Twitch Reaches Long-Awaited Pact With Music Publishers, But It’s Not a Licensing Deal

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Twitch and the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) have reached a long-awaited agreement focused on building “productive partnerships” between the livestreaming service and publishing organization, according to a press release announcement. But it’s not a licensing deal, as originally expected.

Through the agreement, Twitch will offer NMPA members an opt-in deal “allowing for future collaborations to bring new facets to both the gaming experience and songwriter exposure,” according to a press release. The deal marks a new era of collaboration for the two, who have been at odds for more than a year. But details are sparse, and sources say the deal does not include traditional music licenses, nor does it fundamentally change how music can be used on Twitch.

“Both NMPA and Twitch are creator-focused and our respective communities will greatly benefit from this agreement, which respects the rights of songwriters and paves the way for future relationships between our publisher members, songwriters and the service,” NMPA president and CEO David Israelite said in a statement. “Through our discussions, Twitch has shown a commitment to valuing musicians and to creating new ways to connect them with fans in this burgeoning and exciting space.”

Added Twitch head of music Tracy Chan: “We are pleased to reach this agreement with the NMPA and excited about our shared commitment to empowering songwriters and other creators to share their work and passions while connecting with audiences. That’s what Twitch is all about, and we know that great music starts with a great song. We look forward to innovative collaborations that further unlock the incredible potential of our service and our community for music publishers and their songwriter partners.”

Twitch says it has also created a new process for music rightsholders — including NMPA members as well as record labels — to report unauthorized uses of their music.

So far, Twitch has operated under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which shields content-hosting platforms from liability for copyright infringement by users, and outlines a process for rightsholders to file “takedown notices” to report unauthorized music uses. But this process frustrated users after the NMPA and RIAA together filed tens of thousands of takedown notices over the past year, often for accidental or relatively minor uses.

Sources say that Twitch’s new system is meant to be more forgiving and flexible to creators who accidentally use unauthorized music in their streams, focusing on more egregious uses like rebroadcasting a music concert or leaking unreleased songs. Instead of suspending accounts which are found to be using unauthorized music, the way Twitch operated under the DMCA, Twitch will now issue a warning first. As before, it will still remove any on-demand videos that contain the unauthorized music from the creator’s channel.

However, the new process doesn’t change how music can be used on Twitch. Creators still can’t play music during their streams without securing the rights to do so. This implies somewhat of a victory for Twitch, which has argued that because the majority of content on the platform is live — and therefore covered by Twitch’s agreements with performance rights organizations including ASCAP and BMI — Twitch does not need the traditional music licenses that a platform such as YouTube would. Twitch still does not have music licensing deals of any kind with Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group.

More details are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Billboard has reached out to both parties for more information.

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