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.