Source: Bridge Winners

“It has come to our attention that you have been streaming BBO website content as (redacted) . This must stop immediately as it is an infringement of our intellectual property.

Please also remove your posted videos at twitch.tv/ .”

Earlier this week, many regular Bridge streamers on Twitch received the above letter from a representative at Bridge Base Online (BBO), claiming that streaming hands of bridge on BBO is an infringement of their intellectual property (IP). The initial communication demanded that such streamers no longer stream ANY bridge-related content coming from BBO, as well as remove any posted videos featuring BBO.

“My message to you earlier today should have included an option for you to request authorization to stream. Please accept my apology for the omission. To request authorization for streaming BBO video content on the internet, please send a written request stating the following:

-Purpose of the streaming

-Name of the platform where the content is being broadcasted

-Will you receive any payment for the content, including but not limited to advertising revenue sharing?

-Consent from other players may be required, if the CoC does not include it

-Depending on the event that will be streamed, additional authorization from the tournament director or sanctioning organization may be required”

A second email, shown above, appeared three hours later, claiming there had been an omission from the first email. Now, there is no mention of IP infringement, but we are being asked to formally request permission for “authorization to stream…BBO video content” on (possibly) a per-event basis. There are numerous issues with this proposal. First, only some streamers have received one or both of the above emails–how can people interested in starting to stream Bridge content learn about what they are supposed to do when not even all current streamers are being asked to comply with this? Alongside these lines, what about content creators who stream to and post their content on YouTube? Professional Bridge content featuring BBO has been posted to YouTube for years, and it is unclear whether those involved in these efforts are also being asked to delete all old videos. This would be a terrible loss to the Bridge community. Second, streams are often planned, but many parts of a stream occur spontaneously. If we are required to have formal permission for each stream, simply put, the majority of Bridge content on Twitch will disappear. Our community is world-wide, and policies like this could be particularly detrimental to people located outside the US. This policy is also contrary to the approach nearly every other game takes to streaming, and it is very unclear why Bridge should be treated uniquely.

Since March of this year, Bridge on Twitch has grown significantly. I started seriously streaming bridge on Twitch in June, and have been touched by what a fantastic community the Bridge Twitch environment is. The Bridge Twitch community contains exactly the demographics that we should be desperately trying to encourage and grow in the Bridge world. We are younger: many juniors and recent juniors — not just college students, but middle- and high-school aged players as well. Many working or in school. Many beginners or developing intermediate+ players looking to meet new friends and partners. It has been a place to find and foster friendly play and a sense of community, for people of all levels, under the banner of playing and enjoying Bridge. In times of COVID-19, Bridge on Twitch has understandably been some people’s only link to the wider Bridge community.

“It has come to our attention that you have been streaming BBO website content as (redacted) . This must stop immediately as it is an infringement of our intellectual property.

Please also remove your posted videos at twitch.tv/ .”

Earlier this week, many regular Bridge streamers on Twitch received the above letter from a representative at Bridge Base Online (BBO), claiming that streaming hands of bridge on BBO is an infringement of their intellectual property (IP). The initial communication demanded that such streamers no longer stream ANY bridge-related content coming from BBO, as well as remove any posted videos featuring BBO.

“My message to you earlier today should have included an option for you to request authorization to stream. Please accept my apology for the omission. To request authorization for streaming BBO video content on the internet, please send a written request stating the following:

-Purpose of the streaming

-Name of the platform where the content is being broadcasted

-Will you receive any payment for the content, including but not limited to advertising revenue sharing?

-Consent from other players may be required, if the CoC does not include it

-Depending on the event that will be streamed, additional authorization from the tournament director or sanctioning organization may be required”

A second email, shown above, appeared three hours later, claiming there had been an omission from the first email. Now, there is no mention of IP infringement, but we are being asked to formally request permission for “authorization to stream…BBO video content” on (possibly) a per-event basis. There are numerous issues with this proposal. First, only some streamers have received one or both of the above emails–how can people interested in starting to stream Bridge content learn about what they are supposed to do when not even all current streamers are being asked to comply with this? Alongside these lines, what about content creators who stream to and post their content on YouTube? Professional Bridge content featuring BBO has been posted to YouTube for years, and it is unclear whether those involved in these efforts are also being asked to delete all old videos. This would be a terrible loss to the Bridge community. Second, streams are often planned, but many parts of a stream occur spontaneously. If we are required to have formal permission for each stream, simply put, the majority of Bridge content on Twitch will disappear. Our community is world-wide, and policies like this could be particularly detrimental to people located outside the US. This policy is also contrary to the approach nearly every other game takes to streaming, and it is very unclear why Bridge should be treated uniquely.

Since March of this year, Bridge on Twitch has grown significantly. I started seriously streaming bridge on Twitch in June, and have been touched by what a fantastic community the Bridge Twitch environment is. The Bridge Twitch community contains exactly the demographics that we should be desperately trying to encourage and grow in the Bridge world. We are younger: many juniors and recent juniors — not just college students, but middle- and high-school aged players as well. Many working or in school. Many beginners or developing intermediate+ players looking to meet new friends and partners. It has been a place to find and foster friendly play and a sense of community, for people of all levels, under the banner of playing and enjoying Bridge. In times of COVID-19, Bridge on Twitch has understandably been some people’s only link to the wider Bridge community.

From BBO and the greater Bridge community’s perspective: don’t we want Bridge to grow on platforms like Twitch and be recognized as an esport? In the past few years, Chess– a similar mind sport brought up in comparison to Bridge all the time — has hit esport potential, with popular media such as The Queen’s Gambit, US Grand Master Hikaru Nakamura being picked up by a major esport group, and competitions like Pogchamps on Chess.com drawing attention like never before to the Chess community. Bridge on Twitch right now is tiny — the top Bridge streamer gets around 20-30 viewers per stream, versus the top Chess player who is getting up to over ½ a million. There is great opportunity here, not just to expand to a wider demographic, but to allow Bridge to grow in exposure to something greater than its ever been. And that is something that I can not see BBO, nor any major NBO being against in the long term. Why are we making active efforts to shut this movement for Bridge down in its infancy?

Regarding marketing concerns with intellectual property brought up in the initial BBO email, I admit to being completely ignorant. But the point is that for 99% of content providers on Twitch, streaming is a labor of love. Unless you are that top streamer in your industry with thousands upon millions of views and partnerships with major organizations: you are not making money. You are effectively providing content for free (after paying considerably for workable streaming setup–often over $1000), to a small community of friends, because you love what you are doing and find it enjoyable. From my understanding, if you look at any relationship between a major game and their gaming venue, such as Fortnite or PUBG or Call of Duty or Chess or similar, the industry standard for these games is not only “don’t censor” streaming of their game, but ENCOURAGE it. I mean, it’s pretty simple right? If you get half-a-million free views of your game from some random streamer, it’s free advertising to half-a-million people of your game. For a concrete example, Among Us existed for two years with mediocre success until the past few months, when people started streaming the game on Twitch and exploded its popularity. Imagine if the creators of Among Us decided that people were not allowed to stream their game–millions of dollars in revenue, generated entirely through the free advertising of Twitch streams, would have been lost. The relationship between Bridge and Twitch is just beginning, but we have the potential to reach people in a way previously unthought of, if we don’t stop it now.

Though the two emails received so far do not directly address this, streamers would love to work together with BBO and NBOs to create standards for covering different types of content that will address security concerns and maintain the integrity of the game. To date, we have been handling these issues in a thoughtful manner, but as Bridge on Twitch grows, we understand the need for common agreements and standards. There is a wide variety of Bridge content on BBO that is streamed–some people prefer to stream personalized teaching content, or practice with a partner or student at a teaching table; others primarily stream robot Bridge including BBO Robot challenges, BBO daylongs, the Robot NABC, and other private tournaments; still other people stream with regular and irregular partners in club games, hourly Speedballs, and more serious events including Regionals, NAOBCs, Reynolds KOs, and ALTs. Clearly, not all of these events deserve the same level of security scrutiny. As Bridge on Twitch gets bigger, I think discussions about security related to types of content would be worthy of a larger dialogue, and the streaming community wants to be part of this conversation to add our expertise.

I urge BBO to reconsider the impact of restricting streaming on their site to the wider community, and work with streamers and viewers in the Bridge Twitch community to create community accepted standards for streaming on BBO. Bridge Base Online is a wonderful venue to play and practice Bridge, and the Bridge Twitch community would hate to say goodbye. We want to continue bringing Bridge to a new generation of players. Please, work with us to ensure that our game can be enjoyed, no matter the platform: be it Twitch, BBO, or, fingers-crossed for 2021, back at the live table.

Thank you.

Respectfully,

Kyle Rockoff (BBO: Elyk25; Twitch: AceintheDesert)

With the support of:

Matthew Weingarten (BBO: coolbeans, Twitch: bridgeoverlord201)

Turtle (BBO: thedurtler, Twitch: TheDurtlerTurtle)

Gabòr Friesen (BBO: GaborF)

Seppo Sauvola (BBO: Zebutin)

Kai Eckert (BBO: marksmanma)

Note: I do not claim to represent the views of all members of the Twitch community. This is a personal statement, only meant to constructively drive awareness and support for our community. I have great faith of those at BBO and NBOs to work with streamers, and I respectfully look forward to further communication.