Thursday, January 15, 2015

Music on Twitch

Copyright laws are tricky. There are so many nuances and caveats that it can be a minefield to navigate. What is and isn't protected? Can I play 'this' music even though it's owned by 'that' composer? Do I have to pay money to play that song? What about remixes and remakes; aren't those protected by free speech that I don't have to pay royalties on?

In the digital realm, it becomes even trickier. YouTube videos with a music overlay from a popular song/artist can help drum up hits, but if you're making a single penny off of it, it's considered illegal if you did not get the consent of the artist/recording company to use the song. That's the issue Twitch has been facing as of late. With millions of people using the service daily to stream and watch videos, copyrighted music playing can lead to legal recourse. If you want to be the next Heavy Metal Gamer on Twitch, you probably shouldn't use Metallica as your background music.

To curtail the legal woes, Twitch has launched a service called, appropriately, the Twitch Music Library. It is a database of songs that have been cleared for use for streaming over Twitch videos and with archived gaming sessions without worry that you have to pay "the man."

Currently the system lists over 500 songs. Mostly independent or free-share music has been added, but they plan to grow over the years to include current Top 40 hits. Essentially, it's a blanket copyright system that YouTube has adopted to help ensure their users are less likely to be sued, and thus the company as well. As long as you use music from the database, you're good. Earlier attempts by Twitch to mute or remove audio from archived videos proved faulty, sometimes removing crowd noises in the game, deleting the streamer's voice entirely, or blanking out music that was owned and created by the streamer. No system is full-proof, but it's a good start for streamers who are worried about using content that may bite them back later once they start making a profit.


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