Twitch Sued in Russia over Pirated Sports Content

On December 17, Amazon’s Twitch, a social streaming platform and gaming community, was nearly blocked in Russia for piracy allegations. A Russian court blocked Twitch’s access to English Premier League, which broadcasts soccer, after a Russian media group, Rambler, threatened to sue for pirated broadcasts for 180 billion rubles, the equivalent of $2.88 billion. The incidents occurred between August and November.

Rambler alleged that Twitch pirated content and “violated its rights to broadcast the soccer games in Russia” 36,000 times. Rambler has exclusive broadcast rights for English Premier League for three seasons. However, Amazon has the exclusive rights for some Premier League matches in the UK over the next three years. Rambler wants to permanently ban Twitch in Russia.

According to the BBC, Russia is Twitch’s third most popular region in terms of user base. Twitch’s terms and conditions state that users may not share content without permission of the copyright owner; this includes films, television shows, and sports games. Twitch’s lawyer, Julianna Tabastaeva stated that Twitch “only provides users with access to the platform and is unable to change the content posted by users or track possible violations.” Further, Twitch took “all necessary measures to eliminate the violations, despite not receiving any official notification from Rambler.”

“Our suit against Twitch is to defend our exclusive rights to broadcast English Premier League matches and we will continue to actively combat pirate broadcasts,” Mikhail Gershkovich, head of Rambler’s sports project, said.

The English Premier League is one of the world’s most-watched sports leagues. Amazon bought Twitch in 2014 for $970 million. As of 2018, Twitch had 15 million daily active users.

The case was set to be heard in a Moscow court on December 20. On December 18, Twitch stated that Rambler has withdrawn from the suit. Further, “no financial compensations has been sought or paid.” Following the chronological order of events, on Monday, December 16, a Russian court blocked Twitch’s access to English Premier League, a day later on Tuesday it said it no longer wished to block after Twitch took down the pirated content. Now, on Wednesday, December 18, the suit has been dropped.

This is not the first time a social or streaming platform has been blocked in Russia, DailyMotion was blocked in Russia in 2017 over copyright issues. Some argue that the case against Twitch could open the door for other suits against platforms like YouTube.