On February 25, CBS News organized the last democratic presidential debate prior to the hugely important Super Tuesday primaries. The debate was officially licensed to broadcast on the Twitter and CBS News website, but there was an even greater range of live commentary channels when Twitch streamers responded to the arguments in real time.
But if you were tuned to one of those channels, you might have received an unpleasant surprise halfway through the broadcast.
As the debates progressed, popular channels such as Chapo Trap House and Mychal “Trihex” Jefferson were hit by the suspensions after their streams received copyright notices for hosting their own news coverage. As for Twitch, those live commentary tracks were piracy-copyrighted content. But after investigation by Twitch, channels that received deletions by a group called Praxis Political were incorrect.
According to Twitch:
Twitch restores access to each account and immediately removes any warning attributed to a notification-related channel. We regret that a false third-party notification has disrupted our streamers and we appreciate everyone who has warned us about concerns about Praxis Political. The safety of our community is a top priority and it is unacceptable to address people with false claims. The investigation continues to the actor who has submitted the notifications.
At first, streamers such as Trihex believed that their content was deleted on behalf of CBS News. CBS has paid the license fees for the debate and each of these streams has used at least some content that is owned by the network. On the other hand, streamers can claim that their work falls under reasonable use because they provide a continuous commentary on public political speeches. However, the copyright removal system often ends live videos without a meaningful chance of disagreement, and many streamers believe that the suspension system has delayed their ability to express themselves politically.
“I am a political activist and I believe this is the most important election of our lives,” Trihex said The edge. “I use my platform on the most productive opportunities to spread smear awareness, misinformation and my general advocacy for Bernie Sanders.”
Streamers such as Trihex have been struck by copyright strike in the past. Last August, Time Warner crashed similar streams on behalf of CNN, resulting in a strike and a suspension for every offensive channel. When the channel is suspended, owners cannot post new content and their audience cannot watch previous streams until the suspension is lifted. If a channel receives three warnings, it is permanently banned.
“I refuse to silence,” Trihex said The edge. “The oppression tactics that we now see in the new wave of progressive media and political coverage are just a sign that they are nervous that they cannot match the innovation and authenticity of youth.”
Twitch and other platforms such as YouTube have been struggling for years to balance the removals from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and fair use. It is not only difficult to sort legitimate claims, but the system has also suffered misuse due to false removal claims.
Twitter, a democratic debate partner of CBS News, even left its original stream of the event through CBS Broadcasting Inc. interrupt. The feed stopped at the top of the debate for about 10 minutes before it was restored.
Rod Breslau, an esports consultant and journalist, first noticed it that Political Praxis is legal, who reportedly filed the DMCA claims against the streamers on behalf of CBS News, “scrubbed the entire webpage and went offline.”
CBS News did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Influences, streamers and YouTubers have become surprisingly powerful players in the latest election cycle. Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard and former candidate Andrew Yang all appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast this year and earlier this year, Rogan announced that he endorsed Sanders.
However, the copyright claim system ensures that those outlets are still at the mercy of larger rightholders after events such as the debate last night. “The real elephant in the room here is whether any of this reporting going to public elections and office should be privatized at all,” said Trihex. “The fact that this is not on C-SPAN or not at all in the public domain … is actually crazy for me.”