A Twitch streamer with more than 100,000 followers found out that her account had been suspended as she tried returning to it after a month of inactivity.
The streamer, Annialis, discovered this on January 18 while attempting to live stream. Meanwhile, fans attempting to access the channel saw a message advising them that the content was unavailable, i.e., that the account was banned or suspended.
LMAOOOOOO I HAVEN'T STREAMED IN A MONTH AND GOT SUSPENDED FROM TWITCH, FOR AN EMOTE I'VE HAD FOR 5 YEARS.
BUT WE HAVE RACISTS, HOMOPHOBES AND ANIMAL ABUSERS RUNNING WILD. K Twitch. pic.twitter.com/pVAzEWe4u0
After the initial confusion as to the reason Amazon-owned live streaming giant would take this drastic step, Annialis learned it was the result of a copyright claim filed against one of the emotes she uses. In fact, it’s an emote she has been using for the past five years.
Emotes – emoticons shown in chat – are an important part of Twitch culture, often themed to uniquely represent the channel. But things can go south if the material used for this happens to be rightly – or wrongly – claimed in a copyright notice.
In her initial reaction on Twitter, Annialis seemed to think the length of time she had been using the emote in question made the copyright claim unusual, but in subsequent tweets she acknowledged that the emote itself belong to somebody else – i.e., that she “found it on Google.”
For the record, I'm fully aware of the consequences. I'm not upset, I find it all funny that I've been using the same emote for 5 years just for it to be taken down now.
But there are worse than me out there that get away with things. F for ya girl. ✌
— Deb 🐻 (@AnnialisXD) January 18, 2020
Like other platforms, Twitch must respect the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA, if it wants to protects its status as a platform that is not legally liable for any user-generated copyright-infringing content. And that is why Twitch, like other social networks, is very eager to immediately act on these claims first by suspending a channel, and give the streamer the possibility of filing a counterclaim later – while their channel remains unavailable.
For the moment, it looks like anecdotal evidence rather than proof of a trend that indicates emotes might be becoming the next big “copyright battleground” on Twitch – but some of the Twitter users commenting on the streamer’ post said they also received DMCA strikes for emotes that they had been using on the platform for years.
Previously, most notable cases of DMCA strikes on Twitch had to do with claims from music industry or traditional broadcasters, and were often much less clear-cut than this one – but had the same result: suspensions.