Twitch Silences Audio, Let’s Not Do Anything Rash



Twitch.tv logo purple

The torches and pitchforks came out Wednesday August 6th, when Twitch general counsel Elizabeth “Boo” Baker published a blog post stating that Twitch had partnered with Audible Magic to scan VODs (videos on demand) for unauthorized third-party audio content. Needless to say, the community was initially outraged. How could Twitch do this to its loyal users? It didn’t help that when Audible Magic was implemented it immediately went to town muting everything it could find (with no warnings), in increments of 30 minutes. So if you had 15 seconds of audio that you sampled (this included both in-game music as well as other musical artists) 30 minutes around that audio byte would be muted as well. The ban hammer was swung with such ferocity that even a recording on Twitch’s official channel was flagged. Needless to say, this process was certainly poorly thought out. But let us examine the facts before doing anything rash.

Twitch’s Size

It is no secret that Twitch.tv sees a lot of traffic, but how much exactly? Twitch ranked 4th in peak network traffic for the US in an article published by the Wall Street Journal back in February, climbing ahead of Facebook and its 1.23 billion active monthly users. With this it is no surprise that Twitch needed to start thinking about how they were going to cover themselves in the event of a lawsuit.

The Law

If you have ever purchased a DVD you are no stranger to the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright ACT), since it seems like every movie has a 30 second clip saying “Piracy is not a victimless crime” targeting the people who have purchased the movie rather than pirating it, missing the point entirely.

It is reality though that video games and the music contained within them are also covered under the DMCA and that the owners of these copyrights certainly are allowed to enforce them where applicable. Is it possibly copyright holder overreach, but for now they still have the right to do so. Twitch falls into the gray area of fair use based on being, in theory, “transformative” since the streamer is adding their own commentary to the content. It just so happens that most game developers don’t mind players streaming their games as it serves as great publicity especially for games still in development, such as Crypt of the Necrodancer, an award winning indie rogue-like by Brace Yourself Games.

What Is Being Flagged

Audible Magic flags in-game music as well as third-party audio that has been added to its database. I mentioned Crypt of the Necrodancer earlier specifically because during Twitch’s most recent Reddit AMA, Ryan Clark, CEO of Brace Yourself Games, stated that, “VODs of our game are currently being flagged by your system erroneously (including our own dev streams!)” and that he had never submitted the content to Audible Magic to be monitored. An even greater issue is that since a 30 minute chunk is muted rather than just the offending content, it makes it almost impossible to determine what actually needs to be changed. Many times videos can be flagged on behalf of the publisher without the publisher’s knowledge.

Twitch is taking steps to fix this though with the addition of an Appeal button so that claims might be appealed more easily. Twitch CEO, Emmet Shear also clarified that they “have no intention whatsoever of bringing audio-recognition to live streams on Twitch.” The only content that will be flagged is VODs. With all of the uproar, this was certainly welcome news.

TL;DR

Twitch needs to get itself under control and move to a system that isn’t guilty until proven innocent. Audible Magic seems that it will cause them a lot more grief and aggravation than the service is worth. But, in the meantime, you don’t need to worry about your stream and can continue playing whatever music you like to listen to while gaming and talking with fans but be forewarned that if you do not have permission from the artist to use that music you will likely find most of your archived videos / highlights muted in the future. As this only accounts for about 2% of all user traffic though, that isn’t a huge loss and these rules could mean that Twitch is able to stay around for you and I for quite some time.

How do you feel about Twitch’s copyright changes? Leave your opinions in the comments section below.

About Matt Merlenbach

Matt Merlenbach is the founder of MetaGamr. He loves RPG's and fears no gazebo. Connect with him at the links below:

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