Twitch CEO: Europe’s New Copyright Law Could Hurt the Wrong Companies
Twitch CEO Emmett Shear said a new law in Europe that would hold tech companies responsible for the material published by their users is too vague and make things messy for his firm.
The European Parliament on Tuesday passed a law called the Copyright Directive. Part of the law, Article 13, would make companies liable for copyright infringement by their users starting in 2021. The law stands in stark contrast with current regulations that leave companies mostly immune from what users publish on their services.
At Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech dinner on Tuesday evening in San Francisco, Shear said he’s unsure what this means for Twitch, a popular online streaming service for video game fans that Amazon acquired for $970 million in 2014.
“The legislation was drafted, in my opinion, quite poorly,” Shear said. “It’s totally unclear what we have to do to comply or not.”
Twitch has been closely watching the European Parliament’s passage of the law. In December, the company sent a letter to its users, urging them to lobby Parliament members against the law and to also sign a petition opposing it.
“At risk are your livelihood and your ability to share your talent and experiences with the world,” the letter said.
Twitch and its users make money from ads and sponsorships in video streams, most of which show gamers playing in real time. But because Twitch streams people playing games that it does not own, it could be heavily impacted by the new law. European users may be unable to stream their games and, in some cases, also be blocked from watching streams through the service.
Shear says he would make sure that streams aren’t blocked unfairly for legally protected uses like when copyrighted music plays in the background.
“We’re going to be lobbying to make sure that” the law permits “fair use that enables people to experiment and try new things,” he said.
Even so, Shear says he understands the need for new copyright legislation for streaming services like his that would protect content creators. He just wants it to be done correctly, he said.
For example, some individuals steal original content solely for profit. But then there are companies like Twitch, YouTube, and Reddit that use copyrighted material legally, he said.
Generally, there’s “a problem with content piracy,” Shear said. “The law wasn’t written for us.”
That’s because many gaming companies depend on Twitch for marketing, he said. Video game publisher Electronic Arts, for example, relied on Twitch to help promote its game Apex Legends, which debuted in February, Shear said.
Ideally, Europe’s new copyright legislation would bar bad actors from stealing other people’s work, he said. But it would leave tech companies like Twitch free to create new categories of video content that repurpose copyrighted works within certain limits.
Clarification: The article was updated to clarify that the name of the law is the Copyright Directive.