The music industry has scored a major legal victory, sinking the pirate outfit YouTube-mp3.org, a global “stream ripping” site operating out of Germany that was facilitating the theft of millions of dollars worth of music intellectual property per year.
The ruling signed today (Sept. 7) concluded the action brought last September in U.S. Federal Court Central District of California by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on behalf of the labels succeeded in shuttering the site, which had 60 million global visitors per month and was characterized by the RIAA as “the world’s largest stream ripping operation.”
Stream ripping – the process of creating a downloadable file from content that is available to stream online – is now the most prevalent form of online music copyright infringement, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). YouTube-mp3.org and sites like it typically extract audio files from music videos and distribute the sound recordings to users free permanent downloads.
The pirate sites monetize the freebies through paid advertising that is estimated by the RIAA to add up to “hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue per month,” none of it channeled back to creators, artists or copyright holders. “This is a significant win for millions of music fans, as well as music creators and legitimate music services,” RIAA chairman and CEO Cary Sherman said. “The swift and successful conclusion of this case should send an unmistakable signal to the operators of similar sites,” he added.
Stream ripping sites “blatantly infringe,” IFPI chief executive Frances Moore said. Moore noted that globally “hundreds of services with over 40 million tracks” allow fans “more options than ever before to listen to music legally, when and where they want to do so, compensating artists and labels. Stream ripping sites should not be allowed to jeopardize this and we will continue to take action against these sites.”
In researching the suit, RIAA lawyers found evidence of YouTube-mp3.org existing as far back as 2009, but “it came on to our radar around 2015,” a spokeswoman for the association said.
In September 2016 the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) sent YouTube-mp3.org a cease and desist letter. As a result of that letter and the RIAA lawsuit, the pirate company earlier this year geo-blocked users from the U.S. and U.K., but users in Germany and elsewhere were still able to infringe. This formal injunction by the U.S. court has resulted in YouTube-mp3.org agreeing to shut down globally and not to infringe in the future.
UMG Music, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group were named plaintiffs in the suit, in addition to a host of subsidiaries including Capitol Records, Zomba, and Nonesuch. Defendants were PMD Technologie UG, YouTube-mp3 and Philip Matesanz. The order was entered Tuesday (Sept. 5) by Judge André Birotte Jr. “in favor of the plaintiffs and against the defendants on all counts.”
Research conducted by IFPI finds that stream ripping sites are operating on a massive scale, with 53 per cent of all 16-24 year-olds engaged in the activity.
“This illegal site wasn’t just ripping streams, it was ripping off artists,” BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said. “Most fans understand that getting music from a genuine site supports the artists they love and allows labels to nurture the next generation of talent. Music stands on the cusp of an exciting future in the streaming age, but only if we take resolute action against illegal businesses that try to siphon away its value.”