Streamlabs, a software development company with a focus on broadcasting and live streaming, is facing a litany of problems that might affect streamers. These problems range from software delays that cause lags in a stream to legal challenges due to possible trademark infringement.
Steamers who use the platform need to consider the future of the company and make plans to protect themselves if things go south for Streamlabs.
What Is Streamlabs?
There are a variety of different programs, apps, and software bundles designed to help streamers create the perfect live broadcast. These programs help twitch streamers make overlays, showcase leaderboards, and configure their input settings.
The most important software a streamer needs to configure is their broadcast software. This is where the game and audio capture combine to give streamers the perfect output for their broadcast. Although Xbox and PlayStation both have their own apps that allow gamers to stream directly from the console, the broadcast software allows streamers to combine special effects, overlays, and other inputs to create a perfect stream.
Streamlabs is a software company that provides streamers broadcasting solutions. Streamlabs OBS is Streamlabs’ version of open broadcast software, which they offer as a free download. This software is what allows users to configure their stream settings and broadcast to Twitch (or record the session to upload to Youtube).
Streamlabs also offers a variety of overlays, widgets, and other tools that streamers can use to customize their streams. They offer many of these tools for free, but also have a premium service that includes a variety of additional options.
What Problems are Users Having with Streamlabs?
Many users are reporting problems with Streamlabs, from lags to frame drops. Streamer BW Paco, a rising star on Twitch, switched from Streamlabs to OBS (Open Broadcast Software) because he was experiencing problems using Streamlabs.
He says “Lagging streams, sometimes to the point of ending abruptly without me knowing, really put a damper in my streaming activities. I made the decision to go back to using OBS because there was just no way for me to guarantee my stream quality with SLOBS.”
Streamers consistently take to Twitter to air their frustrations with the platform.
Sorry for the abrupt ending to stream. Streamlabs crashed.
— Erik The 👻 (@ErikTheGhost_) December 29, 2021
streamlabs failed again but i’m backkk https://t.co/4CQRqYsUAp
— mayblexzia 🎄🎁 ROADTRIP ARC (@mayblexzia) December 29, 2021
@streamlabs whats up with my alerts they haven’t worked for months
— OGNYZ | Suspect3K (@_Suspect3K) December 29, 2021
Not Just A Problem For Gamers
It’s not just gamers who are experiencing issues. Gregory Young, Chief Experience Officer for software company Convincely, used Twitch to stream presentations. Although he used Streamlabs for this, he found the interface lacking. He experienced a drop in frame rate that negatively impacted his viewer’s experience.
He states “ One of the most notable issues I experienced using Streamlabs was a consistent drop in frame rate despite adjusting the stream’s bitrate, keyframe interval, and performance presets. The subsequent flurry of technical difficulties made for a pretty negative viewing experience. When I’m delivering a presentation or trying to communicate with those in the chat room, these things need to be fine-tuned to perfection so users don’t lose patience and click away. There needs to be a more intuitive way to identify and address the root cause of issues like these within Streamlabs’ ecosystem.”
Unfortunately for Streamlabs, the issues that users were experiencing with the software were just the tip of the iceberg.
Streamlabs Accused of Copyright Infringement
Streamlabs has been accused of copyright infringement by both OBS and Lightstream. On November 16th, both OBS and Lightstream tweeted that Streamlabs had copied their intellectual property.
Near the launch of SLOBS, @streamlabs reached out to us about using the OBS name. We kindly asked them not to. They did so anyway and followed up by filing a trademark
We’ve tried to sort this out in private and they have been uncooperative at every turnhttps://t.co/r1eXr3VxcJ
— OBS (@OBSProject) November 17, 2021
🤡 Hey, can I copy your homework?
▽ Yeah, just change it up a bit so it’s not obvious you copied.
🤡 Bet. pic.twitter.com/xODY5uDZeP
— Lightstream (@Lightstream) November 16, 2021
Copyright law as it relates to open-source software is difficult to navigate. As David Reischer, intellectual property expert with Legal Advice explains:
“Copyright law relating to open-source software in America requires that attorneys and clients maintain the delicate balance between protecting rights but working within a shared community. Attorneys must understand open-source code but know how to balance it with the preservation of intellectual property rights. Clients need to understand the trade-offs and risks when using OSS in a proprietary project. A company only needs to make sure that vital elements of proprietary software remain under their control and ownership. As such, a company needs to set up a system to make sure that any open source software that is utilized is tracked and used appropriately.”
The problems between OBS and Streamlabs run deeper than just the open-source software. Much of the issue revolves around Streamlab’s use of the OBS acronym in their SLOBS offering. Jeremy Green Eche, trademark attorney with JPG Legal, explains the problem from a trademarking point of view.
“Because open source software is free for companies to use and even profit from, it creates interesting trademark law issues. If a company integrates an open-source product like OBS into its own services, it might seem reasonable to use the name OBS in the name of the tailored product, as Streamlabs did with SLOBS. However, the problem with this kind of name is that it will likely cause consumers to think that a company that’s merely using open source software is actually the creator of that open-source software.
This gives unearned credibility to Streamlabs, the third-party user, allowing it to profit from the goodwill that OBS worked very hard to build. It also causes problems for OBS, the actual originator of the software. OBS mentioned this challenge on Twitter, explaining that their user support volunteers have been receiving complaints from Streamlabs’ customers who think that OBS and Streamlab are the same entity.”
We’re often faced with confused users and even companies who do not understand the difference between the two apps.
Support volunteers are sometimes met with angry users demanding refunds. We’ve had interactions with several companies who did not realize our apps were separate.
— OBS (@OBSProject) November 17, 2021
Mr. Green Eche goes on to explain that this could be considered an understandable mistake on the part of Streamlabs if OBS hadn’t reached out and asked them not to use the OBS name when branding SLOBS.
He believes that OBS has a strong case against Streamlabs, but that it might be prohibitively expensive to pursue. A similar case where Elastic, a company that makes opensource products, is fighting the internet giant Amazon over Amazon’s use of their trademark names has been waging on for over two years. Elastic is a publicly-traded company with the resources to fight cases like this, while OBS depends on donations and volunteer labor.
Streamlabs Caves to Pressure and Agrees to Rebrand
Public support is a powerful tool. After being called out by their biggest support, popular Twitch streamer Pokimane, Streamlabs decided to rebrand their SLOBS offering. On November 17, Pokimane tweeted that she would stop using Streamlabs if they didn’t resolve the issues with OBS.
streamlabs better resolve this entire thread of issues or i’ll be asking them to take my face off the platform + look to use another donation service. https://t.co/jfJoxIvc0y
— imane 💜 (@imane) November 17, 2021
Streamlabs released a statement on Twitter on November 17 stating that they are taking action to remove the OBS trademarked name from their offerings, and they take full responsibility for their actions.
— Streamlabs (@streamlabs) November 17, 2021
Streamlabs also acknowledges that they didn’t intend to copy Lightstream’s user interface. They claimed that the landing page format was just a placeholder that wasn’t intended to go live.
We made a mistake. Text on the landing page was placeholder text that went into production by error. This is our fault. We removed the text as soon as we found out. Our intended version is now live. Lightstream team is great and we’ve reached out directly to them to apologize.
— Streamlabs (@streamlabs) November 16, 2021
User response to these attempts to rectify the situation has been tepid at best. Many users pointed out that Streamlabs only issued a statement because they were caught and it negatively affected business.
— 🐾Ahmedz 🔜 TFF 2022🐾 (@TheBigBoofer) November 17, 2021
— Weapon (@WeaponII) November 17, 2021
The changes in branding are doing little to help Streamlabs overcome the concerns that streamers still have with the software itself. Streamers are still reporting issues with lag and issues going live.
WHY WONT MY STREAMLABS STREAM TO TWITCH!! Sitting here with it saying “Live” and nun pop up on ma twitch 😐
— Cloud🖤🦋 (@YkCloudd) December 15, 2021
Streamlabs stop working for me so I’ll be switching to just OBS for streaming. Here’s hoping OBS works.
— Doctor Scruffles (@DrScruffles) December 15, 2021
Streamlabs and OBS Working Together to Move Forward
On Christmas Eve, OBS announced via Twitter and their blog that they are moving forward collaboratively with Streamlabs. It appears that the two companies have found a path forward that will benefit both and the streamers that they each hope to support.
We are grateful to Jim and the team for the open dialogue. Without your hard work, Streamlabs would not be possible. Our goal has always been to serve creators, and we are grateful for the opportunity to establish a better relationship to do that.
— Streamlabs (@streamlabs) December 24, 2021
Although this is good news for most who have been following the saga, not everyone is impressed. Many Twitter users reacted negatively to the news.
Streamlabs has done irreparable harm to their brand through their own calculated greed and deceptive practices. We all know your goal is to extract as much money from streamers as possible. I will continue to warn others against trusting and using Streamlabs. Merry Christmas.
— barbegue (@barbegue_) December 25, 2021
In the blog post: “We are happy to have Streamlabs support the project in the long-term so we can continue to build tools for the community.”
idk, but this sounds like some money changing hands. I absolutely will not use Streamlabs, but I am curious about this exchange…
— Cody (@hiimcody1) December 24, 2021
Other users are happy to see a resolution but have already moved on from Streamlabs and don’t plan to return.
Happy see a path forward but I won’t be using their services; already moved everything of mine off of Streamlabs over to other services.
— Iversman (@Iversman) December 24, 2021
After how many years? They still have links on twitch that say StreamlabsOBS but as long as you guys are being treated fair then I’m glad. Still not happy with them tho. Never using their stuff. Love you guys. Happy holidays.
— 📦 King of Boxes Himself (@BoxKingKevin) December 24, 2021
What Do Streamlab’s Problems Mean for the Average Streamer?
Although Streamlabs has addressed the legal issues, for now, many streamers have decided to move away from the platform due to the controversy and the technical problems. Lightstream and Streamelements are two alternatives to Streamlabs that many are moving towards in light of all these problems.
As BWPaco concludes “ I expect a major lawsuit to hit the company sometime in the future. On my end, I’ve been slowly migrating to other companies in preparation for this”.
Although the platform that each streamer uses is a personal decision, these are concerns that should be taken into consideration.
Neither Streamlabs, Lightstream, or OBS immediately responded to requests for comment.