Facebook Clarifies Rules for Live Music
News moves quickly in the hectic world of social media, so if you were busy with other things over the past weekend, you might have missed a row that erupted between Facebook and the musical community. We could write a whole article about the dispute alone, but we’ll condense it into a few words with you. Facebook has issued a change to its rules about live streams, which, if interpreted the way a few music industry insiders interpret it, might have been aimed at prohibiting bands, singers, and other musicians from performing live on Facebook. Worse than that, it seemed that Facebook was warning musicians of its rights to remove any account that violated that specific rule. Before the company had a chance to draft a clarification statement, headlines about Facebook banning music had spread across the internet.
If the reports were accurate, this would have been terrible news for musicians in many ways. 2020 has been a bad year for the music industry, with gigs and tours canceled and even dates for early 2021 looking shaky at the time of writing. In the absence of live revenue, musicians have increasingly turned to digital platforms for support and a financial lifeline. That’s why we’re seeing more and more musicians appearing in games like ‘Fortnite.’ That’s why we’re also seeing a lot of big-name acts hook up with websites to make featured online casino UK. Everyone from 1970’s British rock act Saxon to 1980’s disco legends the Village People have recently launched their own online slots, and that provides them with a way to plug the hole financially. However, a smaller name or unsigned act has no prospect of persuading an online slots company to feature their music. Live streams on platforms like Facebook are one of the few ways for them to earn money at the moment if music is their chosen career, and the prospect of that route being taken away is a terrifying thing to contemplate.
Fortunately for those smaller acts, and for the world of music in general, it seems that the initial reports about Facebook’s new attitude towards music and live streaming were wide of the mark. Facebook has finally issued a statement to clarify its position, and it’s good news for musicians. The company sounded almost hurt but the suggestion that it was about to turn its back on the performing arts world and reaffirmed its ‘commitment to supporting musical expression across its platforms.’ In other words, nothing will change in Facebook’s attitude to people making music and sharing live performances, and nobody will get their page or channel blocked or removed for doing so. This whole panic appears to have been about nothing. There may, however, be a caveat that hurts bands that don’t create original music.
Facebook pointed out that its guidelines for music have been in place for some time, and although new terms and conditions are coming in to take effect from the start of October, the wording where it relates to music hasn’t changed. It seems that this is just the first time people have noticed the specifics of what those terms say. Musicians can share music, but only music that they own the copyright to. Performers who come up with their own original material don’t appear to have anything to worry about. Cover versions appear to sit in a gray area, and although they haven’t been removed in the past, the company seems to be reserving its right to do so in the future.
Even with this clarification, further questions have been raised by Facebook’s seeming opposition to what it deems to be copyrighted music. While algorithms that identify copyrighted music exist and have been used to sometimes-unhelpful effect on YouTube, they’ve never been applied to Facebook before. Perhaps more pertinently, the announcement seems to contradict a further announcement that was made in relation to Facebook Gaming a few days ago. Musicians might not be able to perform copyrighted music on live streams or feature it in any of their videos, but the company’s partnered streamers on the Facebook Gaming channel have just been given permission to do so. This new initiative is aimed at ending the practice of videos disappearing because of innocuous songs playing in the background of clips, and copyright claims being filed despite the fact that the music is incidental to the topic of the video.
There’s a new rule when it comes to how Facebook decides whether copyrighted music is problematic or not. If the music is in the background of the video and played at a volume that’s comfortably lower than the speaking voice of the streamer or the sound effects of the game that they’re playing, there won’t be an issue. If it’s loud enough to drown those elements out, it will likely be filed as a copyright breach. The wording of the statement doesn’t make it clear whether or not Facebook has software capable of making this distinction, so it might be a manual process that relies on Facebook’s moderators’ attention.
Even then, there’s still some wriggle room for big-name musicians who don’t want their music used in this manner. Facebook has seemingly had to obtain licenses for music to be used on the Facebook Gaming platform, and not every artist has been happy to sign off. If a user attempts to upload a video that contains an unlicensed song, or an algorithm detects that an unlicensed song is being played, the streamer will receive a popup asking them to cease broadcasting the music immediately and play something else. There’s no way of knowing which songs are or aren’t covered by the licenses, so there will be a process of trial and error for streamers until things become clearer.
The use of copyrighted music on the internet has been a contentious issue ever since the invention of Napster twenty years ago, and it isn’t going to go away any time soon. Musicians will always want to be paid for the use of their music, and record labels will always want their share of the financial pie, too. It all boils down to what is and isn’t classifiable as ‘fair use,’ and until the passing of a new law that’s suitable for the modern age, that debate will continue.
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