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Record industry sues as stream-ripping tops piracy agenda

By | Published on Tuesday 27 September 2016

OK people, it’s time to update your piracy gripe lists. You all have a piracy gripe list, right? I store mine on my vKontakte profile. But only now that vKontakte no longer tops the piracy gripe list. Some people reckon that it was my refusal to store my piracy gripe list on my vKontakte profile while vKontakte was on my piracy gripe list that forced vKontakte to do the things it did to ensure vKontakte was no longer on my piracy gripe list. But I couldn’t possibly comment on any of that.

Anyway, if you’ve still got vKontakte at the top of your piracy gripe list, then get yourself a bottle of Tippex and remove it forthwith. Stream-ripping, that’s the real enemy, people. Bloody stream-ripping. Fucking stream-rippers. Will you all please stop stream-ripping? And that person sitting next to you currently stream-ripping, slap them on their head. Hard. We need to stop the stream-ripping. Think of the children, I say. Why won’t anyone ever think about the children? Too busy stream-ripping probably.

So yes, the US and UK record industries yesterday both began legal proceedings against, and not just because everyone in the music business is desperate to sue a company with YouTube in its name and it got to the point that people just couldn’t wait any longer for all that safe harbours nonsense to be sorted out. No, Germany-based is being sued because it’s the biggest site dedicated to stream-ripping and, as I may have mentioned, stream-ripping is now the top piracy gripe.

“Stream ripping is the process of ‘ripping’ or creating a downloadable file from content that is available to stream online”, says the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry, just in case you were wondering. “It is often done with music videos, to create copies of tracks that can be downloaded and listened to offline or on other devices”.

Sites like make it remarkably easy to strip the audio off streaming videos and download it as an MP3, and in some ways it’s amazing it took this long for the record companies to go legal on all this. They possibly hoped YouTube itself would go after the sites that allow users to rip audio off its platform – and they did a little – though we all know about YouTube don’t we? “Bloody YouTube”. Though get on message people, today it’s “Bloody”.

“This is a co-ordinated action to protect the rights of artists and labels from the blatant infringements of YouTube-mp3, the world’s single-largest ‘stream ripping’ site”, said IFPI boss Frances Moore while announcing the record industry’s new legal efforts yesterday. “Music companies and digital services today offer fans more options than ever before to listen to music legally, when and where they want to do so – over hundreds of services with scores of millions of tracks – all while compensating artists and labels. Stream ripping sites should not be allowed jeopardise this”.

That “co-ordinated action” sees the majors in the US sue both and its operator Philip Matesanz through the Californian courts, while in the UK record industry trade group the BPI has put the site on formal notice that legal action will be launched if it does not cease making copies without licence with immediate effect. It will be interesting to see how the site responds, and whether it will attempt a defence.

“This site is raking in millions on the backs of artists, songwriters and labels”, declared Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association Of America, before issuing a coded call on the likes of Google and Apple to assist in curbing the stream-rips. “We are doing our part, but everyone in the music ecosystem who says they believe that artists should be compensated for their work has a role to play. It should not be so easy to engage in this activity in the first place and no stream ripping site should appear at the top of any search result or app chart”.

Meanwhile BPI boss Geoff Taylor was more explicit in calling on search engines to downgrade (or preferably de-list) stream-ripping platforms, while also requesting that advertisers ensure their banners don’t appear on these sites. “It’s time to stop illegal sites like this building huge fortunes by ripping off artists and labels”, Taylor said. “Fans have access now to a fantastic range of legal music streaming services, but they can only exist if we take action to tackle the online black market. We hope that responsible advertisers, search engines and hosting providers will also reflect on the ethics of supporting sites that enrich themselves by defrauding creators”.

It’s the banner ads that provide the “millions” the record industry reckons Matesanz is making off the back of free-to-use Almost ironically, when I checked out the site this morning – in the name of journalistic research I would like to add – a banner for London Metropolitan University appeared, which is where I did my law degree and wrote my dissertation on music piracy. Which is almost ironic, isn’t it?

Hey, talking about me talking about piracy, why not come to my CMU Insights masterclass next month all about the music industry’s past, present and future efforts to crack down on online copyright infringement. It’ll be great. And in the break we’ll find some stream-rippers and given them a good kicking. See you there!