This morning Twitch PR sent out an email blast informing the community about an impending wave of new DMCA takedowns. This wave has been lead by the music publishing industry (whereas previous DMCA’s largely came from the RIAA, the recording industry). The email is rife with PR spin and blurring of the facts, particularly as it relates to the line “first such contact from the music publishing industry.” But one positive we can take away from this is that, AT THE VERY LEAST, Twitch is COMMUNICATING with the community.
It’s a small victory that Twitch is informing people that DMCA is still here and likely going to get worse. However, judging by the reactions on Twitter, many still believe that Twitch’s approach to DMCA is the tech equivalent to committing seppuku. Worse still, many streamers have NO idea that DMCA takedowns apply to video content. Hundreds of Partners, primarily non-English, have been hit with live takedowns for streaming TV and Movies just in the last month. Last night, WWE’s Paige was the latest taken down for streaming Dumb and Dumber.
Making Sense of Twitch’s Approach to DMCA
I think we can all agree that Twitch has not, is not, and likely will not, do enough to develop solutions to the DMCA puzzle. Why? Well, because it’s complicated… very complicated. And that’s not just the relationship between streamers, Twitch, and the music industry – but also Twitch’s relationship with its owner, Amazon.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Twitch is a dysfunctional corporation. That dysfunction apparently started back during the Justin TV days based on a recent podcast. At some point before the Amazon acquisition, they realized they needed to focus directly on the streamer. Making a platform that benefitted their creator class above and beyond anything else. That led them to the Amazon acquisition in 2014.
Now, seven years later – while publicly, the messaging remains the same, the actions appear different. From where I’m sitting, MOST efforts by Twitch appear to be financially motivated. I believe that the current mission statement that has existed at Twitch since late 2019 is “We Must Become Profitable.” I did some analysis about Twitch in 2019 and determined they were ALMOST breaking even that year. So, with that in mind… let’s answer some DMCA questions.
Twitch’s Approach to DMCA Through the Lens of “Profit”
Through the lens of “PROFIT FIRST” let’s look at the five most common ideas I read on Twitter about Twitch and their handling of DMCA. (Keep in mind, this is just me exploring things and may not have any grounding in what’s happening behind the scenes.)
- “Twitch should just negotiate a blanket license with the music industry like TikTok.“
This would cost money – a lot of it. The only way this becomes viable is if one rights holder (there are many) is willing to accept a lowball offer. If this does happen, it could force others to drop their demands to take a lower deal. Holding out is the only way this becomes possible.
(It’s worth noting that one of the reasons that the Tik Tok and Instagram Reels deals happened is because the content usage is SHORT FORM static content, whereas Twitch is live + long broadcasting.)
- “Amazon owns Twitch; they have lots of money.“
I don’t think there’s any appetite for Amazon to invest more money into Twitch, nor is there any appetite for Twitch to turn over more of their independence to Amazon. I believe Twitch operates a bit like an island colony to ‘mainland’ Amazon. And for now, both seem content to keep it that way.
- “Twitch should develop better tools for streamers to manage their content.”
Yup, they SHOULD, but that costs money. They’ll do it eventually, but they aren’t going to do it at risk of taking resources out of ‘profit’ projects. The creators can wait.
- “Soundtrack should offer copyright music licenses to buy as a streamer.“
This is an excellent idea but would be complicated to implement… That said, it could be a moneymaker for Twitch in the long run. I see this as a possibility if ever a deal with the industry is to be made.
- “Twitch should ignore DMCA or lobby for it to be better for streamers.“
Well, ignoring DMCA would be a financial black hole for Twitch. It would result in the kind of lawsuits that carve up this platform and leave to die on the branch. Ignoring DMCA is not an option. Lobbying for DMCA reform would not increase profits for the platform.
Should we Accept Things Then?
No, of course not! This line of thinking aims at trying to understand why Twitch acts the way it does. In fact, when Twitch’s focus turned to profit – it seems that’s when the record industry started to take notice. This all seems rather self-fulfilling and they had to have known it was coming. Decisions made in the name of profit often leave the creators out of the loop. They’ll never admit to that, but things like not having viable content management, nor stats to see what countries people sub from, or demonetizing creators without informing them, are very telling.
As creators, it’s increasingly important to continue to speak out and demand change! Ask for the features you want! Upvote good ideas in the UserVoice. Push for a better sub split on social and in your streams (inform your viewers that you only get 50% – the lowest split of any content platform). At the same time, you should also be working towards decoupling the majority of your income from ONE platform.
Twitch’s approach early on of ‘serving the streamer’ helped them garner the $1B Amazon acquisition. So, if profit IS the desired goal, investing in creators appears to be a proven success formula. It deserves deeper consideration… because anything is better than continuing to sleepwalk into an avoidable adpocalypse/DMCA nightmare.