Collaborate to form an industry trade group and licensing collective
Twitch has become a lifeline for many streamers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular club and mobile DJs whose only source of income has been cut off in recent months. Therefore, it is essential that streaming services like Twitch remain a viable outlet for music users, while providing fair compensation to songwriters, recording artists, and record labels.
Unfortunately, U.S. copyright law is still vastly out of touch within the marketplace for independent DJs, many of whom make little or no income from their online broadcasts. This certainly presents a unique challenge in the case of Twitch. DJs either run the risk of DCMA takedown notices from rightsholders or else they must clear all the nececssary performance rights themselves.
Needless to say, negotiating individual licenses can be extremely costly and time-consuming even with a team of lawyers. And that doesn't guarantee that the rights in all musical works and sound recordings both domestic and foreign will be cleared for use, particularly in the case of unsigned artists and record labels with a much smaller catalog.
The current statutory license, administered by SoundExchange, is also cost prohibitive at $500 minimum annual fee per channel. For a streaming service like Twitch where the predominant content is not music, that is hardly a viable alternative to securing individual licensing from rightsholders. Of course, it's also questionable whether existing copyright law even accounts for the interactive multimedia nature of a streaming service like Twitch, with animated video overlays, live camera feeds, etc.
Therefore, I propose a two-fold solution:
a) We need a one-stop licensing collective for independent online DJs to efficiently and economically secure the performance rights in sound recordings. This is something I'd long been interested in pursuing under the moniker of "Bitwax". Now more than ever I believe this may prove vital to the interests of recording artists, so many of whom are losing a significant revenue stream from lack of in-person concerts.
b) We must work diligently with lawmakers and the RIAA to introduce a statutory license specially catering to independent DJs for their limited commercial use of sound recordings in online broadcasts, including a reasonable royalty rate and recordkeeping requirements. This could be expanded with a secondary licensing tier to accommodate live streaming of video games, in which the music serves only as an ancillary component of the broadcast.
In 2006, I launched the Small Webcaster Community Initiative, in which I helped to lobby for the interests of small commercial Webcasters in association of SaveNetRadio and other industry partners under CARP. In light of these recent events, however, I am thinking it would be well worth reviving that coalition as an industry trade group, not only to protect the interests of streaming services like Twitch but also to finally give independent DJs (and gamers) a viable means in which to support the musicians that they know and love.
Thank you for this. I've forwarded it around my DJ community too. Hopefully we can get more votes and Twitch will take notice.