Twitch Knew About Its Music Licensing Problem Back In 2014 — This Memo Proves It

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Earlier this week, Congress asked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos a simple question: why isn’t his wholly-owned Twitch licensing any music? Now, it looks like Twitch has been well aware of this issue for years.

Bezos professed ignorance at the question while offering to check with his minions at Twitch. Whether Bezos is genuinely clueless about the music licensing landscape at Twitch is unclear — though it’s hard to believe given Twitch’s surging role in the music industry over the past few months. But executives at Twitch itself are almost certainly well-versed in the matter.

We’ve been reporting that several prominent Twitch streamers have gotten into hot water over unlicensed music uploads. Some have been threatened with outright bans for multiple copyright infringement notices, though it’s unclear how many strikes it takes before an account is removed.

But sadly for artists, labels, and publishers, none of those warnings needed to take place.

The reason is that Twitch’s ‘licensing strategy’ is actually a full-throated DMCA defense plan. Effectively, Twitch is legally required to comply with any Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice it receives, and (theoretically) clamp down on repeat offenders. That means flagging and removing non-licensed works, once the copyright owner specifically flags its unauthorized use.

But one alternative approach — which U.S. Representative Kelly Armstrong (ND-R) quickly picked up on — is that the platform could simply pay for music upfront and/or issue direct royalties to musicians.

Now, a notice issued to Twitch creators back in 2014 shows that this has been a persistent issue for years.

It’s also pretty clear that Twitch has long opted to use the DMCA takedown shield, instead of brokering upfront music licenses.

In a memo to creators dated August 6th, 2014 — and shared with Digital Music News this morning — Twitch informed its creators of a detection partnership with Audible Magic. The partnership was brokered to flag copyrighted content and ‘avoid the storage of videos containing unauthorized third-party audio’.

The update, from Twitch executive Elizabeth ‘Boo’ Baker, starts as follows:

“Starting today, Twitch will be implementing technology intended to help broadcasters avoid the storage of videos containing unauthorized third-party audio. We respect the rights of copyright owners, and are voluntarily undertaking this effort to help protect both our broadcasters and copyright owners.”

The note also strongly clarified that ‘Audio Recognition applies to VODs only,’ which suggests that Twitch was covering streaming media through statutory performance licenses (importantly, Twitch may have been overlooking mechanical licenses in those non-stored video streams).

“Audio Recognition will only be run against audio in VODs. We are not scanning live broadcasts and there is no automated takedown of live content,” the memo clarifies in bold.

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Audible Magic was deployed to scan VODs for 30-minute blocks. If unlicensed content is discovered, the offending section would be muted out.

“The Audible Magic technology will scan for third party music in 30 minute blocks — if Audible Magic does not detect its clients’ music, that portion of the VOD will not be muted,” the memo continues (italics from Twitch). “If third party audio is detected anywhere in the 30-minute scanned block, the entire 30 minutes will be muted.

“Flagged Content will display an on-screen notification informing viewers that content owned or controlled by a third party has been identified. The progress bar will also be red for the duration of the muted section.”

Twitch was also careful to disavow any legal liability (cue up the appropriate legalese).

“Twitch has partnered with Audible Magic without waiving any rights or defenses available to it under law. Twitch is not obligated to filter content stored on the Twitch platform by its users and assumes no liability for the actions of its users notwithstanding the implementation of the Audible Magic technology. Twitch reserves the right to stop filtering audio content in VODs in its sole discretion at any time and without liability to any third party, subject only to any contractual obligations.”

The full memo can be found below.


Subject: Important: Changes To Audio In VODS
Date: August 6th, 2014
From: Elizabeth “Boo” Baker

Please Note: Audio Recognition applies to VODs only.

Starting today, Twitch will be implementing technology intended to help broadcasters avoid the storage of videos containing unauthorized third-party audio. We respect the rights of copyright owners, and are voluntarily undertaking this effort to help protect both our broadcasters and copyright owners.

What Is Audio Recognition?

We’ve partnered with Audible Magic, which works closely with the recorded music industry, to scan past and future VODs for music owned or controlled by clients of Audible Magic. This includes in-game and ambient music. When music in the Audible Magic database is detected (“Flagged Content”), the affected portion of the VOD will be muted and volume controls for that VOD will be turned off. Additionally, past broadcasts and highlights with Flagged Content are exportable but will remain muted.

The Audible Magic technology will scan for third party music in 30 minute blocks — if Audible Magic does not detect its clients’ music, that portion of the VOD will not be muted. If third party audio is detected anywhere in the 30-minute scanned block, the entire 30 minutes will be muted.

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How It Works: Scanning VODs Only

Audio Recognition will only be run against audio in VODs. We are not scanning live broadcasts and there is no automated takedown of live content.

Flagged Content will display an on-screen notification informing viewers that content owned or controlled by a third party has been identified. The progress bar will also be red for the duration of the muted section.

Please note that Audio Recognition is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate. It may return false positives or miss content from copyright owners who do not work with Audible Magic. If you wish to include music in your VODs, please remember that you are responsible for clearing all such rights (this includes ambient music that may be playing in the background while you are broadcasting). If you would like to include free-to-use music in your VODs, there are a variety of resources available to you, including:

Broadcaster & Copyright Owner Appeals

If you believe that your video has been flagged improperly and that you have cleared the rights to all of the sound recordings in your uploaded video, then we will consider unmuting your video if you send us a counter-notification that is compliant with the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).

Any copyright owner that believes that any of their content is used in any live broadcasts or VOD without authorization should submit a notification of claimed infringement to Twitch pursuant to our Terms of Service. If you are the legal owner of copyrighted music that you would like to protect via Audible Magic’s technology, visit AudibleMagic.com.

Twitch has partnered with Audible Magic without waiving any rights or defenses available to it under law. Twitch is not obligated to filter content stored on the Twitch platform by its users and assumes no liability for the actions of its users notwithstanding the implementation of the Audible Magic technology. Twitch reserves the right to stop filtering audio content in VODs in its sole discretion at any time and without liability to any third party, subject only to any contractual obligations.

We want to hear your feedback and questions. Tune in to the following events to ask us (almost!) anything:

  • Reddit AMA on /r/Twitch: Thursday, August 7, 10:30am PST
  • Twitch Weekly: Friday, August 8 at 2pm PST

 

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