Rambler Demanded to Block Twitch in Russia
Rambler sued Twitch streaming service with a request to block its resources in Russia and pay 180345 billion rubles (more than $ 280 million). This is a record amount for copyright infringement cases.
The reason is illegal broadcasts of the English football Premier League from Twitch users which the administration of the service is still banning. The rights to show the Premier League matches cost 7 million euros and are broadcast by the Okko Sport service owned by the media holding.
Representatives of Twitch consider the requirements to be unfair and say that users, but not the platform, are responsible for such streams. Also, Twitch ensures that Rambler did not send any formal notifications before a lawsuit. This course of action looks strange. Rambler did not want to stop the piracy of their content, but to sink Twitch entirely.
Why the Rambler demands are so high?
Based on the Moscow City Court data, a lawsuit for copyright protection was filed on August 26. The huge amount of the claim 180345 billion rubles ($ 286 million) was obtained as a result of multiplying the number of views of Twitch broadcasts with EPL (36 thousand) by the maximum possible fine for violating anti-piracy law 5 million rubles (80 thousand dollars).
According to Mikhail Gershkovich, head of sports projects at Rambler Group, the media holding went to court after “a significant number of cases of illegal broadcasts on the resource.” Gershkovich did not explain why Rambler went directly to the court, but not to the owners of Twitch.
Yulianna Tabastaeva, a Twitch representative in court, considers Rambler’s claims unfair:
— “Twitch only provides users with access to the platform, doesn`t post its own content, can`t change the content posted by users, or track possible violations of rights.”
When Rambler filed a lawsuit, it demanded only a block and then requested the recovery of compensation for 2.1 million euros. A claim of 180 billion rubles arose at the hearing on November 29.
The Rambler Group reported that they are negotiating with Twitch on a settlement. “The service handed us the tools to combat pirated broadcasts and now we are only talking about compensation for damage caused from August to November,” — said Mikhail Gershkovich, head of sports projects at Rambler Group.
Twitch denies that the company is negotiating a settlement agreement with Rambler.
Twitch — the most important media for gaming and eSports
Twitch is a video streaming service. But the rules of the platform do not limit the theme of streams and you can just chat with the audience, cook food or play music.
Thanks to it, many online projects can live (streams have replaced forums for people). Twitch increases the popularity of GTA Online (people play the whole series with fictional characters for subscribers). By the number of viewers in the game category, you can determine whether it is alive or not.
For thousands of people, streaming has become a substitute for regular work, you can earn from subscribing viewers and partner contracts, and if you are lucky you will become a celebrity like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins.
On ordinary days, the number of simultaneous Twitch viewers is held at the level of a million people, and during large events, the audience grows significantly. For example, the event with a large-scale update of the battle royale in Fortnite, when the game for two days turned into a static screen with a black hole, was watched at the peak by more than 1.5 million people. Major tournaments in Dota 2 and League of Legends are gaining two million spectators.
The most popular Twitch categories nowadays
The platform simultaneously hosts thousands of user broadcasts. There are a lot of moderators on Twitch, but they are people, which means they are not able to respond to violations of the rules instantly – the broadcast should at least go up in the number of viewers and receive complaints from users.
In June, this year, Twitch was subjected to a massive attack by trolls: users started broadcasting in the unpopular category of the Artifact game, showing various films and TV shows, pornography, and even video shootings. The administration banned these streams, then the attackers changed their IP and created new accounts to continue the attack. As a result, registration was tightened, and the attackers were sued.
The Russian market is important to Twitch. The founder of Kanobu and RAWG, Gadzhi Makhtiev, estimates it at 6-7% of the world.
Competitors are increasingly trying to throw Twitch off their monopoly roost: they outbid streamers (including Ninja), buying the rights to tournaments. But Twitch has one inherent advantage: millions of people are just used to watch content there. Therefore, for example, in e-sports, the broadcast rights market is so poorly developed: people will watch that market because it goes to Twitch, and not vice versa – and the platform does not need to pay a high price for rights.
The lawsuit has predecessors
Rambler has recently filed a lawsuit against another large firm.
On December 12, Rambler also filed a lawsuit against another large company. The company sued the web developers of the Nginx server Igor Sysoev and Maxim Konovalov, who launched a startup that became the basis of 500 million sites worldwide. The startup was sold for $ 670 million. Rambler believes that copyright belongs to them.
Ex-Rambler employees published an open letter in support of the founders of the Nginx.
Rambler believes that the exclusive rights to the Nginx server do not belong to its developers Konovalov and Sysoev, since the time the server was launched, both were full-time employees of Rambler. Also, according to Rambler, the developers used the company’s production facilities to create their own projects. Maxim Konovalov called the requirements of Rambler “racket.”
— “Nowadays, Nginx, Inc. is not the only company that fell under the rink, managed by Rambler. Who will be the next? How is it possible to counter this? Why is Rambler turning from a leading company in the global Internet industry into a raider company? A company that has a nightmarish business that can increase its capitalization by spin and weaning, and citation by articles on new criminal cases. Today we are very ashamed of Rambler,” — the authors of the letter concluded.
In F5, over the weekend, Rambler’s claims were called meaningless. The company said that after the latest events, it immediately took measures to protect the main software assemblies for Nginx, Nginx Plus, Nginx WAF and Nginx Unit and that they are all stored on servers outside of Russia.
The same situation in the past
A similar situation occurred in July this year: the KHL sued the Russian streaming platform Goodgame when an illegal broadcast of the League match appeared. Then, in 9 minutes of broadcasting and 40 spectators, the KHL demanded 10 million rubles from Goodgame and as a result of the trial, it received 300 thousand rubles. The platform was also warned that in case of a repeated violation, it would be blocked.
At the end of 2016, due to violation of Russian anti-piracy legislation, the popular foreign video hosting DailyMotion was blocked. It was forever closed on the Russian territory.
What will happen if Rambler wins the case?
If the media holding wins a case where one of the largest video streaming services is the defendant, all similar platforms will be at risk. Such copyright infringement can occur on any video hosting site with user-generated content. The next could be, for example, Youtube. If every active video hosting is blocked on the territory of Russia, this will be the beginning of the isolation of Runet.
The Moscow City Court will consider the lawsuit on December 20, then it will become clear what fate awaits not only Twitch but also video streaming services in Russia as a whole.