Twitch Trimming Archives & Muting Copyrighted Music

By Alice O'Connor on August 7th, 2014 at 2:00 pm.

Jerkin' back 'n' forth.

In a double-whammy of announcements, livestream site Twitch have revealed two big changes that are unpleasant but unsurprising. First, they’re adding tech to scan and automatically mute saved videos using copyrighted music (not live streams). But hey, that’ll be less of a problem than you might expect! They’ll also soon start wiping past broadcasts after as little as two weeks, no longer saving them forever, and limiting highlight clips to two hours–so you’ll have less for them to mute.

Given rumours that Google are looking at buying Twitch, one might casually remark that putting legal ducks in a line and cutting expenses are investor-pleasing moves.

So, the music thing. Twitch will scan all past and future saved videos–I repeat, not livestreams–using tech from Audible Magic. If it detects “unauthorized third-party audio,” so anything in the big bank of music it’s paid by copyright holders and labels to protect, it’ll entirely mute that half-hour chunk of the video.

Given that YouTube’s attempt at music blocking saw some Let’s Plays hit because they included the game’s soundtrack–and even a few games’ official trailers were!–this might be a problem for a site about videos of games. Google’s own system doesn’t mute or necessarily take down videos with copyrighted music either. You’ll be able to dispute them, mind, if you go through the effort of filing a formal DMCA counter-notification.

Most things I’ve done on Twitch will probably get muted. I played Dark Souls as Dark Souls Nites, a late-night radio vibe with calm chatter and a soundtrack of copyrighted funk and soul songs. And I’ve taunted Cara with sexy pop and horrifying nude skins. Those’ll surely be muted, making them pointless. But it’s fine, because they won’t be around for much longer anyway.

Under the new rules, past broadcasts will be saved for 14 days then deleted, or 60 for Partners and Turbo subscribers (a $9/month service). Highlights will still be saved forever, or until they change their minds about that. They’re now limited to two hours so you can’t dump a whole stream as a highlight. A Twitch chap suggests exporting broadcasts to YouTube to save them.

Twitch insist “this is not a move to economize on space,” saying their upcoming new video system will actually use more space, but also make arguments defending just that. “80% of our storage capacity is filled with past broadcasts that are never watched,” they say, and point out that most videos are barely seen after two weeks. It does sound reasonable enough, but Twitch’s option to save videos was literally labelled “save forever.”

Unless people back them up, posterity will lose everything from digital sports tournaments and charity marathons to weird experiments with Pokémon. It might cause trouble for those few whose jobs rely on Twitching too.

The company this week also shut down Justin.tv, the site which lopped off its gaming limb to spawn Twitch.tv. All its videos are deleted.

None of this is surprising, though. I imagine Twitch is ludicrously expensive, streaming and storing all that video for all those people with only a few ads. At a certain point, it would clearly need to take a firmer stance on copyright infringement to ward off lawyers. Like it or not, this is the current state of our laws. And trimming archives would obviously be a step they’d look at to save money. Hey ho.

Lots of streamers I follow have switched to Hitbox over the year, mostly because it has a shorter broadcast delay so streamers can chat with viewers. These changes are good reasons to switch too. Of course, if that gets a lot bigger it’ll eventually need to become more serious.

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63 Comments »

  1. Sp4rkR4t says:

    The only reason I see twitch suddenly making all these belt tightening moves is if the Google deal has fallen through and they are trying to stand on there own.

    • moocow says:

      Or plausibly they are conditions of finalizing the deal with Google.

      This way when Google acquires them, they won’t at any point own a large, potentially infringing archive

      • Geebs says:

        We’ll be able to tell the deal with Google has gone through when Twitch becomes ‘Twitch Beta’

      • Simes says:

        Surely the point of muting the streams is to get rid of the “potentially infringing” part. I don’t know why they’d want to throw away the archive as well. Seems like a waste of effort to mute archived streams only to then throw them away.

        • Premium User Badge

          Continuity says:

          Seems to me like a differentiation in service from youtube, which Google also incidentally owns. Honestly i’d expect this change after Google bought them as it makes perfect sense to remove overlap, I can only think that Google has already given them the nod or this is an attempt to make themselves as attractive as possible to Google… I favour the former.

          • Simes says:

            I’d have thought that archiving streams to Youtube would be the default after such a purchase, what with it then potentially pushing viewers across services and increasing visibility of both of them. Seems unnecessarily cruel to require people to do it themselves in the fairly short window they’ve been given.

  2. MkMax says:

    so, pretty much everything will be muted since games use copyrighted music, you will now have to play games with music off or at most risk playing free license music (which might be listed as copyrighted anyway)

    why bother with archives at all ?

    well in any case, just as the article mentions, most of the streamers i follow switched to hitbox because twitch has made viewer interaction impossible, the interaction was the best part of twitch imho

    • 0positivo says:

      in before game sounds are also copirighted

    • Zakharov says:

      As with most things in the music industry, muting copyrighted songs in Twitch videos is counterproductive for rights holders. I’ve bought many songs because I heard them while watching Twitch, used Shazam to get the name, and bought them on iTunes.

  3. Delusibeta says:

    The audio blocking technology is currently hilariously wonky. Right now, the streams are checked in 30 minute intervals, and if anything is detected in that time, the entire 30 minutes is muted. Some official streams have gotten muted, such as Twitch’s own stream and the official The International (as in Dota 2) streams.

    One case in particular is interesting: Crypt of the Necrodancer streams are getting muted enmass, despite the game being in development and everyone involved claiming to have never submitted the soundtrack to the database. Investigations are ongoing, but one wild rumour I’ve heard is that the company providing the blocking automatically adds anything added to Soundcloud. Again, wild rumour, but it would explain why all this stuff is getting picked up.

    Oh, and AFAIK there’s no way for rightsholders to clear specific channels for use of their stuff.

    But yeah, Twitch has managed to be even more cackhanded than the YouTubeageddon we saw earlier in the year.

    • MkMax says:

      Its a problem with the copyright concept, those laws have been obsolete for years, they clash with the internet era, they became the biggest obstacles for creativity in the modern world

      until some genius notices how they are holding humanity back and decides to do something about it the only “safe” measure someone like google can take to avoid legal problems is cluster bombing everything, collateral damage is better than leaving something unblocked

      • solidsquid says:

        I don’t think it’s a problem with copyright per say, but rather that copyright has been repeatedly expanded so that nothing in (more or less) the last century has been able to fall out of copyright. The original copyright period was something like 15 years, which if it was still the case you could use music from bands like Queen and Judas Priest. Maybe not currently popular stuff, but certainly stuff which is still well known

        • MkMax says:

          15 years is an eternity today, heck, 6 months would be just as bad, and it doesnt make sense anyway when they make most of their profits in the first few weeks, thats what the information era gave them, the ability for millions to consume something the first few days of being available and immunity to physical limitations (transport, storage, production, etc), what have they given back ?

        • Urthman says:

          Holy crap. A dystopia where Classic Rock is far cheaper to broadcast than any more recent music.

    • Premium User Badge

      strangeloup says:

      I have it on fairly good authority that Soundcloud is using Audible Magic’s tech too — SC having recently done a similar move that alienated a lot of users — so that explanation doesn’t seem too far fetched. AM’s tech is apparently so good that independent musicians’ original work on SC is getting falsely flagged as belonging to artists in their database.

    • fish99 says:

      Lots of people play Necrodancer with custom music so that might explain it.

      • Philotic Symmetrist says:

        It’s been happening with the game’s own music and even worse than that, the dev’s own videos have been hit by this…

    • olemars says:

      The Necrodancer case is particularly interesting. Usually in copyright discussion it’s all about copying, modifying or distributing content without permission. But in this case AudibleMagic is violating copyright by preventing distribution of content against the express wishes of the copyright holder. The devs want streamers to play it as much as possible and create fun highlights since they don’t have much in terms of marketing budget. And it’s a rhythm game where music is central.

  4. Dreïcan says:

    I see many people talking about moving on hitbox.tv

  5. Tei says:

    Another vandalization of the copyright maximalist terror army. Why I am not surprised?

    Lets extends the privileges of corporations a bit more, and reduce the rights of the public a littel more, until everything is forbidden for normal people, and everything is a privilege for the rich.

    • frightlever says:

      The rich aren’t exempt from copyright. When you rob the public domain, or fair use at any rate, you’re taking it away from everyone.

      • Premium User Badge

        Wisq says:

        But the rich can afford litigation and/or settlements, while everyone else has to cave the instant they see a cease & desist or DMCA notice, no matter how frivolous or unlikely, because they can’t afford to prove that it’s frivolous or unlikely.

        • P.Funk says:

          Its hard to believe that this eternal and plainly obvious fact (wealth makes right) is lost on most people. I suppose the cultural propaganda machine is just too good at its job.

      • BlackAlpha says:

        Part of the problem is that Youtube is corrupt to the bone and in many cases you must sue Youtube or the music companies if you wish to even make a formal counter-claim when Youtube takes down your video. This is exactly the opposite of what the law says.

        See here:
        http://fairusetube.org/articles/27-youtube-refuses-counter-notices
        https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/3045545?hl=en

        It’s ridiculous. But unless you have loads of money to afford an expensive lawyer, there’s nothing that you can do about it.

        More generally speaking, though, the common people won’t be able to do anything even when they are allowed to do a counter-claim because they will be scared away by the guys in expensive suits. The main issue is that after you do the counter-claim, the other party may sue you and most people can’t afford to fight in court over such things. So unless you are rich, there’s a good chance you won’t risk it, you will simply cave and give in, even if there’s a good chance your video falls under fair use.

        Now combine this problem with the first paragraph. Some big music companies made a deal with Youtube to not give the users a possibility to resolve the copyright disputes out of court, knowing that most people won’t risk a court case but will simply give in to whatever the music companies will dictate – even if what they dictate is unfair or even illegal. Like thugs, they are basically strong-arming the common people.

        Youtube belongs to Google. So through Youtube other Google services will inherit these same flaws. This means that if Google takes over Twitch, Twitch will probably inherit these flaws.

        • Premium User Badge

          Wisq says:

          AFAIK, the issue is not that YouTube is corrupt, but rather, the DMCA. It makes them exempt from being directly sued for copyright violations in content they host (thus arguably making YouTube a viable concept), yet also cancels that exemption unless they act very quickly to respond to every takedown request.

          The result is that they’ll cave in an automated instant if you file a DMCA claim, and be very reluctant to accept counter-claims that might put them at risk. Also, Google loves automation and hates anything that requires any sort of human resources, so automatic takedowns are fine, but manually reviewed disputes aren’t something they’re keen to deal with.

          The end result is very lopsided in favour of the copyright owners, but that’s just because the law itself is very lopsided in favour of the copyright owners. In hindsight, Americans should’ve fought copyright laws harder when they were proposed, and the rest of the world should’ve been more cautious about relying on American companies subject to said laws.

      • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

        There’s also the fact that organizations with power (i.e. the rich, and those they represent) have absolutely no qualms about breaking copyright law when it suits them, because what are the rest of us poors going to do, bring our own legal army to bear? If you put a short clip of a news broadcast on YouTube, it’ll get taken down. If that same news corporation feels like broadcasting a YouTube clip that you made and own without asking your permission, generally they feel fine to just go ahead and do it; money is out of the question, when they rarely even bother to ask at all.

        This happens time and time again. My favourite is still when the French enforcement agency ran an ad saying that it was illegal to steal from the internet etc etc but then got busted for having stolen the font they used for the ad, they’d just downloaded it and never licensed it. They tried to cover their asses, didn’t work.

        The rich do what they want and 99% of the time get caught, or get caught in a way that there are no consequences for them having been caught. The rest of us are subject to their whims.

  6. frightlever says:

    “It might cause trouble for those few whose jobs rely on Twitching too.”

    Kinda precarious career choice there, unless you’re Bill Oddie.

    • P.Funk says:

      Its nice to see that we can have corporations build empires on the labour of the small individual who is then cast aside once the multi-million/billion dollar mergers are due to come up.

      Its kind of proof that the socialist/anarchist principles about workers and the means of production are just as true in the era of the internet.

      Twitch ain’t worth shit without the guy who gets fucked over when they make their changes to satisfy copyright law. They got rich being loose with the laws now change them to keep their money. Fascinating system we have here.

  7. Premium User Badge

    LTK says:

    Given that YouTube’s attempt at music blocking saw some game videos hit because they included the game’s soundtrack–even a few games’ official trailers!–this might be a problem for a site about videos of games.

    It’s not even a ‘might’, it has already happened: Twitch’s own saved streams of their weekly gaming shows have been muted by the copyright detection system, as well as a lot of videos of games like Valve’s International tournament of Dota 2 and Crypt of the Necrodancer when the game’s soundtrack composer (Danny B) never gave Audible Magic permission to detect his music..

    Recorded streams don’t seem to be very popular in Twitch compared to live streams but the fuckups that Audible Magic is causing is still a black mark against the site.

    Sources: This Ars Technica article and Crypt of the Necrodancer’s twitter: https://twitter.com/NecroDancerGame

    (Ninja’d hard by Delusibeta, unfortunately for me!)

  8. Strabo says:

    Hitbox (D-bag founder aside) will have to do similar things once it is popular enough, since it is the rights’ holder that’s the issue, not Google or Twitch.tv. Switching doesn’t solve the root issue, the stupid way how copyright and fair use is handled.

    • MkMax says:

      and then theyll move to instagib.tv, and when that happens there, theyll move to whichever of the hundreds of services popping out these days, lot of ppl want a piece of the pie and doing this gives the pie away, ppl follow the personalities, not the games or the service

      • vlonk says:

        I would object that claim. People gravitate towards the biggest site and stay within it to find new content. This is how Amazon and Apple printed their billions.

        Maybe Kripp could switch the service without loosing his fanbase. Small streamers cannot.

        • MkMax says:

          i cant see how that invalidates what i said, they will follow the personalities they care about, if they dont care enough to follow they are not really a “fanbase”

          sure, small streamers will be reticent to make the switch first fearing account making lazyness from their guys (which might or not be true), they will gravitate into it as the big ones make the transition

          • vlonk says:

            And the biggest part of any audience is not a real dedicated fanbase. They are dedicated only to themselves and they are looking for entertainment on Twitch/Youtube/etc. . That is also known to the streamers. The ones who are into streaming to achieve the maximum audience (which is the majority of money-generating media creators) will always stay with the biggest audience, not the best service. If only a minority switches away from Twitch then those will suffer greatly because other Streamers pick up their audiences.

            And here is where Google comes in and pushes Twitch to the biggest possible audience. If they can siphon ppl towards Twitch noone who is right in their mind will switch. They will adapt to the new rules instead.

          • MkMax says:

            i disagree, you are applying TV logic into Twitch, watching a big channel is a completely different experience from watching a small channel, the interaction level is completely different, the only thing they get from being in the biggest and largest is discovery and twitch is not even good at that, being too big is even frowned upon because of the side effects in the site (twitchplayspokemon destroying chat, esports causing lag, etc)

          • vlonk says:

            Not true. They get money. By subscriptions, donations and Sponsor deals, maybe even some money under the counter to play certain games or talk nicely about it. Sorry to say that, but for those people who want to live off of playing video games they have to hit critical mass to establish their media business and they are very well aware that their dream is hinging on their coverage reach.

            Smaller Streamers who want to get big – and those are a LOT who dream of this – will likely swim in their wake to grab the attention of the big crowd.

            I think where we disagree is only in the definition of streamers. Where you see the pure “user generated content” crowd (thousands of small channels) in the foreground I see the business relevant small-to-big-time content makers (few dozen channels+networks) in the foreground.

  9. Premium User Badge

    Okami says:

    This is the only thing I watch on twitch. It’s the most fantastically mind numbing and boring thing I’ve ever encountered:

    http://www.twitch.tv/fishplayspokemon

    And it’s exactly what it says in the link.

    • vlonk says:

      Now Twitch Plays Pokemon I could somehow understand. This on the other hand is truly bizarre!

    • irongamer says:

      What the heck. I clicked that link only to be presented with 19,000+ viewers chanting “stairs or riot” as the fish just hung out in the left hand corner. 0.o

  10. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    Considering I just started watching DarkTwinge’s FTL tutorial (6 hours long, 1 year old) on Twitch, it’s a bit sad to see them decide on such short-term storage goals. It’d be more useful if they started doing just-in-time expiry (removing old broadcasts as they ran low on space), ideally prioritising deletion of the least-watched content, and maybe even putting up notices on affected videos a little while (e.g. a week) before they do. But, ah well, their site, their call.

    As for the VOD muting thing … Well, if their goal (with both changes) was to get people to stop using their site as an archive and start moving their stuff to YouTube, they’re definitely succeeding. I never thought I’d say this, but it looks like YouTube actually has the better content matching system here, and plus they give you the ability to dispute claims if you want. I suspect a mass exodus of non-live content is exactly what they want, and it seems like they’re basically regretting and backpedalling on their decision to ever act as a video hosting service beyond their live service.

  11. Premium User Badge

    elderman says:

    Automatic copyright enforcement that accurately reflects copyright law is all but impossible because bits of information aren’t in themselves legal or illegal. It’s a matter of a relationship between a license holder and someone who wants to use the music track, for example. Some of the things Twitch is blocking could be under copyright, and yet potentially be fully licensed for public performance and rebroadcast. I don’t use Twitch and don’t know if this is something that actually happens, so I may be raising an irrelevant point. But the software can only identify an audio clip; it can’t evaluate the contract status between its license holder and the entity using it. This means by design, software like the code from Audible Magic that Twitch is made to block perfectly legal public performances of music.

  12. Drake Sigar says:

    Well, we had a good run. See you on the next up & coming site.

  13. Phasma Felis says:

    “Given rumours that Google are looking at buying Twitch…”

    Um. Google signed the purchase deal two weeks ago.

    • Premium User Badge

      FriendlyFire says:

      I was under the impression that this was the case, yeah. This seems like Twitch figuring out that now they can just dump all the VODs to YouTube and stick to just streaming. An automated process would’ve been good, though, instead of relying on the user to do the reupload.

      • LionsPhil says:

        If nobody can be bothered to keep it, it wasn’t worth keeping. This is a fairly elegant way to purge needless, self-indulgent “content”.

    • Strabo says:

      Google has signed a deal to buy game-livestreaming firm Twitch for $1 billion, confirmed sources familiar with the matter.

      We don’t know everything about this deal, such as when it will be announced and the exact purchase price.

      That doesn’t sound as fixed as you make it. Rumours sold as fact more or less.

  14. Entitled says:

    There you have the results of sucking up the copyright industry’s rhetoric about it being not just a regulation created for them, but their intellectual PROPERTY that they unconditionally deserve on a moral basis. Even if they have to trash public communications, break the Internet, and inconvenience billions of people for the sake of a tiny bit of hypothetical profit, consequences be damned, what is “their right” must self-evidently be right.

    • fish99 says:

      This doesn’t even effect live streams, it’s just for VODs. Probably 99.8% of all watched content on twitch is live and not archived. Also there’s plenty of channels I watch on twitch that get by just fine without playing copyrighted music, and there’s tons of indie music makers out there who will happily give permission for their music to be played on live streams.

        • fish99 says:

          That’s a pretty exceptional case. TBH unless twitch start muting live streams then I don’t think anyone will care. The years of archived VODs are all getting deleted anyway (which is sad but inevitable since it’s a huge amount of storage and generating virtually no revenue).

  15. InternetBatman says:

    I don’t watch twitch or youtube for games, but how much increased functionality does twitch really have over youtube? I.E. how long will it take for google to fold twitch into youtube?

    • Premium User Badge

      Continuity says:

      Twitch is focused on live streaming and youtube is focused on video on demand. The two services complement each other nicely, relatively little overlap, even less now twitch is time limiting their VOD content.

  16. bleeters says:

    It’s the advanced warning they’re giving people who have been using twitch to stream that grates for me. Even if deleting huge portions of their archived footage was necessary for some reason and they absolutely had to go through with it, three weeks warning before they start yanking videos? Three weeks? Some of the people I follow on twitch have been at it for years. Their past broadcasts have hundreds of videos. Even if they wanted to keep their past livestream recordings, three weeks to back all that up? Frikkin really?

    I also have to wonder about the assertion that hardly anyone watches livestream recordings after the first couple of weeks. No doubt that’s comparitvely true, but at the same time twitch’s past broadcasting archive is an embarassment. It’s ludicrously inconvenient to navigate through. I can’t imagine that doesn’t contribute. It’s not going to make backing up specific streams as highlights any easier, either.

  17. Damn Rookie says:

    You’ve really got the late night radio vibe spot on with your Dark Souls Nites videos. That mixture of chillness, positivity and solid music choices is a joy. Very sad that I’ve only just heard about them and now they’re going to be removed and/or muted…

  18. P.Funk says:

    This now common dragnet approach to copyright protection harms the collective cultural consciousness. We’ve invested ourselves in the internet and its services as the new epicenter of our modern culture and those same services lobotomize it because of absurd laws. I look forward to examining the next 50 years to see if we learn from ourselves or if we slowly continue the trend since the 80s of having a branded culture imagined by corporate marketing.

    The benefits of technology also show the great dangers. Automation means that expression is now curbed through automation.

  19. GirlzRKool says:

    Muted?

    As in, all audio removed, or audio suppressed? My heavenly intuition tells me it’s the former…

    The business implications seem quite different too.

    Otherwise, WordPress is terrible at recognizing keystrokes. I’ve pressed through the phone keyboard four times during this terse response.

    Summary: What does mute mean in this case; it doesn’t matter; typing on mobile hurts.

    • olemars says:

      The 30 minute block containing the music is fully muted, the section is marked red on the playback slider, and a message box informs you that this person has been automatically assessed to be a filthy thief.

  20. fish99 says:

    The thing that worries me about this is that eventually I think twitch will have to extend this to live streams. I doubt there a legal difference between twitch broadcasting copyrighted music live and via VODs, the only difference is they don’t have software to detect it in realtime, so they’ll probably have to implement a system where copyright holders can request a stream be taken down – and potentially a 3 strikes system before a channel gets closed.

    There’s a lot of games with copyrighted music in them.

  21. Frank says:

    Deleting archives is a dick move and bad business. It isn’t going to impress anyone at google or elsewhere. Why not just charge folks? And no the “technology demands it” explanation doesn’t cut it, dicks. I don’t use this service myself, but the streamers I was watching all jumped ship to hitbox recently. I don’t blame them.

  22. olemars says:

    The two hour highlight limit is going away, since a number of people pointed out to them that the sizeable speedrunning community uses twitch highlights as proof for their runs, and quite a lot of those are over two hours.

    Anyone speedrunning a GTA game will probably jump ship though.