Things tend to change for video services when they're bought by Google — just look at YouTube. Now Twitch, which Google-owned YouTube is said to have snapped up (though neither company has confirmed), is making some major changes to its service: one aimed at keeping copyright lawsuits and takedowns at bay, and another that keeps past broadcasts from being stored on the service for the rest of time. Both appear designed at making it a better acquisition target for a company with deep pockets.
Any copyrighted music in a 30-minute chunk mutes everything
The new copyright-centric feature, which went live today, will mute the audio on any video on-demand (but not live) streams if Twitch matches it up with content it recognizes. The company's partnered with Audible Magic to do that, and the feature picks up music from the game, as well as any other music it picks up from the recording. That means if you're playing Grand Theft Auto and start listening to the radio, Twitch will mute any and all audio that's being recorded. The same goes for if a recognized track is playing somewhere in the background and gets picked up by the mic.
The new control measure only affects videos that have already been recorded, and not live video, which Twitch is known for. However, Twitch says that the technology it's using scans in 30-minute chunks of time, and that if it picks up something it recognizes at any point within that block, it mutes the whole thing. Already the feature's become problematic for some users who are finding that the tool overzealous at blocking the very music from the games. That includes on-demand streams from Dota 2's recent International tournament, published on Twitch by Dota-maker Valve, as well as Twitch's own weekly video series:
dota 2 international vods were muted streams from valve, the creator of dota 2, were muted because it contains dota 2 music— Goo Princess Emilie (@emitans) August 6, 2014
Good job. pic.twitter.com/9D1ELLzn9K— TheBrett @ DFM2014 (@kazmadan) August 6, 2014
Apparently the software is good enough to pick up amateur singing as well.
Twitch has set up a way for content owners to challenge instances where the system might have muted something accidentally, as well as for those who might own the rights to use the track. The company deployed an appeal button two days after the original changes went live that allows users to query the muting of certain videos. It's also encouraging people to get music from the Creative Commons, Jamendo, and SongFreedom if they want to add any music without fear of blockage.
The second major change is Twitch doing away with its "save forever" option, which would let users save a video indefinitely. The company says it's done this in order to increase the default amount of time that past broadcasts are saved from 3 days to 14 days, something that's come at a "considerable" cost, according to Twitch CEO Emmett Shear. Today the company warned that all existing past broadcasts will be wiped from its servers at the end of the month.
"This is not a move to economize on space."
"Given the viewership patterns on past broadcasts, we believe the tradeoff is better for everyone," Shear told Twitch users today. "To be clear: this is not a move to economize on space. Due to the triple redundancy, it will actually require us to substantially increase our total amount of storage."
Shear added that 84 percent of video views for past broadcasts happen within the first 14 days, and that the company is still letting people save highlights of broadcasts indefinitely. The company originally said highlights could be a maximum of two hours long, but later removed this restriction in the face of negative feedback. Twitch is also giving its partners and subscribers of its Turbo plan 60 days of storage for full broadcasts, and encouraging everyone else to export old broadcasts to YouTube through its video manager tool, which breaks them up into 2-hour chunks.
The changes quickly provoked a strong negative reaction from much of Twitch's user base. In reaction, the company published a blog post two days after the new rules came into effect in which they lifted some of the restrictions on highlight video length and clarified the process of appeal. Speaking in a Reddit AMA session, Twitch CEO Emmett Shear admitted the company "screwed up" in the way it announced the original updates.
The YouTube-Twitch deal, which first surfaced in out of a Variety report in May, would give YouTube a powerful grasp in the e-sports streaming market, which has seen explosive growth. The technology, which was spun-off from recently-shuttered video sharing site Justin.tv, originally focused on letting desktop gamers share their gameplay live to other users, later trickling down to console gamers on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A report from VentureBeat last month pegged the company's purchase price at $1 billion.
Update August 7th, 11:00PM: Twitch has backtracked on some of its modifications, as detailed in the company's blog post.