Did DMCA Concerns Prompt Twitch to Overdub Metallica?

There's more going on here than meets the eye (or ear)

Metallica at BlizzConline
Metallica at BlizzConline.

The passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998 has had plenty of consequences that its authors never envisioned, and ones which lawmakers periodically re-examine. That’s not necessarily shocking — the internet of 1998 and the internet of 2021 are very different, after all. But overzealous application of the DMCA has led to some surreal moments in recent years, such as the guitarist of the heavy metal band DragonForce being suspended by Twitch for the heinous offense of…playing his own band’s songs.

The latest such controversy involves a live performance by an artist streamed during BlizzConline, the online edition of BlizzCon, an annual event held by game publisher Blizzard Entertainment. The artist in question was Metallica, who played the in-person version of the event several years ago. The performance was broadcast on several Twitch channels, but — as EuroGamer reports — on Twitch Gaming, the sound of the band doing their thing quickly faded out and replaced by music that was decidedly not Metallica.

At The Verge, Chris Welch speculated that Blizzard secured music performance rights for its own channel, where Metallica’s set could be heard normally, but not for Twitch Gaming. It would certainly explain a lot.

Given Metallica’s lawsuit against Napster, it’s led to more than a few very public displays of schadenfreude. That said, the aforementioned lawsuit didn’t actually apply to the DMCA, which was passed 2 years earlier.

The Future of Music Coalition has a much longer thread exploring the issues at hand. But even if the overdubs weren’t some sort of manifestation of irony writ large, the clip of Metallica furiously headbanging while cheery video game music plays makes for wonderfully surreal viewing.

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