The DMCA takedowns that characterized the second half of 2020 have created some serious confusion regarding which music that’s safe to use on Twitch. Let’s dive into what Twitch says about the topic and go into depth on how to use music safely in your streams.
In October 2020, Twitch deleted a lot of content violating music copyright laws, following a wave of DMCA takedown requests. As Twitch uses a three-strike policy for its users – if you get three strikes, you’re banned – streamers were not happy about the news.
So, how do you steer clear from having your potential bread and butter deleted? We'll tell you all about it in this blog post.
Are you allowed to play music on Twitch?
Twitch and music. It can be summarized in one word – confusing. The majority of streamers that play music in their streams do so with little regard for copyright law. However, Twitch recently issued several DMCA takedowns and effectively prevented streamers from using the platform if they continue playing music they don’t have the rights to.
It’s not uncommon to find streamers playing today’s top hits or yesterday’s classics. Streamers sometimes also take song requests, giving their audience control of the music. In the past, the music industry hasn’t taken action – but that’s changing. Just last year, many popular streamers were hit with 24-hour bans on the platform for playing copyrighted music. So what are the rules? The punishments? And what can you do to protect yourself?
What we’re seeing right now, not only on Twitch but on most streaming platforms, is an increased eagerness to respect copyright laws. People realize that creators’ intellectual property needs to be prioritized, for obvious reasons. However, listening to your moral compass does not mean you can’t or shouldn’t play music in your streams. You are allowed to play music on Twitch as long as you follow the rules. Let’s get into it.
What music can I play when I stream on Twitch?
There are three different categories of music that can be used in Twitch streams:
- Music owned by you. This is music that you create or produce yourself or music that you have played live and recorded. You should also make sure, before streaming, you have all the rights of reproducing this music, in case you have record label deals.
- Music licensed to you. This is by far the most common solution to avoid the issue. Epidemic Sound gives you access to a library of tracks and sound effects that you can use freely on Twitch, and YouTube if you want to upload your recorded streams. Once you have a subscription, you can safely play music without having to worry about DMCA takedowns.
- Music provided through ‘Soundtrack by Twitch.’ With ‘Soundtrack by Twitch’ you don’t have to worry about takedowns on Twitch, but you’ll probably notice the scarcity in terms of the offering. This, together with being able to clear more channels on other platforms, usually causes streamers to use Epidemic Sound instead.
In case you’re already using one of these three solutions, you’re perfectly safe to continue streaming without worrying about copyright strikes. If not, you’re probably best off subscribing to Epidemic Sound and adding your Twitch channel, and your YouTube channel if you want to upload your recorded streams. Since Epidemic Sound owns all the rights to their music and can provide a direct license, you’ll never have to worry about copyright claims again.
Is streaming copyrighted music allowed on Twitch?
As we mentioned above, you are not allowed to play music that you do not have the rights to play. Play music without a license and you’re violating copyright law. Twitch’s Terms of Service and Community Guidelines explicitly say: “You may not include music you don’t own in your Twitch streams or VODs.”
Currently, many Twitch streamers unintentionally violate the law because they want to give their audience the best experience possible. Unfortunately, including copyrighted music without proper licensing can result in takedowns and it denies musicians the funding they deserve. With an Epidemic Sound subscription, both problems are solved.
What can happen to my channel if I play copyrighted music?
There are currently two things that can happen if you play copyrighted music. The first is the most common. If uploading recorded Twitch streams on YouTube featuring music that you don’t have a license to use, you risk having your content claimed and/or taken down. This often leaves massive gaps in videos where there is no audio. It’s generally considered an acceptable loss by streamers.
The second is less common but may become increasingly common in the future. The punishment is a 24-hour ban on your channel. It occurs when the person who owns the rights to music you played on stream sends a DMCA takedown request against you. Famously, Maroon 5 and Juice WRLD issued mass DMCA takedowns in 2018, which saw major streamers banned for 24 hours.
The long-term effects of playing copyrighted music in your streams could be channel termination. Twitch has a three-strike policy for DMCA takedowns. Your first offense results in a 24-hour ban. Your second offense causes a 24-hours to 7-days ban. Your third offense will be an indefinite or permanent ban on Twitch. Also, it is worth noting that DMCA bans never are expunged from your record. When you get banned for something else, you generally have a 90-day probationary period, but DMCA bans remain part of your profile in perpetuity. Learn more about Twitch's music guidelines here.
Can I stream music-based content?
It is a bit interesting that most people do not know this, but no, you cannot stream music-based content. Playing games with a music focus such as Just Dance, Rock Band or osu! violates Twitch’s guidelines. Twitch’s Community Guidelines explicitly state that the following types of content are forbidden on the platform:
- Radio-Style Music Listening Shows
- DJ Sets
- Karaoke Performances
- Lip Synch Performances
- Visual Music Depictions
- Cover Song Performances
There is ONE exception to this rule, which is the new Twitch Sings game. It has been built by Twitch with permission from the artists included in the game.
Can I stream music from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music?
Many streamers use famous streaming services, like Spotify and Apple Music, to soundtrack their content. The most common misconception is that since you’re paying for a subscription, you should be allowed to use the music in your videos.
However, this is not the case. Apple Music and Spotify, despite allowing you to stream their music, do not give you permission to use this music in your content. Why? The royalties are still owned by the record labels and not by the services themselves.
Using music from YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify for your Twitch streams is not allowed.
Better safe than sorry
To sum up: for streamers to safely use music in their videos, a direct music license is the risk-free way to go. Want to play music and stay safe while streaming and avoid takedowns? Check out our plans here and if you want to get a preview of which music you can get with Epidemic Sound, check out our Twitch music page.
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