Did Facebook Just Ban Livestream Shows? No.

Sep 14, 2020

Those who keep their eyes on obscure terms of service updates did a double-take freak-out last week when Facebook published rules that on first glance suggested that performances over Facebook or Instagram would be against the platform’s rules starting October 1. One particularly alarming sentence was, “You may not use videos on our Products to create a music listening experience.”

Since live streaming for tips over the world’s biggest social network has become a critical lifeline for artists who are off the road due to Covid-19, this verbiage led to a lot of speculation and calls to attorneys. Fortunately the tizzy of confusion led Facebook to post clarification over the weekend in a blog post. “Traditional live music performances (e.g., filming an artist or band performing live) are permitted,” it said, as it went on to clarify that what it’s trying to do is squash livestreamers who simply play records in sequence or who use entire recorded songs to enhance their videos.

So the rules update won’t stop, for example, Josh Daniel’s daily Quarantine Sessions (currently at day 182) that we profiled in May. But they do inhibit or prohibit live DJ sessions, such as the one North Carolina bluegrass musician Charles Humphrey III has done periodically from his home, spinning old country, bluegrass and soul. Reached by text, he confirmed “Yes, it’s not legal. I’ve been playing obscure records but the big label stuff it recognizes and will flag.” Computer systems can recognize most commercial recordings and automatically notify the offender, with penalties that include blocking the stream in real time, up to threatening the source page itself.