Twitch users streaming reactions to the latest Democratic presidential debate had their accounts suspended and streams taken down during the debate based on false copyright claims.
Popular Twitch channels providing commentaries, such as Chapo Trap House and Mychal “Trihex” Jefferson, were suspended after their stream received a notice for copyright violations for commenting on the debate. “As far as Twitch was concerned, those live commentary tracks were pirating copyright-protected content.”
Twitch removed Trihex and others in an effort to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA notice came from Praxis Political Legal, a third-party company that claimed to represent CBS. However, Twitch conducted an investigation, which revealed that “channels that received takedowns by a group called Praxis Political were false.” Suspiciously, soon after Praxis Political sent the DMCA notices, it’s website went down and has “disappeared.” It is not uncommon for large corporations to hire third-party companies to deal with copyright issues on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. However, Twitch, YouTube and other platforms can struggle with verifying DMCA takedown notices.
Twitch stated that “Twitch is reinstating access to each account and removing any strike attributed to a channel in connection with the notice, effective immediately. We regret that a false notice from a 3rd party disrupted any of our streamers and appreciate all who alerted us to the concerns about Praxis Political. The safety of our community is a top priority and it is unacceptable to target folks with false claims. The investigation continues as to the actor that submitted the notices.”
“I’m a political activist and I believe that this is the most important election of our lifetimes,” Trihex told The Verge. “I’m using my platform at its most productive capabilities to spread awareness of smears, misinformation, and my general advocacy for Bernie Sanders…I refuse to be silenced. The suppression tactics that we’re seeing right now in the new wave of progressive media and political coverage, it’s only a sign that they’re nervous that they can’t match the innovation and the authenticity of the youth.”
Trihex only showed parts of the stream to show subtitles and muted the audio. Despite these measures, he was still banned. Other affected accounts included a full stream of the debate. Commentators felt that they were not stealing the content from the debate, rather they were “transforming it.” Many believed they were in the clear because they had previously done this with other debates without issue.
Vice noted that “[t]he legality of streaming video games and talking over them—and by extension, talking over debates—has not really been legally tested. Instead, it’s become such a cultural sensation over the past decade that, instead, most companies decided to look the other way, believing the exposure is ultimately good for their brands. It’s become a form of free advertising.”
No one seems to be immune to these copyright claims – Twitter had its own stream, which it had licensed the rights to, struck down by CBS for the first 10 minutes before it was restored.