By Timothy Geigner
In November, as we were finally coming to the day when CD Projekt Red’s newest opus, Cyberpunk 2077, was going to be released to the world, we wrote about how the developer had included a setting for the game specifically to keep streamers safe from copyright strikes. Essentially, the setting was meant to strip out all licensed music from the game and replace it with music that wouldn’t land streamers in copyright jail while doing let’s-plays. On the one hand, it was nice to see a developer so in favor of having its games streamed do this sort of thing. On the other hand, the fact that CD Projekt Red had to do so showed both what a failure Amazon/Twitch and the like have been at supporting their streamers through music licensing deals and, more importantly, what a hellscape copyright enforcement has become that all of this was even necessary.
Well, as it turns out, that hellscape is so complete that even the game’s stream-safe setting failed to keep streamers safe.
The developer first warned potential streamers on Wednesday, before Cyberpunk 2077 officially launched in all regions, that a certain song (CDPR didn’t say which one) during the game’s “Braindance” sequences might trigger a Digital Millennium Copyright Act strike. That’s even if you’re using the specific in-game setting designed to toggle off copyrighted music for this exact reason.
But now CDPR says that the issue may be larger than it first realized, and it’s now advising streamers turn off in-game music entirely due to “additional instances in the game which might put a DMCA strike on your channel.” CDPR says a fix is on the way, but it’s not an ideal situation to have to disable all music (both copyrighted and original tracks) when streaming the game just to avoid tripping the automated detection systems that protect copyrighted works.
This is all immensely stupid. I’m sure some out there will want to blame the developer for this, with suggestions that it didn’t roll out its stream-safe music setting well enough. But that’s dumb. CD Projekt Red is trying to navigate this idiotic minefield, but because of the failings of streaming platforms combined with the absurdly strict culture of the music industry, it’s very, very difficult to pull off.
Wouldn’t it be easier if we all just admitted that hearing music, licensed or otherwise, playing in the soundtrack of a game being streamed isn’t a damned threat or replacement for the actual original music? Nobody was going to out to buy “Track X” from iTunes only to hear it on a let’s-play and decide instead not to. That isn’t a thing.
Instead, we have this absurd reality to deal with.