Copyright Debates Unfold as Twitch Gains Popularity With Musicians

Twitch Helps Musicians and Fans Connect During the Pandemic

As the music industry struggled during the pandemic due to concert cancelations and studio closures, many artists and fans turned to Twitch, a live streaming service owned by Amazon (AMZN). Twitch was created in 2011 and originally gained widespread popularity among the video gaming community. However, the pandemic is helping the platform draw a new crowd and this time they aren’t coming for games, but for music.

Both established and up-and-coming musicians have begun posting on Twitch multiple times per week to connect with fans. During the month of May, people spent almost 27 million hours viewing live music content on the platform. This number increased five-fold since January.

The recent boom in popularity for Twitch and other live streaming services has initiated conversations in the music industry, the tech world, and the government about copyright regulations.

Copyright Debates

Over the past several weeks, Twitch users were hit with takedown requests due to copyright infringements. The Recording Industry Association of America recently issued over 2,500 takedown notices on behalf of rights holders for hit songs like Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” and DNCE’s “Cake By The Ocean.”

Twitch, and other platforms for user-made content like YouTube (GOOGL) and TikTok, follow the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA. A “safe harbor” provision in the legislation protects these platforms from being liable for copyright infringements. However, if rights holders, like record labels and publishers, request a takedown from these platforms they must comply.

Music live-streaming became popular so quickly, lawmakers and industry experts are rushing to figure out how licensing rules apply to Twitch and other platforms. At the onset of the pandemic, the music industry was lenient about live streaming rules. However, after three months of people being stuck inside and music live streaming gaining ground, the music industry is starting to crack down on Twitch.

Governments Weigh In

Congress is becoming aware that licensing rules may need to change, and a debate over updating DMCA is unfolding. Don Henley of the band The Eagles recently testified , “the DMCA is a relic of a MySpace era in a TikTok world.” In the European Union, talks about holding big technology companies accountable for copyright infringement on their platforms are also taking place.

The pandemic accelerated numerous trends in technology from food delivery to videoconferencing to live streaming music. Lawmakers, tech companies, and the music industry are now playing catch-up and working to create regulations that will pay musicians for the work they produce without hampering content creators. Investors will be watching to see how live streaming services handle these copyright challenges. They will also be curious to see if Twitch’s popularity with musicians remains strong even when concerts and other events begin taking place again.

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