMCA law applies to all of these. If you don’t listen to music but stream with the game’s natural soundtrack and a copyright protected song comes on, you can still get a DMCA strike - fair use law does not apply to music that is an organic part of the game, meaning you need to play the game either with the volume turned down or in ‘Streamer Mode’. That’s an optional setting in some games that causes only non-copyright protected music to play, although as Cyberpunk 2077 found out last year when it accidentally included copyrighted music in Streamer Mode, this isn’t a foolproof solution.
Twitch is abundantly clear in its terms about where it stands on DMCA. Long story short, you’re on your own. “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, sports broadcasts, TV shows, or any other copyrighted material.” A DMCA takedown notification typically just means that stream must be deleted from your channel, but like anything on Twitch, repeated offences can land you in hot water. If you believe you’ve received a takedown notification in error, it’s just a simple matter of giving Twitch your full legal name, full address, and phone number, as well as copying an exact affidavit to fill in the blanks. Oh, and if you miss any information or make a mistake, you can be punished for that too.
Simply put, it’s not great. That’s before you even get into the fact that many streamers play extremely repetitive games for seven or eight hours on end, with minimal breaks, while having to keep an audience that can run into the thousands entertained. And they’re not even allowed to have a bit of John Mayer playing in the background? Please.
As reported by TorrentFreak, this is where Peter “Pequeno0" Madsen comes in. They have come up with a new plugin, SpotifySynchronizer, which lets you listen to the exact same music - at the exact same time - as whatever streamer you’re watching. Once the streamer syncs up their Twitch account to SpotifySynchronizer, their audience just needs to click the plug-in and everyone will be listening to the same music without any copyright infringement taking place. The streamer isn't broadcasting the Spotify tracks, but instead is listening with their headphones, meaning no violations are taking place. Meanwhile, the audience can listen on their own Spotify account at the same time, meaning the copyright owners get the streams and relevant revenue from said streams. It's a great idea to get around the system, but it's not without its flaws.
Twitch and Spotify both provide their APIs freely, and the plug-in exists within these confines, but that means changing track mid-song is a fiddly affair, requiring the streamer to 'force sync' each time. On a playlist without skips, this isn't an issue... unless one of the listeners is on the Ad Supported Spotify model, meaning their listening will be constantly interrupted by commercials while the streamer and the rest of the audience continues unabated. It also adds an extra layer of complication on both ends, which means not enough people may use it or even be aware of it - this is the sort of thing that desperately needs attention. This is not the solution to the plethora of copyright problems on Twitch, but something needs to be, and flawed ideas like this need a chance to flourish if something better is going to come along and build upon them. Twitch should be leading these initiatives themselves, but until then, steps like these are a great start.
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