Musician-oriented nonprofit Artist Rights Alliance has sent an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos calling him out on perceived willful ignorance over how music licensing on Twitch works, as reported by Variety. During an August House Judiciary Committee hearing, Bezos testified and claimed he didn’t know if Twitch, which Amazon has owned for almost six years, allows users to stream unlicensed music during their broadcasts.
The ARA has taken umbrage to this statement, as many musicians have been impacted by the pandemic and are in need of whatever revenue streams they can get. “For working songwriters and performers, fair royalties on a growing platform like Twitch can literally be a matter of life and death — the difference between having a place to live and homelessness and having access to health care or being uninsured,” the letter states.
According to a report by Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet, Twitch has seen an 83% increase in hours of content streamed year over year for the second quarter of 2020, which has in turn lead to the growth of the “music and performing arts” category–it boasted 17 million hours in April. While this is only about 1% of Twitch’s total viewership, it was enough for the big players in the music industry to finally take notice of streamers using their music and led to a series of DMCA takedowns being filed against creators for using copyrighted music, regardless of category.
Though they acknowledge that Amazon does have many legit streaming services, the ARA makes it clear that Twitch isn’t one. “We respect Amazon and its many products and services that help fans and audiences find and enjoy creative works. We appreciate that Amazon offers a number of properly licensed streaming services. Amazon’s Twitch subsidiary, however, is not one of those services,” the letter reads.
“We have closely followed the rising controversy surrounding Twitch’s hosting and delivery of unlicensed music and the company’s apparent unwillingness to do anything beyond the most minimal and inadequate effort to process takedown requests and shift responsibility for systematic unpaid use of music on the platform to its users,” the statement adds. This is reference to the fact that Twitch is allowing streamers to use their Audible Magic tool to try and screen their VODs for licensed music and prevent them from being archived on their own.
The letter ultimately demands to know if Twitch users are allowed to use unlicensed music, and if so, what the plan is to rectify that. “We further ask you to explain what you are doing or plan to do to proactively stop that [streaming unlicensed music] from happening and ensure that artists and songwriters are paid fair market value for the work when it is performed on Twitch.”
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