Wednesday, August 6, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

Winding down towards the end of last year, YouTube’s Content ID was the bane of YouTube broadcasters. Originally, Content ID trolled YouTube auditing videos for copyright material. If certain gameplay footage belonging to a publisher appeared on your video, it was flagged. If licensed music was contained within your video, it was flagged. This was scary for YouTubers because if their videos were flagged, they could cease to receive ad revenue on the upload, syphoning money to the copyright holder instead of the video’s creator. 

Amidst the shit storm, casters looked to Twitch as a haven for producing video game broadcasts which was already hosting streamers that were making a healthy living off of sponsoring viewers. Twitch was relatively free from copyright regulations, at least not to the degree that existed on YouTube.

This “haven” started looking a bit grim when rumors surfaced that Google was looking into picking up Twitch for $1 billion back in May, which was later reported by VentureBeat as confirmed. This sparked an unsurprising uproar, in fear that YouTube’s copyright policies would bleed into Twitch’s service.

Now while neither Google nor Twitch have gone public about the acquisition deal as of yet, Twitch has developed their own copyright policies similar to YouTube. Starting today, Twitch will begin their new form of content id, which will track down third party audio on archived videos (or VODs) and scan in 30 minute blocks. If there are any matches to third party audio within the video – which, as Twitch states, “includes in-game and ambient music”, that entire block will be muted. Twitch warns casters of the potential of inaccurate flagging and muting, and also, like YouTube, offers an appeal process.

This has already taken affect.

Famed American Dota 2 player Fear has had multiple sections of one of his videos muted from what’s assumed to be caused by simply listening to music. Streamer Dansgaming was muted from in-game music that was flagged from Fallout 3, just as Twitch warned.

I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for casters both on YouTube and on Twitch to see such an imperfect and draconian policy operate on what was once viewed as the last resort for video content creators (and when I say content creators, I don’t mean copyright holders). It surrounds them with eggshell ridden platforms that impose a fear of loss in ad revenue and now broken videos with muted audio.

This is also reflective of a larger concern with the all but public Google and Twitch merger. YouTube’s Content ID might have gotten less shitty, and Twitch may be looking towards some much needed improvements under the Google umbrella, but what’s stopping them from imposing further abusive policies without the existence of competition.

It’s like proposed merging for Comcast and Time Warner, there just won’t be much freedom of comfort. 

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