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Twitch reworks controversial policy changes

Twitch re-works some of its policy changes
Twitch re-works some of its policy changes
Photo: Twitch

Earlier in the week, popular streaming site Twitch sent out two emails stating some pretty major changes to their services. These changes received instant backlash from the streaming community including several major broadcasters threatening to change sites. In the late hours of Aug 7, Twitch again posted to their blog stating that they have heard the major outcry from the internet and will rethink the policy changes.

It all started on Tuesday when Justin.TV shut down. What was originally the host of Twitch now has a giant “goodbye” page thanking users for seven years of content and community (Users can request to transfer their account to Twitch for full site use, however a request must be submitted by Friday, Sept 5 using this form). The following day, Twitch sent out the first email announcing the changes to the VOD storage system.

Starting Aug 27, previously archived broadcasts would be removed from Twitch servers. From this point on, archives would last 14 days for all standard broadcasters and 60 days for Partners and Turbo Subscribers. Highlights would still be saved indefinitely, however they would now be limited to a two hour timeframe. The idea behind this was to cut storage costs, and with the advanced notice, ideally users could export previous broadcasts to YouTube or any other service of their choice.

Only five hours later, a second email was sent out regarding an update to the audio recognition software before the ramifications of the initial announcement could even really be felt. Twitch has partnered with Audible Magic in an effort to “help broadcasters avoid the storage of videos containing unauthorized third-party audio.” This new service scans all past and future VODs for in-game and ambient music in 30-minute blocks. When the “Flagged Content” is detected, the affected portion of the VOD are muted and volume controls are removed for that entire half hour section. There will also be an on-screen notification letting users know the video has been flagged under suspicion of copyrighted audio. The most important part is this process will only be applied to the VODs and will not affect or cause the take down of a live broadcast.

Viewers and broadcasters alike took to the internet to voice their extreme dissatisfaction with the announced changes. Well-known broadcaster Cosmo Wright completely pulled out of Twitch in favor of rival services while many users utilized Twitter or Thursday’s AMA on /r/Twitch to voice their displeasure. That’s when Twitch realized it clearly needed to make some tweaks.

Twitch released a statement on The Official Blog announcing two important revisions with the promise of “more to come.”

Over the last two days, you've provided us with an incredible amount of feedback about the new Video Manager, VOD storage, and Audio Recognition system. We take your opinions very seriously, and we’re acting on your concerns.

First, effective tonight, the maximum time limit on highlights will be removed. You will once again be able to create highlights of any length and they will be saved indefinitely.

Secondly, we’re deploying an “appeal” button for VODs that have been flagged for copyrighted music by the new Audio Recognition system. We recognize that the system is not yet perfect. We want to make this system as fair and unobtrusive as possible, and we greatly appreciate your help.

Thank you again for all of your comments, tweets, emails, messages, and for taking part in Emmett’s AMA. We read all of your feedback and we take it seriously. Expect more changes, more clarity, and more improvements on our recent updates in the days to come.

While retracting the limit on highlights was appreciated, it was obvious the same would not be done for the new audio recognition service. Instead, the mere consolation prize of an “appeal” button maintains the mantra of “guilty until proven innocent” that Google set forth with YouTube. While the company may recognize it as a significant cost-cutter, to users it comes off as lazy and disrespectful. Why does the appeal process fall on the user when a service that focuses on streaming games will likely flag frequently for in-game audio. Shouldn't the process revolve around flagging for Twitch to review and ultimately determine where copyright has been broken?

Never-the-less, the effort to make changes is still a promising outlook, especially with the confirmation that there are more changes on the horizon. Hopefully, these will be more changes for the good.