Livestreaming has taken off in the big way in the last couple of years, and Twitch TV has become almost ubiquitous as a result. So much so that some games such as EVE and Wolrd of Tanks actually have Twitch integrated into the game. This past week the way in which livestreamers can save their videos, and a tightening of the rules on copyright infringement with regard to music, has led to much controversy.
Firstly, it seems that the sites archiving of videos has become a lot more restrictive. Videos which were actually saved using an option which stated that they would be saved forever will now only be saved for 14 days unless you subscribe, which would make it 50 days. According to this article on Rock Paper Shotgun, complaints raised by the speed running community contributed to Twitch backing down from another proposal which capped highlights at 2 hours.
Twitch have also implemented an audio scanning system to try and detect copyright infringement on archived videos, but not actually the livestreams themselves. This has apparently led to some videos being incorrectly flagged, with the audio scanning software not being exactly flawless. I can’t say I’m too surprised by this, as it seemed almost inevitable that once the service was popular enough to attract the attention of big business, crackdowns were bound to happen.
The relationship between games developers, publishers, YouTubers, and livestreamers is still in flux right now. When YouTube’s anti-copyright infringement software was implemented last year many developers and publishers offered help and made public their permission for their games to be recorded and uploaded to their sites. It seems some recognise the potential for a mutually profitable arrangement, but some other devs such as Phil Fish feel that third parties who play their games for profit ought to be paying the developers a share.
Of course we also have the controversy surrounding YogsDiscovery a few weeks ago, where the popular YouTube network were revealed to have been offering coverage of games in exchange for money. I’m not sure this was anything but inevitable, or even necessarily that bad, provided it is made clear that a video is effectively and advertisement, but it’s the lack of transparency of the issue which raises doubts.
Once again, this all adds to the impression that we have a long way to go before the relationship between old media like the music industry, new media like YouTubers and livestreamers, and games developers and publishers has settled into a harmonious one. I think that we as consumers only ask for transparency in that relationship. It remains to be seen what effect Twitch’s changes will have on the popularity of the site, but I suspect that for all the acrimony now, most will continue to use the service regardless. But things are going to change for this newer than new media, and I’m interested to see how it turns out, for better or worse.