Twitch has found itself in hot water as Rambler Group, the third-largest internet company in Russia, is suing the Amazon-owned website for 180 billion rubles ($2.8b/£2.1b) following illegal broadcasts of the English Premier League.
Rambler bought exclusive digital rights for three seasons of the football division earlier this year, and claims Twitch has breached this exclusivity deal more than 36,000 times between August and November alone.
Russia has the third-largest audience on Twitch, totalling around 7% of the users on the website. However, Rambler is seeking to permanently ban the streaming website within the country with this lawsuit. Speaking to Russian news website Kommersant, Haji Makhtiev, founder of gaming media company Kanobu, says a ban could damage online communities. “Along with YouTube, this is the place of socialization of the millennials, he says. “If the court takes the side of Rambler, it is obvious that YouTube will fall under attack.”
Meanwhile, Twitch’s lawyer, Julianna Tabastaeva, claims the company has taken “all necessary measures to eliminate the violations” but cannot always regulate what is broadcast, saying Twitch “only provides users with access to the platform and is unable to change the content posted by users, or track possible violations.”
The case will be heard in Moscow City Court on December 20th and a temporary suspension of Premier League streams on Twitch has been ordered pending an outcome. Rambler is hopeful of reaching a settlement agreement and is holding talks with Twitch.
Amazon itself has purchased exclusive rights in the UK to a number of Premier League matches over the next three years on its Prime Video service, so it’s an issue that the streaming service will want to deal with quickly.