Twitch's No Good, Very Bad Time Continues: Part 1

from the what-a-con dept

I’m beginning to wonder if the folks that run Twitch are secretly attempting to commit corporate suicide. The past several weeks have seen the popular streaming platform embroiled in controversy. It began when, in response to the RIAA labels DMCA attacks on streamers, Twitch took the unprecedented step to simply nuke a zillion hours of recorded content without warning its creators. In the wake of that, the platform kept essentially silent on its actions, simply advising its creators that they should “learn about copyright”. In lieu of any real crisis communication, Twitch instead rolled out the release of a new emoji, pissing everyone off. Then came Twitch’s apology, where the Amazon-owned platform acknowledged that it really should have had a method for letting streamers know which content was accused of infringement instead of nuking it all, while also continuing the DMCApocalypse, getting so granular as to allow streamers to be targeted by DMCA claims on game music and sound effects, including on videos that had already been taken down.

With its creators and patrons both in full revolt, it probably wasn’t the best timing that Twitch’s GlitchCon remote convention took place mid-November. Complaints about the convention were far-reaching, but much of it centered on the coin spent promoting it instead of Amazon simply licensing music so streamers could stream, along with the terse commentary on the turmoil itself.

We’ll start with the promotion of the event.

The convention took place on November 14, but a difficult-to-ignore sensation of dissonance began to creep in before it even kicked off. To promote the event, Twitch sent themed trailers decked out with Twitch merch to select streamers—which streamers began tweeting about on November 13. While the streamers who’d received the vehicles seemed pleased, the response from many others was uniform: Why was Twitch spending money on glitzy trailers when it should’ve been putting every penny it could toward licensing music, thereby beheading the DMCA dragon currently terrorizing the platform?

Of course, the teams at Twitch that handle event planning and DMCA-related matters are very different, and this question ignores the reality of how budgeting tends to work at large companies. However, the broader sentiment from streamers was understandable; over the course of the past month, Twitch has massively eroded community trust by leaving streamers high and dry when the music industry finally came to collect its toll, forcing streamers to delete their entire histories instead of providing them with alternatives—or even accessible means of contesting copyright claims. During the lead-up to GlitchCon, streamers were not exactly in a celebratory mood.

As Kotaku notes, it’s not entirely fair to simply claim that the money spent promoting GlitchCon should have been spent on music licensing instead. But it’s not entirely unfair either, and the larger point is that Twitch did this to itself. By acting so callous with the work of its creators, and by then spending promotional budget dollars in a way that reminds everyone that this is a company backed by Amazon, it was inevitable that creators would throw up their hands in disgust. Whatever we might want to say about the imperfection of copyright laws, or the broken method by which copyright is policed at scale by platforms like Twitch, it most certainly is true that Amazon/Twitch could have avoided literally all of this by simply licensing a bunch of RIAA music. It’s not like Amazon couldn’t have afforded it. But, instead, Twitch’s creators got screwed.

But when Twitch CEO Emmett Shear gave his keynote to kick off GlitchCon, the pushing of any information off to a future Q&A coupled with the highlighting just how bad a job his company did in supporting streamers felt like the worst of all worlds.

“It’s obvious that many of you want and deserve a lot more information from us, and a 10-minute Q&A session wouldn’t even come close to the level of depth of conversation that we want to have with you,” he said, noting that there will be a town hall devoted to the topic of DMCAs next month. He proceeded to apologize, largely reiterating what Twitch said in an apology letter it posted last week.

“If you receive a DMCA takedown, you should be able to know exactly what the content is or, if you believe you are authorized, you should know how to contest the takedown. I believe it’s a failing of our email to creators on October 20 that we didn’t include enough of this information, and it’s an issue with our current systems that we’re working to improve,” Shear said during the GlitchCon keynote. “We should have had better tools for you to manage your content, and we wish we did. We’re sorry those tools weren’t available when you needed them and that so many creators had to delete their videos capturing their communities’ best moments and accomplishments.”

Who this message was supposed to please is entirely unclear to me. Great, Twitch has acknowledged that it failed to support its creators with the tools necessary to do DMCA takedowns and restoration correctly. The first step to correcting a problem, as they say, is acknowledging you have a problem. But then announcing that the Twitch community deserves a ton of answers here, but they won’t get them for another month? That’s damned near self-immolation in the tech space. A glitzy convention put on without addressing a community in near revolt…why? Why in the world would you even take that virtual stage without being prepared to address the controversy?

It’s not surprising that the reaction from the Twitch community was largely negative. And, because of Twitch’s bullheaded approach to mostly ignoring all of this, that negativity overshadowed the rest of the convention, including some fairly positive happenings at Twitch.

Attempted corporate suicide is starting to look like a term bereft of exaggeration.

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Companies: twitch

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Comments on “Twitch's No Good, Very Bad Time Continues: Part 1”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Copyright has been used to bludgeon popular things & kill of innovation over & over.

While Twitch might think they have these streamers locked in at least YT explains why you are getting fscked over.

How Twitch was unable to read the tea leaves to see the Hollywood sign size of letters saying BAD THINGS COMING! Is like extinction level stupidity.

We don’t have to be good, we’re to big for them to come after us.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

What blows about all of this: No real competition for Twitch exists right now (other than YouTube, anyway). And given what happened to Twitch with the DMCApocalypse, I can’t imagine anyone with the resources necessary for starting a competing service would use those resources for that reason.

Amazon should’ve paid out the ass for the licensing — or bought the RIAA in full for the hell of it. Bezos wouldn’t miss a few hundred million dollars, right?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"No real competition for Twitch exists right now (other than YouTube, anyway)."

Facebook Gaming exists, which is where Microsoft suggested people go when they shut down Mixer.

But, the question here is what you call "real" competition. There are many general purpose streaming platforms, and there are a number that offer the same specialised features. But, as long as people keep using Twitch while whining about them instead of actively using other services, nothing will change. If by "real" competition, you mean platforms with a similar user base, that won’t happen until people start using them.

"Amazon should’ve paid out the ass for the licensing "

LOL @ the idea that having a valid paid licence is actually enough to stop them trying to scam more money or sending false takedown notices.

"or bought the RIAA in full for the hell of it"

Well, you can’t just "buy the RIAA". That is simply an association of labels, albeit one dominated by a major label dominated board of directors. To achieve anything, you’d be asking Amazon to buy out all major labels and many independent labels, thus controlling the majority of the recorded music industry. I think that would cause somewhat larger issues in the long run.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes, that’s the problem. People whine about YouTube not having any real competition, but the reason for that is because people would rather whine than use the competition.

We see the same with social network sites – people would rather use Twitter/Facebook and whine about all the bad things they’re doing than actually go and use their competitors.

It’s especially silly since there’s nothing to say you have to use only one platform at a time, it just makes it so that you have to put in a bit more work to curate your audience / feeds.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

A big hitch in the idea of switching to a different streaming platform is all the subscribers streamers have. Those subscriptions won’t just magically transfer to another platform unless that platform builds in some kind of support for Twitch subscriptions. I’m not even sure Twitch’s API provides a way to do that. Viewers paid money for those and would not be happy about losing them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes, which is why you diversify. You stream on multiple platforms and encourage people to switch. You might not be able to do this directly on the platform you use as your main due to T&Cs, etc., but most streams have Twitter or other platforms they use to get word out. It’s a bit of a logistical nightmare at first, but it’s ore effective than simply using one platform and complaining that they aren’t catering to you personally.

In other types of business, you make sure you use multiple suppliers so that your business isn’t tied to one. The biggest problem with the new type of online economy is that people will tie themselves completely to an eBay or a YouTube or a Twitch, then act shocked when they have no negotiating power if they don’t like the term of business. A bar will use multiple beer suppliers and favour one or the other depending on business conditions. A restaurant will always have a backup in case their main choice raises their prices or suffers a drop in produce quality. A streamer will do nothing because they don’t want to put in the effort then complain about it to the fans they have on that one platform.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Amazon should’ve paid out the ass for the licensing — or bought the RIAA in full for the hell of it. Bezos wouldn’t miss a few hundred million dollars, right?"

As has been pointed out numerous times over the years, by multiple sources, the RIAA’s own estimates of the "value" of their assembled licenses would total more money by far than has ever existed in the world as a whole.

So even Bezos doesn’t have that much moola. No one does. If the copyright cult’s estimates about the worth of licensed content is even partially correct the RIAA could pay off the US’s debt to China with a few Rick Astley albums.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
GHB (profile) says:

It really has become the next tumblr on content purge

Two sites, with bad TOS change decision, nuking a huge amount of content that is not necessarily violating the TOS or the law due to mostly on automated systems, and resulted an exodus of users leaving.

The only difference is that tumblr is dealing with adult content, twitch is dealing with DMCA claims.

Let that be another lesson on how not to change your TOS.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Crafty Coyote says:

"Learn about copyright".

So Twitch is basically telling its users to be paranoid, to assume that they are guilty until proven innocent, and that the world believes they are thieves so they might as well be thieves.

And people wonder why the Internet and its denizens don’t respect copyright

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