Facebook Gaming makes a music esports power move
As anyone who has ever tried to soundtrack a DIY video on YouTube or Twitch streaming session knows, not all music is considered equal.
Nothing’s going to stop you from setting your mini-masterpiece to Irving Berlin’s “All By Myself”, Bessie Smith’s “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home”, or the New Christy Minstrels’ “By the Beautiful Sea”. All those songs are in the public domain. So go crazy if you want to throw them in the background while shooting the snot out of your fellow digital man on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Where things get tricky is when songs have been written in the past 100 years. Sure, Social Distortion’s “Mass Hysteria” might be epically fitting when it’s time to break out the Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle in Call of Duty. That, however, usually means you’re committing copyright infringement. Same for cueing up the Refused’s batshit-crazy “New Noise” when it’s time to create some carnage in Overwatch.
Cease and desist
Where this becomes a problem is when streamers simply can’t resist adding music to their clips and aren’t overly careful while doing it.
As powerful as Twitch and YouTube are, that doesn’t put the platforms above the law. At least not in the eyes of the watchdogs at the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). When music has been posted without the copyright holder’s permission, the DMCA often steps in and serves notice to cease and desist. It’s then up to YouTube and Twitch to warn its users that posts need to removed.
Sure, the great Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” might go well with everything from Rocket League to Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. That doesn’t mean you can break it out whenever you’re too lazy to dig deep in the Rammstein catalogue. Use the song and expect to hear from the DMCA.
How serious are the takedown notices? Consider a June 7, 2020, series of Tweets, under the handle @fuslie, from wildly popular Twitch streamer Leslie. Things started out with, “I’ve been issued 2 copyright strikes on my channel (both from clips over a year old) in the past week and told that if they find one more violation in my clips, my twitch account will be permabanned. (1/4)”
Banned by Twitch
One would think that rectifying the situation would be easy. But for Leslie, that wasn’t the case. Twitch wanted the offending clips removed. That would have been fine, except for one small problem. Leslie wasn’t occasionally using tracks like Jay-Z’s “Money, Cash, Hoes”, Muse’s “Bliss”, or DRAM’s “Cha Cha”. Instead, she evidently decided that it was open season on every song ever written, with the possible exception of “The Sound of Silence”, whenever she streamed.
After noting that it took her the better part of five years to build a megafollowing on her Twitch channel, Leslie went on to Tweet to her 177,000 followers: “Have talked with multiple @Twitch staff all telling me my best option is to delete all of my clips ever. On top of it being near impossible for me to delete >100,000 clips, the creator dashboard isn’t loading any of my old clips. How am I supposed to protect myself here?”
Then, in case the message wasn’t getting through, she added: “This is an issue way bigger than me. Content creators aren’t being informed by Twitch on the proper steps to protect themselves from this happening, and there has to be a better [way] to handle this than suddenly striking our accounts and banning us out of nowhere.”
Enter Facebook Gaming
Leslie is hardly alone. Even if you’ve got 12 followers on YouTube and 11 on Twitch, odds are that you’ve been there—and been flagged—if you’ve decided to thrown an unlicensed song or two into the mix. Unfortunately, having the best of intentions while sharing your love of gaming and Death Grips with the world isn’t enough.
And here’s where things get interesting.
In mid-September, the newly minted platform Facebook Gaming suddenly made things epically easier for music and video-game fans to meld two of their big passions.
The social-media monolith used its clout to negotiate a deal with Universal, BMG, Warner, Sony, and their various subsidiaries. Those providing free content on the new service—i.e., almost everyone—will be able to use songs from the major labels involved without having to worry about breaking copyright laws. Facebook isn’t exactly struggling in the cash department. So it’s paying to be able to access the work of the labels’ small army of artists.
It’s easy to see why the deal is a win-win for all involved. Labels have watched profits evaporate ever since digital consumption usurped CDs. This started with Napster and Limewire and today includes services like Spotify and Apple Music. Algorithms have drastically changed who goes digital platinum and who is doomed to eat Kraft Dinner and Top Ramen. Suddenly, smaller-tier artists in the major-label system will theoretically get valuable exposure, potentially reaching audiences of millions should a heavyweight streamer cue up one of their songs in the background.
As for Facebook, the challenge with Facebook Gaming is convincing streamers that there’s a better option than Twitch. You might remember Microsoft attempting to unseat the Amazon-owned Twitch with its upstart Mixer platform and failing spectacularly. Because why switch to a service offering the same bells and whistles when what you’ve been using works just fine?
By crawling into bed with some of the biggest players in the music industry, Facebook Gaming has solved a major headache for streamers like poor Leslie. Goodbye, DMCA police. Hello, setting a 15-minute CS:GO rampage to the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray” without having to worry about the fallout. Praise the Lord, pass the ammunition, and crank the volume to 11.