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

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 — or at least not yet.

The agreement includes a financial settlement to account for Twitch’s past usage of music on the platform, according to a source familiar with the matter, as well as a time window during which the two parties will negotiate an arrangement for handling music use on Twitch going forward. According to the press release, Twitch is currently offering NMPA members an opt-in deal “allowing for future collaborations to bring new facets to both the gaming experience and songwriter exposure.”

“We look forward to working together toward building long-lasting partnerships with Twitch,” NMPA president/CEO David Israelite tells Billboard. “This agreement provides the framework for that relationship to develop.”

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Added Twitch head of music Tracy Chan in a statement: “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 rights holders — 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 rights holders 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.

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According to an email sent to Twitch creators and obtained by Billboard, Twitch’s new system is meant to be more “flexible and forgiving to creators who inadvertently or incidentally use 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. “We recognize that not all unauthorized uses of music merit the same treatment,” the email reads, “and it is our hope that we can, as part of our agreements with music rights holders, take a balanced approach that supports creators on Twitch.”

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However, the email to creators notes that 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. Twitch 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 additional information.

Meanwhile, the NMPA is still in the midst of its $200 million copyright infringement lawsuit against gaming platform Roblox, part of the organization’s efforts to crack down on unlicensed music use in the gaming industry.

“[The Twitch agreement] is a very positive development in the larger effort to make sure that music is respected in all gaming models,” Israelite says, “and I’m hopeful it will be the first of many positive stories to come out from this effort.”

UPDATE: This article was updated Sept. 21 at 4:35 p.m. EST to include Israelite’s quotes.