Major music organisations pen open letter to Amazon, criticising Twitch for using unlicensed music

Twitch, and its owner Amazon, have received an open letter from major US music organisations, slamming Twitch for its recently-launched Soundtrack tool (via Variety).

The letter was signed by multiple major US music organisations, including the RIAA, the Recording Academy, the National Music Publishers Association, the Music Managers Forum, the American Association of Independent Music, SAG-AFTRA and over a dozen others.

The tool, which gives content creators a library of music to use on their streams, has not secured proper synch and mechanical licenses – So the letter alleges. The letter also criticises Twitch for “allowing and enabling its streamers to use our respective members’ music without authorization, in violation of Twitch’s music guidelines.”

“Twitch appears to do nothing in response to the thousands of notices of music infringement that it has received nor does it currently even acknowledge that it received them, as it has done in the past,” reads the letter.

Although Soundtrack does include licensed music from certain independent labels, as Variety points out, it does not have deals with all three major labels, as well as many publishers and rights-holders, and lacks other rights on the songs it has licensed.

“We represent artists, songwriters, musicians, vocalists, managers, producers, audio engineers, major and independent labels and publishers, and many other professionals in all genres of music in the United States,” reads the letter. “We read with interest Twitch’s recent announcement regarding its Soundtrack tool. According to Twitch, this tool gives Twitch’s users the ability to feature a curated library of licensed music in their live streams. We appreciate that Twitch has acknowledged that it is good business to offer licensed music for use by its streamers, and we welcome that Twitch has started to enter into some agreements with rightsholders to provide licensed music for use by its streamers.

“However, we are confounded by Twitch’s apparent stance that neither synch nor mechanical licenses are necessary for its Soundtrack tool. We are also deeply disappointed that Twitch continues to allow and enable its streamers to use our respective members’ music without authorization, in violation of Twitch’s music guidelines.We are further concerned that Twitch continues to host and widely make available unlicensed music on its platform despite the company’s announcements, most recently in June 2020, that it would remove such unlicensed music. Twitch appears to do nothing in response to the thousands of notices of music infringement that it has received nor does it currently even acknowledge that it received them, as it has done in the past.”

Twitch for its part, refutes some of these criticisms in a statement to Variety.

“We are incredibly proud of the essential service Twitch has become for so many artists and songwriters to connect with their fans, especially when real world venues are closed and tours are paused around the world,” the comment reads. “Thousands of music creators rely upon Twitch to express themselves creatively, connect with their fans, and generate income during the global pandemic – and that number grows each day. We’ve partnered with dozens of labels, music distributors and promoters to ensure artists and songwriters have these opportunities during this challenging time. We’ve also continued to support the music economy by paying royalties to performing rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and GMR, and licensing fees to labels and publishers for the use of music in Twitch’s own productions and projects. We are contributing to the health of the music community, and we are proud of that.

“We’re also proud of the work we are doing around recorded music on Twitch through Soundtrack. Soundtrack is a fully licensed service. Twitch has entered into agreements with rights holders for the recordings and compositions included in the service. Soundtrack is not only a fully-licensed way for streamers to play great music in their live streams but also an important discovery tool for independent artists and labels.

“Finally, let’s be absolutely clear, Twitch responds to each valid DMCA notification it receives by removing the allegedly infringing content expeditiously in compliance with DMCA requirements.”

RIAA chairman/CEO Mitch Glazier in turn responded to Twitch’s response, saying that it does not address the points made in the open letter, and claims that Twitch is neglecting the rights of artists, and exploiting their music without compensation.

Last month, Twitch partnered with Amazon music to bring on-demand listening to live streaming

About Chris Wallace

Chris is MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer, joining the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can regrettably be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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