Amid accusations of plagiarizing, exploitative trademarking, copycat products and services, and predatory customer policies, the company’s grips on ownership and fairness may appear tenuous.
Update: Streamlabs has committed to removing OBS from its streaming application’s name on Twitter:
“We are taking immediate action to remove OBS from our name. Streamlabs OBS is built on top of the OBS open-source platform; Streamlabs OBS is also open source, and our code is publicly available. We take responsibility for our actions and will support the community.”
At least four organizations within 24 hours have come out with harsh criticism aimed at Streamlabs, and customers are chiming in with their own stories. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering using products and services by Streamlabs.
They allegedly uploaded a competitor’s marketing copy to sell their own subscriptions
The latest online buzz about the company started when Lightstream CEO, Stu Grubbs, took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with Streamlabs apparently plagiarizing his company’s marketing material nearly word-for-word to sell subscriptions to its own service.
“The team at @streamlabs should be ashamed. Not satisfied enough to ride @OBSProject’s hard work. Now to copy ours down to the layout and every word on our marketing site and our UX in this product.”Stu Grubbs, CEO, Lightstream
Indeed, the Tweet he quoted from Lightstream’s Twitter account showed a side-by-side comparison of homepages in which Streamlabs’ copy not only matched Lightstream’s text word for word, even the page design appears to bear only superficial differences.
Of particular note were a set of reviews near the bottom of the landing page. Streamlabs went to the effort of making up user names and finding new profile pictures before changing “Lightstream” to Streamlabs Studio” in their testimonials. This point will be important in a moment.
They say it was an accident
@Streamlabs replied in the Lightstream thread with an apology and explanation.
“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 via Twitter
The careful reconstruction of the testimonials under fictitious names with new avatars seems to suggest that either this is not true or someone went to great lengths to tidy up reviews that would not appear in the site’s final production version at all.
It’s also worth noting that this page was not tucked away in a large, informative website. This was the homepage, and the only informational page on the site. From here, users are directed to log in, visit the Discord server for support, or view fine print pages from links in the footer. This seems like a difficult mistake to make.
StreamlabsStudio.com still seems clearly modeled after the Lightstream marketing site to the point that, without names, it would be nearly impossible to tell which was which.
Team OBS seems to want nothing to do with them
Many users (including this writer) were stunned to find out the OBS team wanted nothing to do with Streamlabs OBS (SLOBS), and in fact, they say they explicitly asked Streamlabs not to include OBS in the application’s name.
“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 turn
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.
Legally they have obeyed the terms of the GPL but they have repeatedly disregarded the spirit of open source and of giving back.
Despite these actions by Streamlabs, the OBS Project will continue to provide free, open software and tools for everybody.
We will continue to support our users, the community, and our amazing developers for their hard work.@OBSProject via Twitter
It’s not your fault if you’re confused. Here’s the layout:
- Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is an open-source software project that started years ago. Later it became OBS Studio and, while it enjoys sponsorship from major contributors like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch, it has remained free and volunteers are responsible for its ongoing development.
- Streamlabs, previously having no connection to OBS, forked the OBS repository and started their own app called Streamlabs OBS. The OBS GPL2 license allows for such a fork, but requires that the spin-off application also remains open source, which Streamlabs OBS actually is.
- @OBSProject says Streamlabs approached the OBS Studio team during this transition for its blessing regarding this name, and the OBS team apparently said some version of, “No, please do not.”
- Streamlabs apparently proceeded not only to do it anyway, but activated a trademark for “Streamlabs OBS” which, the OBS team says, has led to mass confusion about what belongs to whom, and has even resulted in Streamlabs’ unsatisfied customers (we’ll get to them here shortly) abusing OBS volunteers.
- Finally, and take this for no more than it’s worth, Streamlabs leaned in on the name SLOBS. Yikes.
Elgato and 1UpCoin have copycat beefs
Streaming hardware and software developer Elgato was quick to join Lightstream’s thread to commiserate.
The company called out Streamlabs for putting together Streamlabs Deck, an app designed to let streamers control a broadcast from a number of mobile devices, following the release of Elgato’s nearly identical app, Stream Deck.
1UpCoin, a service provider helping streamers accept cryptocurrency donations, said Streamlabs reached out to collaborate on making its services widely available before, ultimately, cutting the company off and doing it alone.
They are plagued with customer complaints
A number of streamers, including some who like Streamlabs’ offerings, ultimately seem to regret becoming Streamlabs customers.
Though not accredited, Streamlabs has a total of 40 documented customer complaints at the Better Business Bureau website at the time of writing, mostly in the categories of product/service problems and billing/collections. Common among the customer issues are complaints that it’s too easy to unwittingly order one year of membership billed at once instead of a month-to-month subscription, Streamlabs can’t be contacted over the phone, and the company refuses any refund requested more than one hour after purchase. The company matter-of-factly defends these decisions to the BBB website.
In another case, an anonymous customer accuses the company of using historical payment data to charge a payment method they had previously removed from their account for fear of an unauthorized transaction.
The company’s TrustPilot.com profile features similar complaints.
Streamlabs did not immediately respond to a request for comments. CodeWritePlay will continue to follow the story.
Todd Mitchell is a US Midwest-based comedy writer and game developer with bylines at Weekly Humorist, Fanbyte, Slackjaw, End of the Bench Sports, and more. He’s the author of Inside Video Game Creation, the founder of CodeWritePlay, and host of several podcasts including GameDev Breakdown and Fully Remote with Todd Mitchell. Follow him on Twitter @Mechatodzilla.