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Twitch’s Music Licensing is a Nightmare, and They Are Sorry
November 17, 2020 — Twitch has been a monster in the live-streaming arena since its inception, and even behemoths like Microsoft have failed to create competition. For a time, it seemed like Twitch was untouchable — until the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), among other major music industry groups, started taking umbrage with the fact that streamers were playing unlicensed music in their videos (whether intentionally or not, also taking issue with music licensed to and featuring in games).
On October 20, 2020, Twitch users received a mass email from the streaming platform informing them of the complaint against them for hosting videos using copyrighted music. The email came with the ominous warning, “We have processed these notifications and are issuing you a one-time warning to give you the chance to learn about copyright law and the tools available to manage the content on your channel.” Twitch operates its own music library, which is called Soundtrack, that, supposedly, contains “pre-cleared” music. However, it appears Soundtrack does not satisfy the music industry’s requirements for copyright, making matters more obtuse for streamers. A new blog post on Twitch’s website seeks to clear up some questions about the legal battle and also includes a well-deserved apology to content creators for the unfair manner in which users have been punished because of the music industry’s threat, including the deleting of years worth of video content.
The post begins with an apology:
Creators, we hear you. Your frustration and confusion with recent music-related copyright issues are completely justified. Things can—and should—be better for creators than they have been recently, and this post outlines our next steps to get there. Moving forward, we’ll be more transparent with what is happening and what tools and resources we are building to help.
The post discusses a litany of Twitch’s issues — from copyright law to user responsibility and the company’s commitment to transparency moving forward. It also mentions Twitch is working on new tools to help accurately scrub archived content and give more control over the audio transferred from live streams to archived content. Most importantly, the post touches on Twitch’s ongoing communications with rights holders to secure licensing agreements to open up music libraries to content creators.
It is not dramatic to say that Twitch has a serious problem on their hands – they are walking a razor-thin line between keeping music license owners from suing and creating a rift between their creators who may jump ship to a competitor. While Twitch is working out deals with major labels, hopefully they will also explore the option of working with smaller synch-licensing companies that would give independent artists a chance to shine. In fact, Twitch and Spotify-owned digital music distributor Distrokid recently entered into an agreement that gives independent labels and artists an option to make their music available on Twitch. Let us hope more deals like this follow suit.