With the rise of sites of YouTube, anyone can stream videos and songs directly to their browser. It’s convenient, quick, and should generate revenue for the site and copyright holders.
However, many people prefer to have content saved on their local machines, so millions turn to so-called ‘stream-ripping’ sites.
In basic terms, these platforms allow users to download or ‘rip’ content for offline use, something which negates the need to return to YouTube for repeat plays.
While this helps with bandwidth costs and might even be good for the environment, copyright holders – music labels in particular – tend to lose revenue as a result. Furthermore, users having a library of offline songs can reduce the need for services such as Spotify, for example.
This has led to the practice of stream-ripping being labeled not only as piracy, but one of the most serious forms of piracy facing the music industry today. As a result, platforms that offer stream-ripping services are now seen in the same light as torrent sites once were.
In an effort to prevent stream-ripping by Australian citizens, Music Rights Australia, backed by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), Sony Music, Universal Music, and Warner Music, are requesting a block of several stream-ripping services.
The application first became public in January and the parties were in Federal Court again today, arguing for ISP blocks against four sites – 2conv, Flv2mp3, FLV.to, Convert2mp3. All are based overseas, one of the requirements for blocking under Australian Copyright Law.
Convert2mp3 is Germany-based and was previously declared illegal and blocked in a first-of-its-kind case in Denmark. The other three are all based in Russia and have recently been embroiled in legal action with labels in the United States. Thus far, they have emerged on top, but not without controversy (1,2).
According to barrister Rob Clarke, licenses are not available from APRA for anyone in Australia to download music content for free from YouTube, neither have the owners of YouTube been granted licenses to facilitate that.
ComputerWorld reports that in Court, Clark read from 2conv’s description of its own service, declaring that the service “converts your videos to mp3 and other formats from YouTube in just a couple of clicks.”
“They’re not your videos!” he said.
While some people may indeed download videos they own from YouTube, the music groups contend that the vast majority of people are doing so in order to amass offline libraries of music. This is particularly assisted by desktop apps published by the Russian sites that allow people to process downloads from YouTube in batches, Clark added.
The barrister also noted that the terms of service on 2conv (and indeed Flv2mp3 and FLV.to) require users to have “necessary licenses” to download content but according to ComputerWorld, Clarke poured cold water on the statement.
“We say that that’s a meaningless warranty,” he said. “The owners of this website know very well that, given they’re telling people to copy URLs from the YouTube website, those people don’t have any licenses, permissions and so on to go about downloading those videos.”
Before recent amendments to the Copyright Act, “online locations” outside Australia with a strict “primary purpose of infringing” could be blocked by ISPs. That definition was expanded last November so that sites “with the primary effect” of infringing or facilitating infringement could also be blocked.
The labels clearly hope that the Federal Court will find in their favor in this stream-ripping application and there is no doubt that the chances of that will have been increased following the recent changes to the law.
The domains requested to be blocked by ISPs in the original application are as follows: