Congress Asks Jeff Bezos — ‘Shouldn’t Twitch License Music?’

Jeff Bezos Congress
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Jeff Bezos Congress
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Photo Credit: C-SPAN

Congress asked Jeff Bezos during historic antitrust hearings why Twitch doesn’t pay music royalties. Bezos replied, “I don’t know.”

That may seem strange, but it’s true. Rather than license music, Twitch issues DMCA takedowns to streamers. Several prominent Twitch streamers are being threatened with full bans for multiple copyright infringement notices. Twitch is legally required to comply with any Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) request it receives, but alternatively, the platform could also pay for music upfront and issue royalties to musicians.

Since the coronavirus pandemic has put much of the world in lockdown, musicians are turning to Twitch. Total streaming hours for the service increased by 50% between March and April, showcasing just how many people tuned in to Twitch as a platform.

Accordingly, rightsholders are becoming increasingly aggressive with their music appearing in clips on Twitch. But you wouldn’t know that from Jeff Bezos’ appearance in front of Congress yesterday. Amazon acquired Twitch for $970 million in 2014, putting Bezos in charge of the platform. Yesterday, Bezos was asked several pointed questions from Congressional representatives.

Kelly Armstrong (ND-R) asked Bezos, “My understanding is that Twitch allows users to stream music but does not license the music. Is that correct?”

Jeff Bezos responded, “I’m going to have to ask that I could get back to your office with an answer to that question. I don’t know.” Bezos could spend five minutes watching the platform he owns to find the answer to that question.

(Update, July 31st: a subsequent memo leaked to Digital Music News reveals that Twitch was grappling with music licensing issues since at least 2014.)

The Congressman then continued: “If Twitch is responding to DMCA notice and takedown requirements, should Twitch consider proactively licensing music instead of retroactively adhering to those notices?”

Bezos responded in the affirmative. “Yes, Congressman, that’s an important issue, and we understand it. And I will get back to your office on that,” he continued. Twitch streamers for years have created playlists for their streams using their personal Spotify accounts. As far as we know, no music licensing deal is in place for the main platform.

Twitch’s karaoke app, Twitch Sings, does have a music license with 180 publishers across the globe.

But that app’s license doesn’t extend to Twitch as a platform, where streamers choose their music. You can bet that will change after this Congressional grilling of Jeff Bezos. The company also recently hired Spotify for Artists product lead Tracy Chan. Chan will head up Twitch’s Product and Engineering for Music. The platform also partnered with SoundCloud to fast-track indie musicians as partners to earn revenue.

Playing whack-a-mole with DMCA takedowns is never an effective strategy. I’m just surprised it took Congress so long to raise questions about how freely music flows on Twitch without proper licensing.

11 Responses

  1. Johnny

    Twenty years since Napster and now Congress are considering doing something! What a joke! Billions and billions in revenues lost for the hard working musical community. And now Tiktok to add to the chaos! Go get a real job is the solution from the ‘music fans’ who seem to think that Amateur musicians can be as good as Professional musicians. Maybe next time they all need brain surgery they should go to an amateur brain surgeon and see how good he is!!

    • Anonymous

      No revenue is being lost just because you get to hear music in someone’s streams. It’s not like you suddenly own that piece because it entered your ear canals. In fact, I’d say that musicians can earn even more by being exposed by a streamer’s audience. I know streamers that listen to their music put the name of the song right on the stream so people can go and search for them. This is a benefit, and the sooner your realize piracy is not the boogyman you should fight, the better for everyone it’s going to be.

      • Angelito

        Your comment shows that you truly don’t understand this topic. Please step aside.

        • The REAL Angelito

          Your comment shows that you have nothing to offer to this debate. Please die.

          • Angelito

            And your comment offered anything? The previous comment stated that no revenue was being lost. That’s just an ignorant comment with several ways to prove it wrong. They are suggesting that the promotional value makes up for lost income. Well that, over the last 2 decades, has been proved wrong.

            Idiot trying to use my screen name. Fuck off.

      • Blobbo

        Half of what you say is true, but every artist and musician has heard the ‘it’s good for promotion’ argument, and, ultimately, it’s a bullsh*t argument.

        FAANG are making billions on billions of dollars and the musical community is impoverished. This is a bullsh*t system anyway you look at it. Paying $10 a month for all the music you want on Spotify or Apple is pure nonsense. People used to spend hundreds of dollars a month on music when money was worth three times more. The current industry is a f*cking joke, and completely made to profit the top.

        The resultant garbage state of music overall is the not so suprising result.

  2. Johnny

    Revenues are DOWN between 70% and 80%! Wake up to the new reality and why 60% of Pro musicians have quit the stupid music business!

    • Angelito Jr.

      If revenue is down, why are music company stock prices and valuations at an all-time high?

      Face it: Revenue is up, way up.

      Get you some of that!

      • Blobbo

        You are a such a loser tech bootlicker. Spotify is getting into podcasts and doesn’t even care about music. Why some bald Swedish dick gets to own all of the music business when he barely gives a sh*t is completely beyond me.

        A lot of this is the fault of musicians and the lawyers themselves. They should NEVER have allowed deals that created this mess in the first place. TIDAL went in the right direction, but somehow, like I said, this Swedish prick blew some people in the US Congress and US record companies to allow this atrocity. Every young band should completely boycott the industry as is, and new music bands and their legal teams have to band together to force some kind of musician run streaming company, probably outside the US, since our copyright is so idiotic.

        Labor action is the only thing that works. Consumers are also neck deep in phone videos and video games, so music simply isn’t valued the same anymore, so c’est la vie. It’s gonna take quite a bit to change the way things are, and quite possibly, they will never be the same again.

        However, live music, post virus, will eventually return, and F LiveNation and F 360 deals. Musicians have to stand up for themselves against bootlickers like you. The great ones will be able to do it. Average ones won’t.

  3. Anonymous

    Are you serious Angelito? That’s pretty ignorant. Do some actual research before making judgements.

    • Angelito

      That’s what I say to you. Your comment was nonsense. Get a clue. Really.