Twitch streamers, much like other content creators, follow trends.
These trends are referred to as ‘metas’. ‘Meta’ is a contraction of the term ‘metagaming,’ the practice of transcending the prescribed rules of a given game or using external factors to manipulate it. In the case of Twitch, and other algorithm-driven video platforms, creators will attempt to game the algo, deploying different metas to attract new viewers, gain popularity, and remain relevant. There are video game metas, which involve playing popular titles like Fortnite and Among Us. There are theme metas, like the hot tub stream and yoga pants Twister metas. Creators identify trends that they know will gain traction and exploit them for personal gain.
So what is the ‘TV Show meta’? Well, it’s kind of self-explanatory. Twitch personalities will stream entire episodes of TV shows and ‘react’ to them. By ‘react’, I mean most are watching the show as a normal person might, maybe commenting here and there. Some streamers even sleep on stream while streaming The Lord Of The Rings.
I really am tired of the Twitch meta.
Purposely break the rules while acting dumb in the process so you can take a 2 day vacation and then be welcomed back with 3x viewership + exposure.
All the while everyone else now has to deal with stricter rules for your dumbassary.
— Bahroo (@AdmiralBahroo) January 8, 2022
This recent meta has been in the news after big streamers like Pokimane and Disguised Toast received bans after streaming full episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Death Note respectively. These streamers could theoretically claim that they were within the bounds of fair use, where the display of copyrighted media can be justified if the content is considered ‘transformative’. Asserting films or TV shows have been sufficiently ‘transformed’ when what you’re doing is an uninterrupted screening on a Livestream, seems like a stretch.
YouTubers operating under fair use will generally provide commentary, analysis, or deconstruction of the media they’re focusing on in order to adhere to the concept of ‘transformative’ content. The heavy editing required to create a video essay fits neatly into the legal definition of ‘transformation’. However, copyrighted material being streamed uninterrupted on Twitch most likely isn’t being transformed, even if a streamer says the odd “Damn, that’s crazy” or “I love this part”.
DMCA takedowns are issued when copyrighted material is distributed by users without any proof of fair use. This happens, for example, when copyrighted music is played without proper permission or TV shows and movies are streamed in full. Twitch streamers themselves have felt the brunt of this is in recent years. After thousands of DMCA takedowns were issued to creators large and small, licensed music practically disappeared from the platform because it wasn’t considered fair use. Many creators were hit with retroactive copyright strikes that threatened their channels. Twitch eventually bowed to pressure and instituted new rules in September of last year to better protect creators from DMCA takedowns and copyright strikes.
In the case of Twitch streamers indulging the TV Show meta, Twitch generally removes the content or bans the streamer. This is because the copyright holders involved can potentially hold Twitch responsible. Were enough cases brought to bear, Twitch could easily find itself on the hook for damages it might never be able to pay. And then, who will be on the hook after that? The streamer? When it deletes these VODs or bans certain,n creators, it’s Twitch moving to save its own skin.
Video game streams, the platform’s bread and butter, are slightly different. The content could arguably be considered fair use due to every player’s experience being different, making the content somewhat transformative in nature. It’s wholly up to the copyright owner to decide whether they take action. Though most publishers understand they could easily snuff out any streamer playing their game, they also understand that streaming grants the benefit of free publicity. As such, it is rare to see game streamers pinged for takedowns.
video games are a great example of this. technically all the games we play on stream are still subject to copyright laws. but the industry recognizes the influence and benefit of streamers playing their games. this is why it’s super rare for a pub to pursue copyright.
— hasanabi (@hasanthehun) January 8, 2022
Large companies like Disney already know that people will be watching their content. As such, there’s no desire for them to make deals with streamers to watch their material. And so, they file takedown requests.
As we’ve seen, these Twitch streams have resulted in bans, which impact a creator’s bottom line. So: why do they do it? The easiest answer is that it’s on-trend. However, many speculate that the bans are a way for bigger streamers to have some sanctioned time off. With their larger following and sponsorships, they can afford a few days offline. For many, it may be the only way they can guarantee a short break from the content grind. On top of this, streamers have sometimes seen boosts in their subs after returning from their suspensions.
Twitch streamer Sodapoppin weighed into the situation in a January 6 stream after learning that his fellow streamer xQc had also been banned for streaming copyrighted material, claiming, “You can’t change my mind, all these streamers want to be banned. Like they actually want to be banned so they can just retire and their legacy can stay where it is at the top.”
YouTuber Devin Nash also has an in-depth explainer as to why this trend could be harmful to the Twitch platform as a whole.
The trend of watching copyrighted content uninterrupted is very much a game of Russian Roulette. Ultimately, if these streams continue to gain popularity, what has been a series of individual bans could gather steam. As stated, with enough legal pressure, it could easily lead to the takedown of Twitch entirely if copyright holders can build up enough evidence. The Twitch tv meta isn’t just a problem for small streamers who know the risk when they take part in this meta, but all streamers who face losing their livelihoods.