Ahh, to make money from playing video games all day. That is a dream a great many people have had while growing up, myself included. For something like that to actually be possible today, well that is a dream come true, isn’t it? You could become a famous YouTuber, and curate your content in an organized way. Or, if you’re feeling chaotic, perhaps the live streaming life is for you? No matter what avenue you choose to pursue, I will always say the same thing: Read the fine print. In this article, I’m going to dive deep into the wording of the Twitch Affiliate Agreement to the best of my ability, so that you understand what it is you are getting yourself into.
The life of a “Twitch streamer” as it has been coined, is typically an extremely tough one, with literally millions competing in the same space. This has been compounded by several million new users since the start of the pandemic in February. After all, we all shared that dream of being paid to play video games growing up, and if you’ve nothing else to do, you may as well try to make it in your time in quarantine, right?
With that being said, it is precisely because of this fact that you should proceed with caution, and read everything you are signing twice before you click accept and start accepting payments.
Even if you are not quite at the minimum requirements for the Affiliate program, you need to give this agreement a good look, twice. Maybe even three or four times. I’ll be starting at the top, and reorganizing the verbiage in more layman’s terms in the way that I understand them to be.
Let’s get into it then.
You can’t change your mind, once bound, always bound
Right out of the gate we have a big ol’ red flag. To partake in the Twitch Affiliate Agreement, you agree to be bound to it without changing your mind later. It is in effect for the rest of your time using the service. This alone is worth doing a double take for and should serve to set the tone for what is to come. It ain’t lookin’ good, I’ll tell you that. As to what this locks you out of, well, I’ll be getting to that in a bit.
At least it isn’t valid until you are accepted as an affiliate…
Getting into the nitty and gritty of the Twitch Affiliate Agreement
At the very beginning of the agreement sections, it states that it permits you to use the built-in monetization tools and incentives to generate an income. Nothing unexpected, That is what you’re here for anyway. Section 2 is where things get a bit spicy. You may not like what is ahead, and you have a right to feel that way.
Exclusivity Clause is more than it first appears
The biggest issue I have with this agreement is this little part of the agreement: Section 2.2: Live Content Exclusivity.
So, if you don’t really understand what this means: You don’t own your streaming content. Twitch owns your streaming content. You sign away your rights to the media for that 24-hour window. You may be thinking, “But wait, that’s just a day. How bad could that be?”
Well, it prevents you from utilizing restream to broadcast your stream on YouTube, or any other streaming platform that rises from the ashes of Mixer. This limits your reach as a live streamer, which is one of the worst possible things to do as a new streamer trying to get a foothold into the climb. External sources of viewership is often where people actually build an audience in the first place, and this exclusivity agreement shoots that square in the foot.
The worst part of this, however, is that it gives Twitch the right to use your content in their advertisements, without your consent or payment for use of said material. After all, they own it.
I suppose there is a bit of a silver lining to this agreement in a sort of backtrack to this section, located in a completely separate place from this agreement, in the FAQ for this affiliate agreement.
Bits can be deducted from you at any point
For a quick rundown of things that are outlined in the Bits Acceptable Use Policy of what not to do with bits, I’m going to copy and paste something from it here:
Bits are not a money instrument
Bits are digital content intended to be purchased and consumed on Twitch and do not serve as a currency.Twitch’s Bits Acceptable Use Policy
With this, referring to bits as the “currency” of the platform, a means to “tip” streamers, as it is commonly referred to as, could actually end up with you losing the rights to the bits you earn on the platform, at the sole discretion of Twitch. This, among the following list, is a compilation of things you can not legally do with bits. (This list is taken directly from the Usage guidelines section.)
The things you can not do with bits
- Don’t solicit Bits in exchange for money or donations, and don’t request money or donations for Bits.
- Don’t provide items, or specific services, that are associated with a monetary value in exchange for Bits:
- Offering a hoodie, a subscription to your channel, a dinner date, graphic design services, a promise to play a specific user in a game, access to a specific VOD file, cooking lessons, or engage in a private conversation in exchange for Bits.
- Don’t ask for items, or specific services, that are associated with a monetary value in exchange for Bits:Telling the Broadcaster that you will Cheer if the broadcaster gifts you a channel subscription.
- Requesting a specific pre-recorded song to be played in exchange for an amount of Bits.
- Asking to engage with the Broadcaster in a private chat or play in a specific game based on a specific amount of Bits.
- Promising to Cheer if the Broadcaster sends you, for example, a t-shirt.
- Selling, offering to sell, trading, bartering, or transferring Bits to other users of Twitch in exchange for (a) real or virtual currencies; or (b) any other items of value whether inside or outside the Twitch Services. Any attempted prohibited sale or transfer will be null and void.
- Using Bits as a bet or wager or soliciting or accepting Bits for a bet or wager.
- Use Bits to engage in any fraudulent, criminal or other unauthorized activity, or soliciting or receiving Bits for any fraudulent, criminal or other unauthorized activity. Keep in mind the Community Guidelines also apply to your use of Bits.
To be fair, most of these points are blatant means of money laundering, so I expected something a little bit like this.
Twitch is granted the right to display advertisements of any nature
By accepting the Twitch Affiliate agreement, you are granting Twitch the right to air an advertisement on your channel, of any nature. This advertisement can take many forms, and one of the more notorious implementations is the use of a “pre-roll ad”. This ad can effectively lock out a viewer from seeing your content for a solid 90 seconds, which results in a colossal bounce rate.
You can circumvent this by running ad breaks on your channel, as per this post;
- Running a 30-second ad will result in a 10-minute pre-roll ads grace period
- A 60-second ad break results in a 20 minute grace period
- Finally, a 90-second ad results in a 30 minute grace period from pre-roll ads.
Like, I get it. Running a streaming service that hosts up to 7.12 million streamers at a time costs a lot of money to maintain (as of 7/30/2020). That said, the lack of choice on what ad content gets served is too restrictive in my opinion.
Payment Threshold of $100, and the “Maintenance fee”
Section 4.1 Is full of little surprises…
For Twitch payouts, which are paid to you on a monthly basis within 45 days after the end of each month, you have an exceedingly high payout threshold. Like, first of all, in order to get your payout, you effectively have to make $200, because 50% of everything you earn from is taken by the platform.
Not only that, but if you don’t earn $100 before the end of the year, then Twitch will cut you off from the affiliate program, and charge you a $25 “maintenance fee” before the paying out whatever is left after that $25 fee. At least in the EU, you are given 7 days’ notice of this charge beforehand. The US will receive no such warning, which honestly needs to change.
To put things in perspective: Amazon Associates, which I partake in to help cover the cost of running Streamers haven, only has a $10 minimum payout threshold. Ezoic, an Advertisement platform I had experimented with this last week, has a $20 minimum payout. Walmart’s Affiliate program is a bit closer, coming in at $50, but that is still nowhere near the Twitch Affiliate program.
It’s a bit frustrating, to be sure.
Bits & Subs are not donations, they are considered income
And That means it’s taxable. As for what it would be classified as? Honestly, you’ll need to consult an accountant on this, because I honestly have no idea, and there is too much conflicting information on the internet for me to comfortably advise on this subject. I am not a Tax Expert, and Twitch has not covered this subject in a manner that leaves no questions. This is what is on the Agreement :
What Documents do I need? What forms, I’ve no idea?! Certifications? What are you talking about? Give me something to work with! For Disability recipients, this is especially important. Partaking in the Twitch Affiliate program may actually reduce your benefits, or get you kicked off of disability altogether. You will need to be very careful with this hobby/potential career in this situation.
The Twitch Affiliate Agreement includes Indemnification
Not familiar with the term? Well, you’ll want to read up on it.
I’m not a legal expert, take that for what you will. But I know that this Twitch Affiliate agreement isn’t something you should sign without being aware of what is in it. It is my hope that you are now armed with the knowledge of what is in this commitment, and you can make an educated choice on whether or not you wish to be a part of it.
I can not stress this enough: Read and reread this agreement several times until you understand every single clause.