Artist Rights Alliance confronts Jeff Bezos about music royalties on Twitch

The nonprofit group is demanding transparency and fair compensation for artists.

Image via Twitch

A nonprofit organization advocating for music creators is demanding Jeff Bezos provide a public and comprehensive answer to how artists can be fairly compensated when their music is played on Twitch streams. An open letter published by the Artist Rights Alliance (ARA) criticized Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, for “willful” ignorance regarding royalties and unlicensed music on Twitch, an Amazon subsidiary.

The letter advocated for the importance of fair payments to music artists, especially on growing digital platforms like Twitch. It argued that denying musicians of royalties “can literally be a matter of life and death” and demanded public answers from Amazon on whether the livestreaming platform will allow users to stream unlicensed music and how Amazon will properly compensate artists.

Additionally, the letter details the comprehensive reach that Amazon currently has in the music industry, expressing the urgency of accountability from “the most prevalent live music streaming medium.”

The letter was written by ARA board members in response to a July 29 House Judiciary Committee hearing in which North Dakota House Representative Kelly Armstrong questioned Bezos on Twitch’s policies regarding music licensing. 

In particular, when Bezos was asked if Twitch licenses the music played on streams, he was unable to provide an answer to the antitrust subcommittee. Armstrong followed up with concerns for “small, up-and-coming musicians” who aren’t being paid fairly for their work and are unable to send cease-and-desist claims in response to copyright violations as easily as major music labels. 

Bezos responded by saying that he would later send an answer to Representative Kelly’s office, an answer that the ARA found unsatisfactory and called a “vague platitude.”

Twitch saw increased demand for online music as live music shows were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, with viewership in the Music & Performance category nearly quadrupling since March. The influx of creators and artists joining the platform also brought record labels cracking down on unlicensed music being played on streams, causing a surge of DMCA claims against clips with copyrighted background music in June. This encouraged the livestreaming platform to more strictly enforce its terms of service regarding music recently, automatically removing clips with copyrighted music in them.