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Boston University Digital Millennium Copyright Act Discussion

 

The status quo seems to be a happy agreement between streamers and video game copyright owners. However, is this what the Copyright Act—and more specifically the DMCA—had in mind as the fiduciary duty of these platforms to their users and to owners of copyrighted works? As society grows increasingly technological and the role of these platforms becomes more interactive with users, should their responsibilities be as easy to fulfill when it comes to the DMCA safe harbors? As it stands right now, platforms do not have a duty to take down infringing content unless copyright holders give “appropriate notice>”  What do you see as the pros and cons of placing greater litigation exposure on streamers such as Twitch?  

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First: Create a 200+ word post related to the prompt or assigned reading

Your first post must be posted at least two days before the assignment due date to allow others to comment on your initial post

Second: Read other posts: Provide 75+ word replies to at least 2 other class members

The current status of streaming eSports is one which inevitably will lead to litigation regarding copyright infringement. The general landscape of the space consists of a general understanding between streamers, platforms, and game publishers/studios is that they will not pursue legal action against streamers and platforms for showcasing their games in front of an audience. This unwritten agreement makes sense too. Why would game studios be upset if their games are being streamed? Assuming the streamer is not misusing the purpose of the game, it basically is free marketing for the studio. However, the Copyright Act was not intended to be used in this way. DMCA Safe Harbors act as a way for digital platforms to notify creators about content, should the platform be notified by a copyright holder about infringing content on their platform. In other words, it allows for digital platforms to escape legal liability for having unlicensed, copyrighted content on their platforms. Within the context of streaming eSports, that means that companies like Twitch, Mixer, and YouTube would have to tell a streamer to take their stream/content down if a game studio/publisher notifies the platforms about the content and asks to have it removed. I think that it is not far off to see video game copyright holders begin to start a group licensing agreement with platforms wherein they receive compensation from platforms for housing footage of a game that publishers and studios own. With the amount of money there is in streaming now (much less the potential), I would expect to see studios attempt to cash in by enforcing their copyright protections.

As I read through the DMCA, I recognized that there are a lot of conditions that benefit only the service provider, in this case, is Twitch or other streaming platforms. Moreover, the Copy Right Act gives game developers and publishers “legally own exclusive rights” to their games’ use, images, and videos when in a fixed form. Thus, games developers and publishers can hold the right to use pictures and videos of streamers while they are streaming the game. In other words, if the person performing the live stream is not knowledgeable about the copyright and individual rights, there will be many risks and legal consequences. While streamers gain little to no benefits from these acts, these big tech companies acquire rights and revenue from the person who creates the content viewers watch. Twitch even has an affiliate program where streamers can be Twitch Partners and make a steady income. But in exchange, Twitch is using streamers’ images to sell their virtual items like emotes and “Bits.”

As streaming consumption is on the rise, a significant number of content creators are trying to promote their work on streaming platforms. It can be challenging for Twitch or other streaming platforms to verify appropriate content and ensure that they are suitable for viewers. However, I have tried to stream on Twitch before, and I once got a warning from Twitch to stop my stream because I was playing copyrighted music. These platforms have been developed and advanced to prevent infringement. 

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