Over the course of the last pandemic-filled year, Twitch has become the go-to place for a lot of musicians to perform and interact with fans without breaking quarantine. The fact that it was actually designed for livestreams (unlike Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube) made it a natural fit for those who weren’t looking to play awkward drive-in concerts or other “socially distanced” shows.
Unfortunately, the platform’s surge of popularity within the music world also exposed one of Twitch’s biggest problems, which is the ongoing battle over streaming music rights all centered around the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (better known as the DMCA). To make an extremely long story that you can read elsewhere short, Twitch has an algorithm that automatically mutes streams (or portions of streams) containing copyrighted music, and it’s caused some problems. Several major artists (and occasionally SPIN’s Untitled Twitch Stream) have seen their streams get muted for performing their own music, and while they can certainly appeal the muting or show Twitch that they own the rights ahead of time, it’s an extra step that a lot of artists aren’t bothering with when they’re just learning to use Twitch in the first place.
On Friday, those DMCA issues went viral when a clip of Metallica’s performance on Twitch’s official “Twitch Gaming” channel from the massive online BlizzCon event (unfortunately titled BlizzConline) hit the internet. During the performance, Twitch replaces the band’s audio with some royalty-free folksy 8-bit music that sounds more like the legendary band should be battling goblins and saving fairy princesses than rocking out, all so the stream didn’t get hit by its own DMCA moderator.
Of course, perhaps the ultimate ironic icing on this particular cake is that Metallica is arguably the most infamous band in the world when it comes to arguing against the digital sharing of their music. There’s a good chance that the DMCA would’ve been replaced by a more modernized and reasonable set of rules that would’ve allowed for the performance if not for them.
Check out the clip below to see Metallica sound like they never have before.
the current state of Twitch: the official Twitch Gaming channel cut off the live Metallica concert to play 8bit folk music to avoid DMCA pic.twitter.com/sCn56So8Ee
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) February 19, 2021