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Stream-ripping now “most prevalent” form of music piracy, says new report

By | Published on Friday 7 July 2017

Time to update your piracy charts everybody, according to a new study by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office and collecting society PRS For Music, stream-ripping is now the “most prevalent and fastest growing form of music piracy”.

Stream-ripping, of course, is where you use an app, browser plug-in or website to grab the content of a stream and convert it into a downloadable file. So in music a particularly common form of stream-ripping involves stripping the audio from a YouTube video and outputting it as an MP3. And when you can do that so easily, why bother with old-fashioned P2P file-sharing?

Far from a new method of illegally building a collection of content, there have been various calls over the years for platforms like YouTube to try to implement measures to make it harder to pull content out of a stream. Though this particular kind of piracy has been working its way up the music industry’s gripe list of late, with the UK and US record industries launching legal action against stream-ripping site last year.

According to the new study commissioned by the IPO and PRS, use of stream-ripping websites increased by 141.3% between 2014 and 2016, “overwhelmingly overshadowing all other illegal music services”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, YouTube is the most popular source of content that is stream-ripped, though streaming services SoundCloud, Spotify and Deezer are also tapped by some stream-ripping platforms.

In a survey of 9000 UK consumers, 57% of people said they were aware of stream-ripping services, while 15% confessed to using them. Reasons given for engaging in a little stream-ripping included that: a user already owned the music in another format; or they wanted access to some music offline; or they felt legal music services were overpriced. As for how the stream-ripping services make money, advertising was the primary model.

Commenting on the research, PRS CEO Robert Ashcroft said: “We hope that this research will provide the basis for a renewed and re-focused commitment to tackling online copyright infringement. The long term health of the UK’s cultural and creative sectors is in everyone’s best interests, including those of the digital service providers, and a co-ordinated industry and government approach to tackling stream-ripping is essential”.

Meanwhile Ros Lynch, Copyright & IP Enforcement Director at the IPO, added: “It’s great that legal streaming sites continue to be a hugely popular choice for consumers. The success and popularity of these platforms show the importance of evolution and innovation in the entertainment industry. Ironically it is innovation that also benefits those looking to undermine IP rights and benefit financially from copyright infringement”.

She went on: “There has never been more choice or flexibility for consumers of TV and music, however illicit streaming devices and stream-ripping are threatening this progress. Content creators deserve to be paid for their work – it is not a grey area. This government takes IP infringement extremely seriously and we are working with our industry partners and law enforcement to tackle this emerging threat”.