Germany may play host to some of the largest eSports tournaments and provide gaming houses for some of the industry’s largest organisations, but the nations adaption to the eSports phenomenon is anything but forward-thinking. A new piece of legislature introduced by the German broadcast authority, the Landesmedianstalt, has officially classified the streaming platform Twitch as a ‘radio service offering’, requiring streamers to purchase a licence if they wish to continue streaming.
In an attempt to enforce a level of control over the thriving, yet largely un-regulated industry, the Landesmedienanstalt has temporarily ruled that live-streaming requires a broadcasting licence, natively known as a Rundfunklizenz. Licensing a broadcast can fluctuate in cost from €1000 up to €10,000 dependant on audience size and other factors – a significant hit for live-streamers earning a modest income.
The revelation comes as popular German YouTube and Twitch channel PietSmietTV was informed his channel would be shut down if he didn’t proceed with the licensing process. Under the new rules, in their current state, channels such as PietSmiet would be classified as a pirate broadcast. The Commission for Admission and Supervision of media organisations (ZAK) told streaming channel PietSmietTV it must obtain a license by April 30th or face prosecution.
The ruling was initially imposed to prevent television and radio stations from pitching themselves under the guise of a streaming platform, in order to avoid paying a broadcasting license. Though in widening the net of the existing law to prevent some of the media’s bigger fish from slipping away, the innocent ecosystem of German gaming live-streamers have become endangered.
There may yet be further regulations imposed on the German streaming community. If Twitch is now considered to be on a parallel to television broadcasters, live-streamers may also need to abide to the constrictions of the national watershed. Material deemed harmful to young persons would no longer be allowed to be broadcast before 10pm, a restriction that would be devastating for the German Counter-Strike streaming community in particular.
The Landesmedienanstalt has admitted the guidelines are in need of an update, as the prospect of live-streaming wasn’t initially considered when they rules were officially outlined. The likelihood is that the rule will be changed in the future, but until the amendment is passed, streamers will be required to follow the current word of the law:
“The [online streaming] network is full of radio-like offerings.
“For this reason, the legislation should be amended as soon as possible.”
Siegfried Schneider, Chairman of ZAK