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?

Is Streaming Copyrighted Music Allowed on Twitch?
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 do not 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 Music Can I Play When I Stream on Twitch?
You can play any music that you have the rights to share on Twitch. This can be music that you have created yourself and own the rights to, or have a license to share on Twitch. By subscribing to Epidemic Sound and adding your Twitch channel, you are free to play Epidemic Sound’s music in your streams on Twitch. This is because Epidemic Sound owns all the rights to their music and can provide a direct license, so you don’t have to worry about copyright claims.

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. In Videos on Demand (VODs) of your live streams, any time where copyrighted music is played, your audio will be muted. 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.

What are the Long Term Effects if I Continue to Play Copyright Music?
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.

Has the Music Industry Started Enforcing Copyright?
In the recent past, the music industry has not enforced copyright on the platform. But, with the recent DMCAs, it is clear that this will not be the case going forward. As Twitch, and streaming in general, becomes more mainstream and profitable – the industry is going to want their cut.

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.