Several board members from the Artists Rights Alliance (ARA) including Tift Merritt and Roseanne Cash have accused Amazon CEO and Twitch owner Jeff Bezos of “willful blindness” regarding Twitch users streaming using unlicensed music. The ARA addressed these issues in a letter to Bezos, which identified this problem as one unique to the Twitch streaming service, not Amazon as a whole.
“We were appalled… by your inability or unwillingness to answer even the most basic question about Twitch’s practices in this regard,” the ARA letter says. “As Twitch uses music to grow its audience and shape its brand, the company owes creators more than the willful blindness and vague platitudes you offered during your congressional testimony.”
Amazon purchased Twitch in 2014 for $970 million, back when it was primarily known for hosting video game streams, however it has since grown steadily over the years. Now that the platform is gaining users and hosting more diverse content however, the ARA has called upon the company and Bezos to outline and implement a program which will pay royalties to songwriters and musicians.
A report by Streamlabs and Stream Hatchet states that 5 billion hours of live streamed content in the second quarter of 2020, up 83 percent year-over-year. The platform eMarketer has also stated that the platform is expected to top 40 million U.S. users by 2021.
The ARA first gained prominence earlier this year after writing a letter to Congress which demanded that politicians seek consent from artists for songs featured in campaign events. Twitch isn’t the only platform that has received controversy for not paying artists fairly, earlier this year Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek received backlash following his comments regarding artist’s royalties.
Read the full letter below:
August 10, 2020
Jeffrey P. Bezos
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
410 Terry Ave., North
Seattle, WA 98109–5210
Dear Mr. Bezos,
We are the Executive Board of the Artist Rights Alliance, a non-profit organization comprised of working musicians, performers, and songwriters fighting for a healthy creative economy and fair treatment for artists in the digital world.
We respect Amazon and its many products and services that help fans and audiences find and enjoy creative works.
We appreciate that Amazon offers a number of properly licensed streaming services.
Amazon’s Twitch subsidiary, however, is not one of those services. We have closely followed the rising controversy surrounding Twitch’s hosting and delivery of unlicensed music and the company’s apparent unwillingness to do anything beyond the most minimal and inadequate effort to process takedown requests and shift responsibility for systematic unpaid use of music on the platform to its users. For this reason, we were grateful that Representative Kelly Armstrong raised Twitch’s licensing issues during your recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee.
We were appalled, however, by your inability or unwillingness to answer even the most basic question about Twitch’s practices in this regard.
Mr. Armstrong asked if it was correct that, “Twitch allows users to stream music but does not license the music.” You responded “I don’t know” and said you would look into it.
Given that Amazon is deeply involved in the music business with multiple overlapping products and services that involve licensing questions, including Prime Video, various Music services, audible books, and its massive Alexa and Echo home assistant business. The company has owned Twitch since 2014 — during which time the platform has grown into one of the “the most prevalent live music streaming medium[s],” including recently signing a multimillion dollar exclusive with the acclaimed rapper and record producer Logic. And Twitch itself has long been aware of its licensing challenges and shortcomings according to a recently surfaced memo on audible scanning operations sent to its users the year Amazon acquired the company.
As Twitch uses music to grow its audience and shape its brand, the company owes creators more than the willful blindness and vague platitudes you offered during your Congressional testimony. For working songwriters and performers, fair royalties on a growing platform like Twitch can literally be a matter of life and death — the difference between having a place to live and homelessness and having access to health care or being uninsured. For other it’s the difference between being able to work as an artist or having to give up a lifetime of dreams.
For all these reasons, we ask you to provide a public answer to Congressman Armstrong’s question — does the Twitch platform allow users to post or stream unlicensed music? If the answer is “yes” we further ask you to explain what you are doing or plan to do to proactively stop that from happening and ensure that artists and songwriters are paid fair market value for the work when it is performed on Twitch?