Over the past few years, users ripping music from sites like YouTube has been portrayed by the industry as a bigger problem than torrent sites.
According to stats published by industry group IFPI last year, 32% of all Internet users were stream rippers, up from 30% in 2016. This, according to the group, made it the leading form of music piracy.
Last week, however, a new report revealed that the practice is actually on a downward trend, with 23% of those surveyed admitting to using stream-ripping services. Despite the big decrease, the RIAA isn’t likely to step away from its enforcement efforts anytime soon, as evidenced by a new application filed at a US court.
The application for a DMCA subpoena filed in the District of Columbia targets three sites that are either directly or indirectly linked to YouTube-ripping.
In common with several previous applications, this one also requires domain registry Namecheap to hand over the personal details of their operators, providing names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, payment information and more.
The first, YouTubeMP4.biz, recently suffered a drop in traffic according to SimilarWeb stats but that blip aside, has been pulling in up to 1.2 million visits per month throughout 2019. It is most popular in the United States, followed by the UK, Thailand, India and Turkey.
Next up is Keepvid.ws, which at around three million visits per month is the most popular in the application. Perhaps unusually given the close interest of the RIAA, the YouTube-ripping platform is most popular in South Africa, with around 16% of its traffic coming from the region. India and the United States follow with around 10% each.
The last of the RIAA’s latest targets is HDMP4.net, which on the surface seems different from the rest. When accessing the site’s URL directly, visitors are greeted with a blank page, which is unusual for a stream-ripping platform.
Furthermore, Google reveals that HDMP4.net has had just a handful of DMCA notices filed against it over the past several years, the last in 2015, with none coming from the music industry. However, checking in Google’s indexes reveals that the site isn’t indexed, so that makes sense.
The RIAA does mention some specific URLs carrying its content, including tracks by Cyndi Lauper and ZZ Top, which raises the question of whether other sites are using it in some way. Indeed, checks using various resources indicate that the site, which only gained significant traffic in June this year, seems connected to a number of other ripping services.
The big question remains whether the raft of DMCA subpoenas obtained by the RIAA against companies such as Namecheap and Cloudflare are having any direct effect on the operations of these platforms. While things are probably going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about, in the main most previously-targeted sites seem unaffected.
In May, the RIAA tried to extract the personal details of huge ripping site Y2Mate.com from Cloudflare and Namecheap. At the time the site had around 60 million monthly visits and despite the efforts, remains stubbornly online today.
The only real difference now is that SimilarWeb reports the site enjoying in excess of 130 million monthly visits, more than double the traffic reported back in May. The company recently changed the way it calculates traffic but it seems unlikely to have had this much of an effect, particularly since other online measurement sites also show a big upward trend.
On the flip side, a separate effort in May to unmask the operator of YouTubNow.com, a site with 15 million monthly visits, may have paid off. The site currently carries a “maintenance” message and its traffic has tanked to almost zero. That can probably go in the success column for the RIAA.
Back in June, the RIAA homed-in on 10Convert.com, Amoyshare.com, AnythingtoMP3.cc, IMP3Juices.com, BigConverter.com, YouTubeMP4.to, QDownloader.net, GenYouTube.net, Break.TV, DL-YouTube-MP3.net, ConvertBox.net, and Downloaders.io.
At the time of writing, only ConvertBox.net seems completely down while BigConverter.com might have resorted to blocking UK traffic for reasons unknown. The rest are operational, which doesn’t sound like a notable success rate. That being said, the RIAA may have other goals in mind so the bigger picture may play out in time.
By the industry’s own accounting, stream-ripping is on a downward trend but whether that’s attributable to the RIAA’s takedown efforts remains open to speculation. That being said, the RIAA will argue it has to do something, so the pressure is likely to continue.
The latest DMCA subpoena granted by the court can be found here (pdf)