The debate surrounding Twitch’s licensing policy has intensified this week, as a group of music industry organisations wrote to Amazon boss Jeff Bezos to express their disappointment with the platform.
The group – which comprises bodies including the Recording Academy, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the American Association of Independent Music, the Artist Rights Alliance and more – represents artists, songwriters, musicians, vocalists, managers, producers, engineers, labels, publishers and executives from across the business.
The letter focused initially on Twitch’s Soundtrack tool, which enables users to feature licensed music from the independent sector within their streams. While the group welcomed the fact that Twitch has begun the process of making agreements with rightsholders, the letter made clear that the companies feel that more must be done.
“We are confounded by Twitch’s apparent stance that neither sync nor mechanical licenses are necessary for its Soundtrack tool,” said the letter.
“We are also deeply disappointed that Twitch continues to allow and enable its streamers to use our respective members’ music without authorization, in violation of Twitch’s music guidelines.”
It continued: “We are further concerned that Twitch continues to host and widely make available unlicensed music on its platform.”
The letter accused Twitch of “doing nothing in response to the thousands of notices of music infringement that it has received”.
Read it in full below.
Dear Mr. Bezos,
We represent artists, songwriters, musicians, vocalists, managers, producers, audio engineers, major and independent labels and publishers, and many other professionals in all genres of music in the United States. Our members write, sing, play, produce, market, and disseminate nearly all the music professionally recorded in the U.S. today.
We read with interest Twitch’s recent announcement regarding its Soundtrack tool. According to Twitch, this tool gives Twitch’s users the ability to feature a curated library of licensed music in their live streams.
We appreciate that Twitch has acknowledged that it is good business to offer licensed music for use by its streamers, and we welcome that Twitch has started to enter into some agreements with rightsholders to provide licensed music for use by its streamers.
However, we are confounded by Twitch’s apparent stance that neither synch nor mechanical licenses are necessary for its Soundtrack tool. We are also deeply disappointed that Twitch continues to allow and enable its streamers to use our respective members’ music without authorization, in violation of Twitch’s music guidelines.
We are further concerned that Twitch continues to host and widely make available unlicensed music on its platform despite the company’s announcements, most recently in June 2020, that it would remove such unlicensed music.
Twitch appears to do nothing in response to the thousands of notices of music infringement that it has received nor does it currently even acknowledge that it received them, as it has done in the past.
Further, we are concerned by your responses to questions regarding licensing made during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on July 29, 2020. We note that you failed to confirm whether Twitch has acquired any licenses to make copies of musical compositions or digital performances of any sound recordings on your platform. You also failed to state what action Twitch is taking to prevent unauthorized copies and performances.
Twitch’s neglect of the fundamental rights of musicians, songwriters, sound recording artists, and many others whose music is exploited on Twitch without due compensation stands in stark contrast to Twitch’s competitors and to the support of such interests extended by Amazon’s own Amazon Music services. As the Artist Rights Alliance noted in its August 10, 2020 letter to you:
“As Twitch uses music to grow its audience and shape its brand, the company owes creators more than the willful blindness and vague platitudes you offered during your Congressional testimony. 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. For others it’s the difference between being able to work as an artist or having to give up a lifetime of dreams.”
We hope you appreciate the gravity of the situation and will take proactive efforts to ensure that unlicensed music is not available on Twitch.
American Association of Independent Music
Americana Music Association
Artist Rights Alliance
Church Music Publishers’ Association
Christian Music Trade Association
Global Music Rights
Gospel Music Association
International Bluegrass Music Association
Living Legends Foundation
Music Managers’ Forum – US
Nashville Songwriters Association International
National Music Publishers’ Association
Recording Industry Association of America
Rhythm & Blues Foundation
Songwriters of North America