DMCA Meaning: A Guide for Creators

April 25, 2023 • Devin Partida


How does the DMCA meaning apply to creators and their content? How do you figure out what music you can and can’t use in your videos or streams? There are common questions to have when you’re posting content online. 

Copyright laws can be intimidating and confusing at first, but they really boil down to a few best practices. By learning how the DMCA applies to creators, you can make sure that your videos don’t use any clips or music without permission. 

DMCA Meaning Explained

What does DCMA stand for? What is the DMCA meaning for creators? If you want to make videos on platforms like YouTube, Twitch and TikTok, you will run into the term “DMCA” a lot. This acronym refers to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed in the U.S. in 1998. It outlines rights and regulations for the use of copyrighted material online. 

The DMCA is in place to protect the rights of creators. It ensures that people like writers and musicians to get the credit and revenue they deserve when their work is distributed online. On the Internet it can be exceptionally easy for creators’ content to be stolen or used without permission. This results in the creator losing valuable exposure and monetary gain that is vital to their careers. 

By following DMCA rules and guidelines, creators show respect for one another and for copyright law. Many people dream of building a career as a YouTuber, musician or streamer. However, this career should not come at the cost of stealing other people’s content and profiting off of it. The DMCA prevents this from happening and enforces fair use of creative content online. 

The DMCA falls under an umbrella of copyright laws and mainly applies to content shared online. Platforms like YouTube, Twitch and TikTok are all examples of sites where DMCA rules apply. 

What Happens If You Break DMCA Rules?

The penalty for breaking copyright regulations varies from one platform to another. Penalties also depend on the severity of the copyright infringement and how often you have broken the rules. Misunderstanding the DMCA meaning and rules is one of the most common causes of copyright infringement. 

Most of the time when creators do break DMCA or general copyright rules, it’s simply an accident. Unless the copyright infringement was particularly severe, you won’t usually suffer any serious consequences. However, repeatedly breaking DMCA rules can result in getting your account suspended, locked or closed. 

DMCA Claims On YouTube

It’s usually easy to tell when you have broken DMCA rules, whether by accident or not. For example, on YouTube, a video containing copyrighted music may be flagged, demonetized or blocked in some countries. You can’t use YouTube’s monetization features on videos containing copyrighted content, such as music or movie soundtracks. 

YouTube also has a copyright strike system for tracking DMCA rules violations. If an account gets three copyright claim strikes on their account within a 90 day period (3 months), YouTube can delete the entire account and any connected YouTube accounts. 

However, there are exceptions to YouTube’s copyright rules. For example, you can post a video of you playing Minecraft, even though you don’t own the rights to the game. Similarly, you could use still images or short clips from movies or TV episodes in a video where you review or comment on that content. 

DMCA Claims On Twitch

On Twitch, a few things can happen if you use copyrighted material live. Your VODs for streams containing DMCA-protected content will be automatically muted. Your stream can also get completely taken down, even if you are live. Twitch also has a strike system for DMCA infringements. Creators who earn a living from streaming on Twitch have to be careful to avoid getting any strikes.

It is important to note that on any platform only the copyright holder is authorized to submit a DMCA or copyright infringement claim. So, for example, if someone is watching your stream and hears a Taylor Swift song you are playing, they can’t submit a copyright claim (unless they’re Taylor Swift or her representatives). 

Additionally, Twitch may take down your stream due to a copyright claim even if it is a false positive. This means your stream or VOD can be taken down before Twitch has confirmed that you actually committed a copyright infringement. If the copyright claim is found to be a false alarm, you won’t get any strikes on your account. 

DMCA Claims on TikTok

TikTok is a bit easier to navigate in terms of how the DMCA meaning and rules apply to creators. This is because TikTok conveniently has thousands of audio options already available in the app’s editing features. These audio options are almost always DMCA safe or are short enough snippets that they don’t violate copyright rules. 

It is still possible to commit a copyright violation on TikTok, though. You can’t monetize any copyrighted content, for example. If a creator decides they don’t want others using their audio, it will typically just be removed from all videos with that audio. The same goes for audios that receive a copyright claim. So, if one of your videos becomes mysteriously muted, it is often because the audio was removed from TikTok. 

If someone does file a copyright claim on one of your videos, it can be deleted or blocked. If you repeatedly violate copyright rules, TikTok can suspend or delete your account. 

DMCA Free vs Royalty Free

One of the most common sources of copyright violations is music used in videos and streams. Music is an important part of creating good content on almost every major platform today. In fact, TikTok’s whole content style is largely reliant on using music. YouTubers use background music for intros and vlogs. Twitch streamers need music to play in the background of their games. 

It’s hard to create good content today without using music in your videos. So, how do you do that within the DMCA meaning and rules? A whole category of music has emerged online to meet this need. 

You might have heard the terms “copyright free”, “royalty free”, “DMCA free” or “DMCA friendly”. These all refer to different types of music you may be able to legally use in your videos, but it’s important to understand what these terms mean. 

What is DMCA Free or Copyright Free Music?

In the context of creator-friendly music, “DMCA free” and “copyright free” essentially mean the same thing. In this case, the creator of the music has chosen not to file copyright claims for it. This means they won’t submit DMCA or copyright complaints if other people use that music. 

If a musician lists their music as DMCA or copyright free, you can safely use it in your videos, including monetized content. There are plenty of sites where you can easily find verified DMCA free music today. Twitch even has a built-in library of DMCA free music for streamers to use. 

Just be careful about using others’ “DMCA free” playlists on sites like Spotify or YouTube. Tracks’ copyright status can change and it’s always best to personally verify that the music you use is DMCA and copyright free. It’s also worth noting that DMCA free music isn’t always free to use. 

Artists or music services can request payment from creators to use their music. This usually means the creator pays a one-time fee to buy a license for the music. Both DMCA free and royalty free music can charge a licensing fee. 

What is Royalty Free Music?

Royalty free music is slightly different from copyright free. Royalties are small payments a creator gets whenever their content is used or purchased. This doesn’t just apply to music. Authors, for example, get a small cut every time someone purchases a copy of their books. Royalties are often an important source of income for artists, musicians, writers and other creators. 

When music is marked as royalty free, it means you don’t have to pay the artist royalties on any revenue you gain from their music. However, royalty free music is not always copyright free or free to use. Artists can charge a licensing fee for royalty-free music. This means that creators pay once to use the track as much as they want and don’t have to pay royalties on it. 

Even if you can legally use it in your videos for free, the artist may still request that you give them credit for their music. For example, you might list the song and artist in your video description. Always check the artist’s website or the track’s licensing information before using any royalty free music in your videos. 

What Is Commercial Music?

Music that is not royalty free is often called commercial music. Most major artists’ music is not royalty free or DMCA friendly. If you want to use commercial music in your videos, you will need to get a licensing agreement from the artist or their representatives. Licensing for commercial music can be very expensive, sometimes costing thousands of dollars for the use of a single track. So, most creators stick to royalty free music. 

On some sites, such as YouTube or TikTok, creators may be allowed to post videos with commercial music without permission. However, it is important to note that these videos cannot be monetized. You can’t earn money from things like ad revenue unless your video is completely free from copyright infringement claims. 

Understanding DMCA Meaning, Rules and Penalties

The DMCA is one of many copyright laws in place around the world to protect creators’ rights. U.S. lawmakers created the DMCA specifically to address the issue of copyright infringement online. It outlines rules and guidelines for how copyrighted content can and cannot be used and shared on the Internet. 

The DMCA meaning for creators boils down to respecting the rights of other creators when using things like clips or music. Before using any content that you didn’t personally create, make sure it doesn’t violate DMCA rules. You can check the websites of the artist and the platform you are posting your videos or streams on to determine if the content you want to use is safe. 

By taking the time and effort to follow DMCA rules, you help your own brand as well as other creators. Remember, copyright laws protect all creators, including you.