caspar-camille-rubin-DrL-cwqD6tM-unsplash-1What makes laws work, or at least what should, is that they are or are at least meant to be prescriptive. Violators should know what they did, and what the punishment for the violation should be, in order that they not offend again. Short of that, the system falls apart; people continue to violate the rules unknowingly because there's no way of knowing what actions might cause them to break those rues. Broadly speaking, that is why rules and laws exist, rather than relying upon the capriciousness of a individual or body to determine what is or isn't a foul.

Twitch seems hard pressed to learn that lesson so far. As reported by Kate Cox in Ars Technica, they are doing what has become expected from tech platforms by issuing takedown notices at a tremendous clip. What's unexpected from Twitch is the dramatic steps it's subsequently taking. Not only is it failing to identify what content specifically is in violation of their copyright rules, it is notifying streamers that those videos in violation will be deleted — without affording those creators the chance to edit their videos and fix the issue.

It's an unprecedented step, given that users are supposed to be afforded the opportunity to appeal decisions or rectify problems, perhaps in response to unprecedented pushback from rightsholders. Cox notes a sharp increase in complaints from the RIAA for content dating between 2017 and 2019, with the backlog of complaints apparently prompting Twitch to go with the nuclear option, as it were. Now untold streamers are less some number of their videos, and thus are diminished in their ability to generate revenue.

Nor does it seem like this is a one-time occurrence. In its notification to streamers, Twitch advises users to bone up on copyright law and delete anything that might be in violation, which would be more useful if there was a better rubric as to what would constitute a violation. By taking such drastic action, Twitch isn't affording its users the chance to at lease see what it is that might land them in trouble, even if they disagree with the decision. Instead, everyone is left to guess.

It's difficult to be overly surprised by the move, and yet despite the warranted cynicism exists around big tech it still feels a bit shocking. Twitch videos aren't important in the larger scheme of things, but our lives are more online now than they have ever been, and something as trivial as takedowns of Fortnite streams still serve as a reminder of the power a few massive firms hold over our digital lived.