Twitch streamers have always existed in an interesting space legally. Once upon a time there was a question as to whether or not it was in the best interests of the makers of the games themselves to permit streams. At some point most takedown notices by game manufacturers stopped because someone realized that good videos are basically ads. Recently, Twitch has been getting DCMA takedown notices for video game streams not by the companies that make the games, but by the artists and companies who make music for the games. Streaming a game is, by definition, streaming the soundtrack to that game.
Prior to the notices there had been an entire cottage industry in making and streaming play videos. And there was substantial money being made in it, not just by Twitch, advertisers, and the gaming companies, but by the streamers as well. And now the industry has been shut down, almost entirely. This may sound like a trivial thing to people who aren’t gamers themselves or involved in the industry or the culture, but Twitch is a huge part of gaming culture and gaming social culture especially.
There exists a door here for a company to provide value to its users
There exists a door here for a company to provide value to its users, whether that company is Twitch, a studio, or a major manufacturer like Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo is an open question, but it could set a new standard for the industry.
There’s a company called BMI that issues licenses for public performance of licensed recordings. They issue the licenses you need for a radio or television station. They also issue licenses to college campuses, malls, public squares, and any other place that may want to play music like that. They have a number of collective licenses they issue, the Broadcast Music License Agreement (BMLA), the Internet Music License Agreement (IMLA), there are other licenses for other companies, ASCAP offers license for public recordings and performances like those in bars I mentioned earlier.
A license like this is how artists get paid by companies like Pandora and Spotify. The money to pay those artists come from licenses like ASCAPs. I think is that the entire face of Twitch streaming could change if someone negotiated some sort of license like that for Twitch streams.
Negotiating a deal like this is a huge gamble. A lot of companies won’t want to take on the risk. Microsoft and Nintendo aren’t the two companies I expect to take the risk. The two obvious companies to take the risk are Twitch or (hear me out on this) Sony. Twitch might want to do it because they are, in essence, the radio station. They may just want to cut some kind of deal so that they can have more options for their content. Game streaming is key to their business model, and they need to figure out something that makes it possible, even if they only negotiate a license for video game music, they have an interest in being able to play video game footage.
Right now cross-platforming is a huge part of gaming, and Playstation is the only platform that doesn’t support it
Sony is in an interesting position. Yes, Playstation is a huge brand. But, right now cross-platforming is a huge part of gaming, and Playstation is the only platform that doesn’t support it. Every other piece of hardware supports cross-platform play. It doesn’t matter if I play most games on X-Box, Mac, or PC, I can play with all my friends, but not if I play on Playstation. And that is hurting Sony’s user base. But, if you can stream Playstation gameplay, but not gameplay on any other platform, that could drive people to Playstation from other platforms.
The question is whether Sony would take a gamble like that and whether one of the big music licenses would be willing to cut Twitch and/or Playstation a license. It seems like it’s in the interest of all the parties to cut some kind of agreement. Right now, the creators are getting nothing. If a licensing agreement is cut, they’ll get something, even if the deal is bad, it’s better than the status quo.
The question is whether anyone will be smart enough to make that deal.