Gamers have been up in arms ever since Twitch began to enforce harsher restrictions against users playing copyrighted music in their videos. Hovering around the edges of this chorus of unpleasantly surprised voices, meanwhile, are all the YouTube broadcasters who are still reeling from the crackdown they all experienced back in December 2013.
Popular video game personality and video commentator TotalBiscuit weighed in on the Twitch news today, drawing from his own experience with his YouTube channel The Cynical Brit. It’s well worth your time, seeing how he offers a refreshingly measured and diplomatic take on an emotionally fraught issue.
The main takeaway here is: however gamers and Twitch users feel about the crackdown, it’s something they should have seen coming for a while now. As Twitch’s popularity as a service has increased, so too has its profile as a company. It’s now subject to regular reports and rumours about potential buyouts by massive tech companies like Google, after all.
TotalBiscuit therefore argued that Twitch’s increased visibility means the company is feeling pressured to extend an “olive branch” to anybody that might want to sue them, lest the company end up in a situation like Google did with Viacom. Previously, Twitch streamers were riding high on a freedom that YouTubers are no longer afforded when it comes to using licensed material in their videos.
“Don’t want to say I told you so, but a lot of us has been saying this was gonna happen for a very long time,” TotalBiscuit said. “Twitch has simply been getting too big to get away with this.”
Previously, he argued, the Twitch community had adopted a “laissez faire” attitude that some users took too far: by using licensed music in their videos, even playing songs straight from Spotify or Grooveshark and thus messing with whatever royalty system those services use to actually reward artists.
“Really, its very difficult to argue in favour of that,” TotalBiscuit argued. “You’re broadcasting stuff that doesn’t belong to you and you’re making money in the process. Even if you’re not making money in the process, you’re still not really allowed to do that.”
Now: that’s not to say that Twitch users are completely to blame here — just that some people haven’t been as cautious as they should have been. And since Twitch’s new rules only currently apply to video-on-demand content rather than the far more popular live-streamed material, he’s not sure if Twitch users will end up in that much worse of a situation once the dust settles. But the larger problem he gets at in the video is that Twitch is at risk of recreating all the same arbitrary, even draconian regulations that YouTubers like him must work under now that the company is using an automated system to sift through troves and content and flag offending material.
“Here’s the thing about these automated systems: they don’t bloody work properly,” TotalBiscuit argued. “They have far too many false positives.” As many critics noted once the news broke last night, Twitch’s means of marking and muting videos has already yielded some truly bizarre results — inexplicably muting in-game music, and even some of the company’s channels that it runs on its own service.
“You cannot kill piracy in this kind of whack-a-mole, aggressive style,” he concluded. “It simply does not work. It will keep popping up in other places.”
Watch the whole video above.