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Stream-ripping site claims rivals are hitting its Google ranking by filing Rickrolling copyright notices

By | Published on Thursday 3 August 2023

The operator of a stream-ripping service has gone legal in the US after seemingly being Rickrolled by a competitor. Well, sort of. The operator of the Y2Mate and YTMP3 platforms reckons that its Google ranking has been hit by a dubious copyright notice linked to Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’.

There has been much debate, of course, about the legal status of stream-ripping sites, which allow people to grab permanent downloads of temporary streams, most commonly YouTube streams. The music industry reckons that these sites mainly exist to facilitate copyright infringement. But the stream-rippers counter that their websites have plenty of legitimate uses too.

That said, music companies – and other copyright owners – have had some success when targeting stream-ripping services with legal action. And with the music industry seeing stream-ripping as a top piracy problem, there has been plenty of legal action.

Sometimes that’s full-on litigation. Other times the record labels have sought to get web-blocking orders against stream-ripping platforms. And sometimes they complain to Google, hoping to make it harder for people to find stream-ripping services via the search engine.

When the Recording Industry Association Of America tried to get the stream-ripping service Yout de-listed from Google entirely, it hit back and actually sued the record industry trade group.

However, the RIAA then successfully argued in court that Yout’s platform circumvents technical protection measures put in place by YouTube to stop users downloading content from its site, and in doing so violates US copyright law. Yout has now taken that dispute to appeal.

Meanwhile, Y2Mate says that it is not only having to deal with copyright notices being filed against it by the music industry, but now its rivals are also filing such notices with Google. Or at least one rival is. It’s still figuring out who exactly is behind these notices.

But it matters, because Google may delist or at least downgrade websites that are on the receiving end of lots of copyright notices, provided they are issued in line with procedures set out in the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

And, assuming Y2Mate’s allegations are true, presumably its competitor is hoping that if it can get its rival downgraded in Google search, people searching for a stream-ripping service may be more likely to be directed to its site.

But the DMCA provides a number of rules regarding the sending of copyright takedown notices, in particular only the copyright owner or their agent can issue said notices. And Y2Mate reckons that its rival is submitting complaints about its stream-ripping sites by citing the ripping of audio from YouTube videos that that rival does not control.

For example, an entity called End Of YouTube Converter issued one copyright notice stating that Y2Mate was facilitating the unlicensed ripping of Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’.

Given that entity doesn’t seem to have any ties to the label or publishers that control the Astley hit, Y2Mate argues that that’s not a legitimate copyright notice. And the sender clearly picked the ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ video as a nod to the infamous Rickrolling meme.

Seemingly confirming that it is definitely caught up in a battle with a rogue copyright notice sender, Y2Mate adds that – on 15 Jul – it sent a cease and desist letter to an email address linked to the notices. Two days later a new copyright notice was filed against Y2Mate linking to Cee Lo Green’s ‘Fuck You’. So, fun times.

With all that in mind, the operator of Y2Mate wants the courts to intervene. Though, of course, from a music business perspective, if rival stream-ripping sites could Rickroll each other into oblivion, that would save the industry’s anti-piracy chiefs quite a lot of effort.