The problem with Twitch adopting ContentID

William Lou
September 19, 2014
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

On Aug. 6, 2014, Twitch, a website used to stream user-generated videogame content, announced that they would be adopting a Content ID system to their videos, muting any archived videos that had copyright content. This is a very big deal. This change once against reflects a dated system of copyright that cannot keep up with the ever-changing technological landscape of the internet, and a growing imbalance of power amongst large corporations and independent content creators.

So what is Content ID? To those who aren’t familiar, it’s a system that automatically scans videos for audio content that is believed to infringe upon copyrighted material, and automatically removes it. This system was added December 2013 to YouTube, and has since migrated to Twitch as well.

While this may seem like an effective way to reduce the risk of legal action against Twitch or its users, this change marks a growing trend in the way online media is legally regulated, and has some serious drawbacks in terms of censorship and monopolization. This is because Content ID simply doesn’t work.

Because the system is automatic, there is often little way to tell if the creator actually owns the content, as the system just scans a database of existing audio files, and removes or mutes the videos as needed. This means that thousands of Twitch streamers and YouTubers have had their content removed automatically without warning, often with little way to fight it, even if they have acquired the appropriate rights.

As a result, companies like Valve have had their videos muted on Twitch, because they possessed copyrighted music inside the Dota 2 video game, despite them being the creators of the very game that was removed. The number of legal redundancies this system creates is seemingly endless, and unfortunately not everyone has the power to stop it.

Now some of you might be thinking: “What’s the harm? Can’t one simply stop using copyrighted material and avoid this problem altogether?” Well, that is where things get complicated. The problem is that copyright law in Canada and the United States simply hasn’t evolved quickly enough to deal with the growing amount of user-generated content.

For those unfamiliar, copyright systems in the United States and Canada both work under an exception that allows the use of copyrighted material if it is for research, educational purposes, criticism, review or news reporting, to name a few. In Canada this system is known as fair dealing, and in the United States this system is known as fair use. While the systems differ, both work on a case-by-case basis, and because of this many cases are decided by a judge.

If you aren’t seeing the problem, I’ll make it simple. There are not enough judges in the world to handle the amount of new material that YouTube and Twitch users produce. This means that most people burned by the automatic system of Content ID have no way to combat unfair regulation, leaving many smaller known users simply out of luck.

It seems as time passes the Internet is beginning to lose the freedoms and opportunities it once offered, slowly returning power to big businesses. It is time for North America and the world to address a growing issue stifling the freedoms of independent content creators. It is time to bring copyright law into an age of new media.

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