How Twitch Doesnt Really Have a Choice

13 Aug 2014

5 days ago Twitch, the popular streaming platform for games, delivered the following bombshell.

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.

This caused a predictable outrage as it emerged that large numbers of VODs were now muted, even those that had permission to use the offending music. It was even the case that some of Twitch’s own videos had also had section muted. Some blamed Google (despite the lack of an official announcement that Twitch had been bought by Google), while others lamented and predicted the sharp decline in the number of Twitch viewers in the near future.

Firstly, Twitch has made a gigantic mess of this. Suddenly springing a huge change to the service, with no warning to it’s user base. Then, releasing it with what seemed like very little testing (I mentioned some of the official Twitch videos were muted). False positives everywhere for music that’s in the public domain, music that was licensed to be broadcast and even the arbitrary decision to muted 30 minute blocks at a time.

This doesn’t however, remove the fact that Twitch really has no choice to remove copyrighted music.

A huge number of streamers on Twitch stream copyrighted music, either knowingly or accidentally. In turn these get made into VODs which can be played on demand (hence the acronym). Do you see why this may easily become a legal problem for Twitch?

The only alternative is the one they have implemented, automatically scanning and pattern matching copyrighted material. Hiring enough people to listen to them all manually just isn’t cost effective, even then, how do they know if a piece of audio is copyrighted? A program that can match stuff is probably the only way.

What can Twitch do? It’s really a no win situation. Until someone makes a content matching system that actually works, or copyright law is changed, Twitch is stuck with a sub par solution.