Stadia creative director says streamers should pay game devs; Google disagrees

midian182

Posts: 6,183   +51
Staff member
A hot potato: Should game streamers pay the developers and publishers of titles they stream? That’s the controversial suggestion put forward by Alex Hutchinson, creative director of Stadia Games and Entertainment's Montreal studio—formerly known as Typhoon Studios. He’s certainly stirred up strong emotions with his tweet, and Google wants it known that the company doesn’t share his feelings.

Hutchinson was writing about Twitch’s recent deletion of thousands of videos and clips from streamers' archives as it clamps down on the use of copyrighted music in videos.

"Streamers worried about getting their content pulled because they used music they didn't pay for should be more worried by the fact that they're streaming games they didn't pay for as well," he tweeted. "It's all gone as soon as publishers decide to enforce it.”

"The real truth is the streamers should be paying the developers and publishers of the games they stream. They should be buying a license like any real business and paying for the content they use."

It’s not a simple issue. Video game content is protected by copyright, though in theory, streaming is allowed thanks to fair use protections, but some say what streamers do goes beyond fair use.

Many developers have a symbiotic relationship with streamers as they can bring massive publicity to games that may have been buried among the deluge of titles around today. Streamers, meanwhile, make money from doing something they love. On the flip side, as noted by PC Gamer, streaming linear titles can negatively impact a game’s success.

"Let's Play culture is vibrant and creative and really cool," wrote That Dragon, Cancer developer Ryan Gree in 2016. "Despite infringing on developers' copyrights, [Let's Play videos] can especially benefit those who make competitive or sandbox games. However, for a short, relatively linear experience like ours, for millions of viewers, Let's Play recordings of our content satisfy their interest and they never go on to interact with the game in the personal way that we intended for it to be experienced."

Despite the mountain of criticism, Hutchinson stuck to his guns. “Amazing to me that people are upset at someone saying that the creators of content should be allowed to make some of the money from other people using their content for profit,” he later tweeted.

With Hutchinson being a Stadia creative director, Google has waded into the argument, stressing that "The recent tweets by Alex Hutchinson [...] do not reflect those of Stadia, YouTube or Google."

Do you think streamers should pay game devs, or does the current status quo work well for everybody?

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Dimitriid

Posts: 55   +59
Sure, Google might outwardly say that they disagree with him. But if you want to know how they really feel, look at their actions. And for those, look at youtube and how it treats content creators in general but gamers in particular: as absolutely disposable trash. Seriously they buckled to every single request advertisers made, even if unreasonable-to-illegal under Fair Use exceptions and they basically make everybody guess what they'll punish next, either outwardly with strikes or silently with waves of demonetization and such.

At most, Hutchinson decided to outwardly state what is inwardly applied anyway: Google cares about TV production crews and Musician celebrities infinitively more than even the most popular gamers and immediately and unquestionably honors every single request from a media company (Or even somebody posing as one) immediately and in a fully automated way.
 
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tellmewhy

Posts: 48   +16
The developers of the game they can put in EULA a term which will say that they don’t allow public streaming of the gameplay without a license. Streamers (including Stadia) can appeal it in court and the court will decide if the rule is valid or not. I think with the current set of laws it will pass as valid.

Ps: People must learn to distinguish the music from the sound loops. Music has progression like the compositions of the classic composers. Sound loops is few bars of notes repeated over and over and some vocals on top of that repeated noise and some effects as transitions.

Today 97+% of the “music” is sound loops.
 
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Theinsanegamer

Posts: 2,061   +2,617
If game devs want to be dicks, that simply means they lose out on free publicity. Nintendo learned this the hard way.

Also if I buy your $110 game and all it’s microtransactions and DLCs and subscriptions, you’ve made enough, stop whining. Want to get paid? Give us the game for free then we’ll talk.
 

Lew Zealand

Posts: 1,631   +1,688
TechSpot Elite
The answer is simple enough: Whatever makes the devs the most money. We all know advertising drives sales so game streaming is a cash cow for your game sales. I watch some streamers and there are pretty much no linear games which are engaging to watch someone else play, and therefore to lose sales from because spoilers. You gotta play those yourself, it's the only way to enjoy them.

This guy's a PR noob and doesn't realize that publicizing a game will make way more money in sales than revenue sharing with a few dozen streamers.
 
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katanastrike

Posts: 8   +6
As a former concept artist, I kind of see his point - you have a creative team who put in endless hours, for probably not much pay, only to have a popular streamer 'cash in' on your ideas and make more money than you could ever dream of.

That's probably more of an issue with how the industry treats creatives though. Even if streamers bring in more revenue for the developer, their artists may not see much, if any of that.

On the other hand, you shouldn't have to 'pay' to be a streamer, but maybe if there was a model where very successful streamers had to pay a small percentage of royalties back to the developer, and the developer actually handed some of that down to their creative team...

 
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Hexic

Posts: 801   +874
TechSpot Elite
What a baby. You sell your game for $60, sometimes more. You are making money hand over fist and getting free advertisement on a massive international scale... leading to more sales.

This is simply greed shrouded in the illusion of “morals”.
 

katanastrike

Posts: 8   +6
What a baby. You sell your game for $60, sometimes more. You are making money hand over fist and getting free advertisement on a massive international scale... leading to more sales.

This is simply greed shrouded in the illusion of “morals”.
I don't think the issue is so black and white. I agree, the argument does fall a little flat coming from a large developerselling $60 games, but for the indie developer who's trying to break into the scene, it could be disheartening to see tons of people just watching someone else play your $20, 2-3 hour game on YouTube, and never purchasing it themselves.
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,461   +6,134
I don't think the issue is so black and white. I agree, the argument does fall a little flat coming from a large developerselling $60 games, but for the indie developer who's trying to break into the scene, it could be disheartening to see tons of people just watching someone else play your $20, 2-3 hour game on YouTube, and never purchasing it themselves.
Except that never happens. An increase in viewers on twitch or youtube directly correlates to an increase in sales.

Among us experienced a absolutely gargantuan increase in player base thanks to streamers.

If you're an indie dev your hoping more people on twitch play your game as it's free publicity. The biggest problem for indie games is promotion as they don't have much of an advertising budget and they don't have a name to stand on. Someone big on twitch playing your game is an actual godsend.

Mind you I believe streaming is both protected under fair use as commentary and that the work is different enough in both content and use that it should not invoke licensing fees

I should also point out the potential dangers of requiring a license for anything you use in a video that contains IP. Is adobe going to start requesting payment from everyone that does photoshop tutorials? Is Microsoft going to require licensing if you show the windows desktop for more than 30 seconds at a time? It's insanity.
 
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katanastrike

Posts: 8   +6
Except that never happens. An increase in viewers on twitch or youtube directly correlates to an increase in sales.

Among us experienced a absolutely gargantuan increase in player base thanks to streamers.

If you're an indie dev your hoping more people on twitch play your game as it's free publicity. The biggest problem for indie games is promotion as they don't have much of an advertising budget and they don't have a name to stand on. Someone big on twitch playing your game is an actual godsend.

Mind you I believe streaming is both protected under fair use as commentary and that the work is different enough in both content and use that it should not invoke licensing fees

I should also point out the potential dangers of requiring a license for anything you use in a video that contains IP. Is adobe going to start requesting payment from everyone that does photoshop tutorials? Is Microsoft going to require licensing if you show the windows desktop for more than 30 seconds at a time? It's insanity.
There are cases on both sides of that argument. Obviously, Among Us reinforces the case for streamers, but that's also not a narrative game that people would play (or watch) once, and move on. Did you read the linked post from the developer of That Dragon, Cancer?

I don't think you can put software like Adobe or Office in the same category as a piece of entertainment. Why would someone watch a Photoshop tutorial if they didn't have Photoshop? You couldn't stream or upload a full music album, with commentary, and claim "fair use". Like I said before, the issue is more complex than streamers = good, developers = bad.
 

nodfor

Posts: 26   +33
A company should be able to ban streaming of its games if it wishes to, or limit streaming to non commercial only, limit it to specific streaming sites etc etc.

If this ban upsets consumers, well the market will adjust to it - games with less restrictive policies will see a boost in sales etc.
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,461   +6,134
You couldn't stream or upload a full music album, with commentary, and claim "fair use". Like I said before, the issue is more complex than streamers = good, developers = bad.
"Just like using copyrighted music, broadcasting videogame content within a broadcast can also have legal implications for streamers. Many streamers, such as Twitch broadcasters, produce content based entirely on playing videogames. In these playthroughs, the underlying material is copyrighted and owned by the game developer, but streamers may be legally allowed to reproduce the copyrighted content if they fall under the “fair use” rule.

In a nutshell, “fair use” means a streamer can broadcast her gameplay “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching . . . scholarship, or research . . . .” Whether reproduced content is “fair use” depends on a number of factors: the purpose and character of the use; the nature of the copyrighted content; the amount of content used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Id. For example, a broadcaster’s gameplay is more likely to be protected “fair use” if accompanied by the broadcaster’s running commentary."



Yes, you can. It really depends on many factors but it certainly isn't outright illegal as you suggest.

I don't think you can put software like Adobe or Office in the same category as a piece of entertainment. Why would someone watch a Photoshop tutorial if they didn't have Photoshop? You couldn't stream or upload a full music album, with commentary, and claim "fair use". Like I said before, the issue is more complex than streamers = good, developers = bad.
Any changes to the way the law is interpreted will effect all online VODs and streams. Whether or not one is a video game VOD and the other is a software tutorial is irrelevant. If a precedent is set that commentary is not fair use, you open up all creators to copyright claims.

Also, don't put words in my mouth. I never said this subject was completely one way or the other nor am I advocating for devs to have zero control of their works in regards to streaming. I merely pointing out the implications and the current law. Whatever solution that is proposed needs to consider both sides of the argument.
 
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katanastrike

Posts: 8   +6
"Just like using copyrighted music, broadcasting videogame content within a broadcast can also have legal implications for streamers. Many streamers, such as Twitch broadcasters, produce content based entirely on playing videogames. In these playthroughs, the underlying material is copyrighted and owned by the game developer, but streamers may be legally allowed to reproduce the copyrighted content if they fall under the “fair use” rule.

In a nutshell, “fair use” means a streamer can broadcast her gameplay “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching . . . scholarship, or research . . . .” Whether reproduced content is “fair use” depends on a number of factors: the purpose and character of the use; the nature of the copyrighted content; the amount of content used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Id. For example, a broadcaster’s gameplay is more likely to be protected “fair use” if accompanied by the broadcaster’s running commentary."



Yes, you can. It really depends on many factors but it certainly isn't outright illegal as you suggest.



Any changes to the way the law is interpreted will effect all online VODs and streams. Whether or not one is a video game VOD and the other is a software tutorial is irrelevant. If a precedent is set that commentary is not fair use, you open up all creators to copyright claims.

Also, don't put words in my mouth. I never said this subject was completely one way or the other nor am I advocating for devs to have zero control of their works in regards to streaming. I merely pointing out the implications and the current law. Whatever solution that is proposed needs to consider both sides of the argument.
And I'm not trying to suggest it should be outright illegal, either. The most important part of this are items are 3, and 4 of the "Fair Use" definitions you linked:

(3)  the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;  and
(4)  the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

I'm saying that if said upload or broadcast could fully replace the experience of purchasing and playing the game, the copyright holder should be able to collect some sort of royalty, like a song getting played on the radio. The DJ gets paid to play the song and make some commentary, the license holder gets a cut, and us consumers still get the content for free.

I don't think there's enough legal precedent around video games to decide this yet. I just hope it gets set in a way that no one feels like they're getting the short straw.
 

AfraidOfTheWind

Posts: 16   +6
Wooow. Some big corporation, who I already paid to acquire their product, thinks I need to pay them again to speak about their product? Executive types are literally crying babies. ?
 

Bp968

Posts: 195   +144
As a former concept artist, I kind of see his point - you have a creative team who put in endless hours, for probably not much pay, only to have a popular streamer 'cash in' on your ideas and make more money than you could ever dream of.

That's probably more of an issue with how the industry treats creatives though. Even if streamers bring in more revenue for the developer, their artists may not see much, if any of that.

On the other hand, you shouldn't have to 'pay' to be a streamer, but maybe if there was a model where very successful streamers had to pay a small percentage of royalties back to the developer, and the developer actually handed some of that down to their creative team...
Well, from that perspective actors royally screw creatives too. Go watch a marvel movie for example. Those actors get 15m a movie to read some lines in a giant green room, and all the thousands of animators who create what you actually see get pennies on the dollar in comparison.

I was reading about deep fakes the other day and someone said they had no useful purpose and I disagree 100%. Deepfakes and the technology behind them will eventually uncouple a character from a specific actor. The studio will create the face and voice you see and hear using AI based software that can create "new" faces from millions of images of real people (same with a voice). And then a much cheaper actor will act out the role and have his voice and face replaced with the digital version owned by the studio. No longer will an A list actor be able to demand a 15 million dollar price tag simply because everyone connects him to the character of "iron man" or "thor". You'll still want a skilled actor for the role, but you'll have a pool larger than one for your sequels, so the studios will own the character just like they do in animated films, comics and games.

It's going to come as a shock to the actors guild someday soon I suspect.
 

Leuten

Posts: 17   +35
The developers of the game they can put in EULA a term which will say that they don’t allow public streaming of the gameplay without a license. Streamers can appeal it in court and the court will decide if the rule is valid or not. I think with the current set of laws it will pass as valid.
Then the devs cresting the linear experiences that might be hurt from streaming could take this action.

It could also be their argument, that it might hurt sales of their product.
 

Nobina

Posts: 2,724   +2,372
Streamers can benefit from playing popular games but in turn they give developers pretty much free advertising. Devs get the better end of the deal IMO.

Otherwise, why would some game developers pay streamers to play their game? They know how beneficial streamers are to their games' success.
 
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