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Music Artists’ Group Accuses Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos of ‘Willful Blindness’ on Twitch Song Royalties

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Courtesy of Twitch

Music streaming on Twitch is booming — and now a group of artists is challenging owner Amazon to pay its fair share.

In a letter Monday addressed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the nonprofit Artist Rights Alliance cited Bezos’ testimony during a House Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on July 29. The chief exec, who is the wealthiest person in the world, was asked by Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) whether Twitch allowed users to stream unlicensed music. Bezos claimed he didn’t know the answer and would investigate.

“We were appalled… by your inability or unwillingness to answer even the most basic question about Twitch’s practices in this regard,” the ARA letter says. “As Twitch uses music to grow its audience and shape its brand, the company owes creators more than the willful blindness and vague platitudes you offered during your congressional testimony.”

The letter was signed by ARA board members Rosanne Cash, music manager Thomas Manzi, John McCrea of the band Cake, singer-songwriter Tift Merritt, producer Ivan Barias, guitarist Matthew Montfort, and indie label executive and musician Maggie Vail.

“We appreciate that Amazon offers a number of properly licensed streaming services,” the ARA letter says. “Amazon’s Twitch subsidiary, however, is not one of those services.”

Reps for Amazon and Twitch didn’t immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.

Not only is Twitch allegedly not licensing music, the ARA says, the game-centric platform from all appearances also has shown “unwillingness to do anything beyond the most minimal and inadequate effort to process takedown requests” under the U.S.’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The COVID-19 crisis has boosted streaming on Twitch, which delivered some 5 billion hours of livestreamed content in the second quarter of 2020, up 83% year over year, per a report by Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet. The service is expected to top 40 million U.S. users by 2021, according to eMarketer forecasts.

“For working songwriters and performers, fair royalties on a growing platform like Twitch can literally be a matter of life and death – the difference between having a place to live and homelessness and having access to health care or being uninsured,” the ARA says in the letter to Bezos. “For other it’s the difference between being able to work as an artist or having to give up a lifetime of dreams.”

The ARA letter asks Bezos to explain what Amazon and Twitch are doing to implement a program under which they will pay royalties to songwriters and musicians.

“Jeff Bezos could not answer to Congress if Amazon’s Twitch live-streaming service permitted its users to post unlicensed music,” ARA board member Tift Merritt said in a statement. “The music artists create is not only sacred in spirit and deserving respect — it also merits fair pay no matter where and how it is used.”