On Friday, we published part one of a two part article detailing some of the biggest headline-inducing moments from Twitch, the largest video game livestream service in the world owned by Amazon, this year. We discussed the Alinity wardrobe malfunction, the formation of the Twitch Safety Advisory Council and the controversary surrounding one of its members and the mystery surrounding the ban of one of Twitch's biggest partners, Dr Disrespect. Today, we're driving ahead with the DMCA catastrophe, the partnership with music label Monstercat and history being made live during a recent Twitch Rivals event.
The Disastrous Handling of DMCA Claims
On top of the fiasco surrounding the formation of the Twitch Safety Council, the streaming platform seems to have also been bombarded with a slew of DMCA takedown requests from major music labels. Twitch partners received an email around October 20th related to these requests, essentially telling partners that their DMCA’d clips and vids had been deleted, there was no appeal process and that “[Twitch had] processed these notifications and [were] issuing [streamers] a one-time warning to give [them] the chance to learn about copyright law and the tools available to manage the content on [their] channel.” When asked about this by Kotaku, a Twitch representative stated that they were dealing with a backlog of “thousands” of DMCA claims and opted for a mass action approach rather than dedicating the manpower to dealing with each claim individually, speeding up the process.
Many Twitch partners suddenly found themselves in a helpless position, unable to appeal the DMCA’s and discovering, in some cases, that years of content had been wiped clean from their channels. Moreover, copyright claims are usually highly detailed and contain exact times and dates of when the alleged infringement occurred. In this case, no such details were provided, meaning that streamers couldn’t identify what caused their channel to be hit with a DMCA. This means that the clips that were flagged could have contained anything from in-game audio to noises coming from somewhere in the background of the stream. Worse, according to the email, Twitch’s only solution for its creators was to go through their channel’s archive and delete anything that might contain that copyright material. The deadline to accomplish this task: Friday, October 23rd by 12:00 PM. This essentially gave Twitch’s creators just 72 hours to go through hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of content in search of any material that might be copyrighted.
As if things didn’t seem bad enough, streamers started to receive DMCA’s for more than just music; sound effects such as gusts of wind, chirping insects and police sirens were causing streams to be muted, taken down or, in the most extreme cases, the streamers to be banned outright. Pleas for help on Twitter were met with Twitch Support advising content creators to check the game’s EULA for details about copyright material and mute in-game music and/or sound effects. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over well with many content creators and more than a few took the instructions literally; Rocksmith and Guitar Hero streamers played streams without any music playing as they strummed away on guitar controllers, making for some cringe-inducing clips.
The outcry from its streamers were loud and constant, eventually causing Twitch to make a blog post on November 11th and detailing why and how it had made the decisions it had recently. The post is lengthy and provides details and answers to as many questions as possible and has a link to an FAQ page with more detailed information on specific DMCA issues. The post also included specific music sources, such as Monstercat, that have material that can be played on stream without fear of getting hit with a DMCA. Speaking of Monstercat…
Monstercat and the Twitch Affiliate Controversy
On November 17th, Monstercat announced a formal partnership with Twitch. Monstercat is an electronic music label that has grown in popularity for offering copyright-free music options for content creators. So it only makes sense for the two companies to announce a partnership, especially in the wake of the recent DMCA concerns. What caught everyone off guard was the announcement that this partnership was going to include a “fast-track” to Affiliate Status for Monstercat Gold members.
As stated on Monstercat’s Twitter account, “Monstercat and @Twitch are teaming up to bring fast-track Affiliate Status for #MonstercatGold subscribers! Gold provides 1000s of songs to use in your livestreams, and as an Affiliate, Twitch unlocks monetization tools for your channel!”
On Monstercat’s website, details of how this deal stated that all current Monstercat Gold subscribers could immediately apply for Affiliate Status and those coming in after the announcement could apply after thirty days. Essentially, what this means is that if you pay the monthly $5.00 subscription for Monstercat Gold, you can get Affiliate without meeting the normal criteria.
It didn’t take long for both Twitch and Monstercat to come under fire for this decision. Two days after announcing the partnership, Monstercat released a follow-up tweet, saying, “To clarify our original post, all current Gold subscribers must meet Twitch’s Affiliate criteria. Our goal was never to take away from the achievements that Affiliates worked for in their time streaming on Twitch.”
But this seems to conflict with what Monstercat posted on their own website about how Gold subscribers could go about applying for Affiliate Status, as detailed by Twitch News host Zach Bussey on his Twitter account. Bussey posted before and after screenshots of the webpage, showing changes to the wording of how exactly applying for Affiliate Status would work. In an update to his tweet, on the same day that he posted the screenshots, Monstercat deleted the entire page from its website and attempting to follow the link now takes you to a page that says, “This offer has ended.” From this, it appears that whatever Affiliate-related offers Monstercat Gold subscribers were being offered is no longer on the table or, at the very least, has been withdrawn while they work on another benefit to offer potential new and existing clients.
Last But Not Least: Twitch History Made During Twitch Rivals Event
This last story is bizarre to say the least with no real answer as to why it happened. First, let’s start this off by saying that Twitch couldn’t have controlled the situation any better than they did and that the actions of this particular individual was theirs and theirs alone. But we’ll get into why it’s still an issue afterward.
Most Twitch users will be familiar with Twitch Rivals, the official competitive gaming events put on by the company and featuring some of the biggest names on the platform. On November 17th, some of those names were competing in a Fall Guys event. xQc, the highest grossing Twitch streamer of 2020, was one of these streamers participating in the event. xQc had been eliminated from the competition but had managed to queue back into a match with streamers Shroud and Dr Lupo, who were also competing. During this match, xQc made the decision to begin stream-sniping the other competitors and, in doing so, managed to eliminate Dr Lupo from the match and the competition. “Stream-sniping,” for those who aren’t familiar with the term, is where someone tracks down a streamer in-game by watching their stream and determining their position based on what’s happening on stream. This is a highly frowned upon activity and in competitive play is considered cheating. But the craziest part about this entire ordeal is that xQc not only did this, he did it live on his own channel, broadcasting it for the whole world to see.
Streamers like Shroud and Tyler1 watched on in utter disbelief as xQc, one of the highest-profile Twitch partners on the platform, performed this blatant act of cheating, with Shroud even going as far as saying, “...he does that and all my respect is quite literally gone.”
Twitch’s response to this was swift and near immediate, issuing a statement not only detailing what violations had occurred but also detailing xQc’s punishment: a 7-day suspension from the Twitch platform, a 6-month ban from any and all Twitch Rivals events and forfeiture of all prize winnings from the event. xQc himself even took to Twitter, where some of his fans were very vocal about their support for him, and asked for his supporters to not defend his actions and to apologize for what he had done.
Despite the swiftness of Twitch’s actions, there was some rumblings from the community over the incident, with some asking why it took a very public event like cheating in a Twitch Rivals competition to finally get clear, precise communication from the platform about the rules that were violated and the actions being taken. If you’ll remember, It’s been over five months since Dr Disrespect was permanently banned from the platform with almost zero communication on why. And that’s really what all of this boils down to.
The Take-Away From All of This
Let me speak for a minute on the Monstercat partnership since I actually do have Affiliate Status on Twitch: when I first heard about this deal, it was a slap in the face. I put in many, many hours of hard work into my stream, trying to deliver the best quality stream I could possibly produce. I started off streaming directly from my Xbox One and eventually moved on to streaming from a floor-model Asus that a friend jammed an Nvidia 970 GPU into. I streamed to zero viewers for a really, really long time and had thought more than once about quitting. When I finally reach Affiliate, it was such an accomplishment. I remember getting the email and feeling like I was actually doing something worthwhile. My first payout from Twitch confirmed for me that it was real and that I wasn’t just dreaming. I’ve since switched to Facebook Gaming, but this news was still insulting. To think that I had spent months trying to gain recognition on that platform and that any Average Joe could just pay a monthly subscription and instantly gain that coveted Affiliate title made me angry. I can only imagine what others who have put in far more hours into the platform than I have are feeling and I honestly feel really bad for those individuals. Since the webpage detailing this deal has now been deleted, we’ll just have to sit back and see what happens with this partnership. Hopefully, it doesn’t include a free trip Affiliate.
Moving on from that, the biggest thing to take away from all of these stories surrounding Twitch, in my opinion, is the power of words or, in Twitch’s case, the lack thereof. While not every single detail of every single occurrence needs to be disclosed to the public, most of the issues described above could have been avoided if the communication had been slightly quicker, more detailed or, as with Doc’s case, if there had been any form of communication at all. Twitch, like with anything else, has been plagued by a series of missteps that built upon one another until a molehill became a mountain. And while not ideal, the mistakes made by Twitch are an opportunity for the company (and other entities such as YouTube and Facebook Gaming) to learn, grow and hopefully avoid making these same blunders in the future. While it may not be satisfying to those of us on the outside looking in, we have to remember that we’re not always going to privy to all of the information and sometimes we’ll have all of the relevant information and still not agree with the outcome.
The lesson that Twitch and other similar platforms can learn from these incidents is that there’s a level of mutual trust and respect between both the company and its users and clients; the company expects to be trusted to make decisions that better the company as a whole and its clients expect a certain level of openness and honesty from the company, especially when their major product or service is the talents of its clients. When this mutual trust is broken, it impedes the efforts of both parties to make a platform that provides any benefits to anyone. And when that happens, it doesn’t take long for those parties to begin looking elsewhere for the type of satisfaction they were getting before whatever incident occurred. And in today’s world, there are several options available to both sides to find a solution, even if it means starting all over.