YouTube-mp3.org, formerly the world’s largest site dedicated to offering illegally ‘stream ripped’ music, has ceased to operate following legal action from record companies in the U.S. and UK. The Germany-based site, which had 60 million visitors per month from around the world, has shut down globally and its operator has agreed not to infringe the rights of artists and record companies in the future.
Stream ripping, which is 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. Sites like YouTube-mp3.org extract an audio file from an audiovisual work – usually a music video – and present it to a user as a free permanent download that can be added to their music library. These sites exploit high levels of traffic to profit from advertising. It is estimated that YouTube-mp3.org generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue per month, often from major brands. However, these sites do not pay anything back to music artists or creators.
The international legal action brought by organisations representing record companies in the U.S. and UK against YouTube-mp3.org detailed the egregious illegal nature of stream ripping and serves as a strong warning to other similar sites.
IFPI Chief Executive Frances Moore said: “Stream ripping sites blatantly infringe the rights of record companies and artists.
“Today, music companies and licensed digital services work together to offer fans more options than ever before to listen to music legally, when and where they want to do so – hundreds of services with over 40 million tracks – all while compensating artists and labels. Stream ripping sites should not be allowed to jeopardise this and we will continue to take action against these sites.”
“This is a significant win for millions of music fans, as well as music creators and legitimate music services,” said Cary Sherman, Chairman and CEO, RIAA. “One of the world’s most egregious stream ripping sites has shuttered. Sites like these undermine the health of the legitimate marketplace and the livelihoods of millions of music creators worldwide. The swift and successful conclusion of this case should send an unmistakable signal to the operators of similar sites.”
Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI, said: “This illegal site wasn’t just ripping streams, it was ripping off artists. 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.”
In the UK, the BPI, representing UK record labels, warned the site that it would face legal action if it did not immediately stop infringing copyright. In October 2016 the site agreed to block downloading by UK visitors.
In the United States, legal proceedings were filed by the RIAA on behalf of U.S. record labels in federal court in California against YouTube-mp3.org for flagrantly violating the labels’ copyrights. In a settlement agreement with the record companies, the site promises to shut down globally, not to infringe in the future and to comply with a formal injunction that has now been approved by the U.S. court.
Stream ripping is the fastest growing form of music piracy globally. Research conducted by IFPI and Ipsos 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.
Stream ripping is a threat to the entire music ecosystem, including digital platforms that are acting responsibly by trying to attract listeners and sign up subscribers to licensed digital services. The recorded music industry will continue to take firm action to tackle other stream ripping sites.