Twitch Says It’s in Talks to License Music, Tells Users to Delete Videos With Unauthorized Tracks

Amazon-owned service says it was 'surprised' by 'sudden avalanche' of copyright takedowns starting in May

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Courtesy of Twitch

Twitch, after getting blasted by major music-industry orgs for turning a blind eye to the use of unlicensed songs on its service — and frustrating and confusing Twitch creators for deleting their videos for copyright violations — is vowing to do better.

In what appears to be its first official guidance on the issue, Twitch in a lengthy blog post Wednesday told streamers that they must stop playing recorded music on their streams (unless it’s officially licensed) and that “if you haven’t already, you should review your historical VODs and Clips that may have music in them and delete any archives that might.”

The Amazon-owned live-streaming platform also claimed that it is “actively speaking with the major record labels about potential approaches to additional licenses that would be appropriate for the Twitch service.” However, the company also said that the “current constructs for licenses” that record labels have with other services (which typically take a cut of revenue from creators for payment to record labels) “make less sense for Twitch.”

“We’re open-minded to new structures that could work for Twitch’s unique service, but we must be clear that they may take some time to materialize or may never happen at all,” the company said in the blog.

Twitch’s music-copyright communiqué comes after several major U.S. music organizations — including the RIAA, the Recording Academy, the National Music Publishers Association, the Music Managers Forum, the American Association of Independent Music and SAG-AFTRA — sent a letter last month to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (copying Twitch CEO Emmet Shear). The letter, among other things, accused Twitch of “allowing and enabling its streamers to use our respective members’ music without authorization, in violation of Twitch’s music guidelines.”

Twitch said it was caught off guard by the music industry’s crackdown on unlicensed music on its service. According to the company, starting this May, reps for music companies began sending thousands of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) copyright-takedown notices targeted at users’ archived content, “mostly for snippets of tracks in years-old clips.” Before then, Twitch said, it received fewer than 50 music-related DMCA notifications per year.

Twitch said it analyzed DMCA notifications received from the end of May through mid-October and found that more than 99% of them were for tracks that streamers were playing in the background of their stream.

“We were as surprised by this sudden avalanche of notifications as many of you were,” Twitch said in the post. “We also realized that we needed to provide streamers with more educational programs and content management tools to help you deal with this unprecedented number of notifications coming in all at once.”

Twitch apologized to creators for the angst the DMCA takedowns have caused, noting that a warning email it sent to many last month about the videos deleted from their accounts “didn’t include all the information that you’d typically get in a DMCA notification.”

“We could have developed more sophisticated, user-friendly tools a while ago. That we didn’t is on us,” it said. “And we could have provided creators with a longer time period to address their VOD and Clip libraries — that was a miss as well. We’re truly sorry for these mistakes, and we’ll do better.”

Currently, Twitch said, it is focused on building more user-friendly tools to help creators better manage videos and on providing licensed music options “while we explore all options.”

For now, Twitch said users can use “fully licensed” alternatives like Soundtrack by Twitch. However, that doesn’t include music from major labels. In addition, the music organizations, in their Oct. 22 letter, complained that “Twitch’s apparent stance is that neither synch nor mechanical licenses are necessary for its Soundtrack tool.” Meanwhile, according to Twitch, live-streamers may also use rights-cleared music libraries such as Soundstripe, Monstercat Gold, Chillhop, Epidemic Sound and NCS, according to Twitch.

Twitch said it will expand the use of technology to detect copyrighted audio, as well as provide creators “more granular ways to manage your archive instead of just a ‘delete all’ option.” Twitch also promised to provide more detailed info in DMCA takedown notices, and provide a better ways for creators to challenge copyright claims if they believe they have fair use rights or have permission to use the music. With the deluge of music-related DMCA notices, Twitch said it has temporarily paused applying strikes against creators’ accounts.

In addition, Twitch posted a new FAQ on DMCA and copyright for creators and added a “Copyright and Your Channel” Creator Camp page with upcoming live sessions to provide information and tips.

“Your frustration and confusion with recent music-related copyright issues is completely justified,” Twitch said in the blog post to creators. “Moving forward, we’ll be more transparent with what’s happening and what tools and resources we’re building to help.”