In 2016 a number of major record labels, including Universal, Warner Bros and Sony filed a federal lawsuit against the operators of YouTube-mp3.org. As the domain name suggests, the website allows for YouTube videos to be converted into permanent MP3 format, thus circumventing the profit that YouTube generates for artists by way of advertising.
At the time of the lawsuit YouTube-mp3.org was accused as being responsible for up to 40% of all stream ripping. Ultimately the operators of the website complied with requests to shut up shop and hand over the domain name to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
As is common place on the internet, as one operator shuts down a new one will spring up. Billboard has reported that a number of major record labels, again including Universal, Warner Bros and Sony have taken aim at FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com, two stream ripping websites based in Russia, by filing a federal complain in the Eastern District of Virginia.
It has been reported that the two websites in question account for 120 million monthly visitors whom come to rip content from YouTube. FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com have previously received warnings from the RIAA and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry but continued their stream ripping efforts.
RIAA has stated: “These sites have no place in today’s music market where fans have access to millions of songs from dozens of legitimate services that pay creators and value their work, all at the tap of a finger” and “This action should serve as an unmistakable warning to operators of similar sites that schemes to rob music creators and profit from the theft of their music will not be tolerated.”
Last year a PRS for Music and UK Intellectual Property Office study concluded that stream-ripping is the most prevalent and fastest growing form of music piracy in the UK.
However, many see stream ripping websites as being legitimate. Of course it is possible to infringe copyright on these platforms but it is equally possible to stream rip lawful content. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has stated: “RIAA’s discussion of ‘stream-ripping’ websites misstates copyright law. Websites that simply allow users to extract the audio track from a user-selected online video are not ‘illegal sites’ and are not liable for copyright infringement, unless they engage in additional conduct that meets the definition of infringement”
FLVTO.biz is a Russian based outfit and as such it is not subject to US law but it has voluntarily signed up to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It is possible to send a take down request to the operators if individuals believe that copyrighted material is being infringed on the platform. Although by the time the material is taken down, it may be too late.
Samuel O’Toole (www.lawditmusic.co.uk)