In the absence of live music, the streaming landscape has emerged as the most popular and efficient means of connecting with fans during the COVID-19 epoch. Perhaps no platform has benefitted more than Twitch, a gaming platform that has mutated into the most prevalent live music streaming medium in recent weeks—especially in electronic dance music. Since Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acquired Twitch for a staggering $970 million back in 2014, the platform had experienced meteoric growth before exploding due to the pandemic’s recent gasoline pour.
However, Twitch has found itself in hot water in recent weeks after issuing DMCA takedown notice to a legion of its users. Since the Amazon-owned company doesn’t pay royalties to artists when their music is played on the platform, the solution is, of course, to obtain licenses.
Yesterday, July 29th, Bezos appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in a historic antitrust hearing along with the CEOs of Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg), Apple (Tim Cook), and Google (Sundar Pichai) to respond to inquiries from Congress about their data collection practices and purported efforts to subdue competitors. When Kelly Armstrong (ND-R) grilled the Amazon founder about Twitch’s rampant music streaming issues, Bezos was unable to sufficiently answer the question.
Armstrong asked Bezos, “My understanding is that Twitch allows users to stream music but does not license the music. Is that correct?” “I’m going to have to ask that I could get back to your office with an answer to that question,” Bezos responded. “I don’t know.”
Congressman Armstrong continued his line of questioning, asking Bezos, “If Twitch is responding to DMCA notice and takedown requirements, should…Twitch consider proactive licensing music instead of retroactively adhering to those notices?”
“Yes, Congressman, that’s an important issue and we understand it,” Bezos replied. “And I will get back to your office on that.”
The head-scratching aspect of Bezos’ comments lies in Twitch’s karaoke app, Twitch Sings, which holds music licenses with 180 publishers all over the world. That app’s license, however, is apparently not applicable to its parent platform.
At the time of writing, Twitch has not made a public statement regarding the Congressional hearing.