Today’s legal music streaming services are providing a service that would’ve been unimaginable 15 years ago.
Not only do they provide access to tens of millions of tracks, they do so conveniently, on multiple platforms, and at a fair price. In fact, streaming services like Spotify and Deezer go a step further by offering a free-tier that costs nothing.
In many respects and for most people, it’s the often-mentioned piracy-busting formula made reality. Of course, there are some outliers.
Piracy of Streaming Platforms
Despite ticking most boxes, streaming platforms still have to contend with piracy. In the majority of instances this is carried out either by people who can’t pay, want additional features such as permanent downloads of DRM-free music, or simply don’t want to consume the ads that make the free-tier possible.
These people often use custom or modified Spotify and Deezer applications, obtainable from a number of unofficial sources and installed mainly on the Android platform. They can remove ads, act as downloaders, and also remove other restrictions imposed by streaming platforms on their free-tiers. It’s unclear how many people use them but both Deezer and Spotify would like to mitigate their use.
Spotify and Deezer’s Anti-Piracy Measures
Over the years, both Spotify and Deezer have taken action aimed at disrupting modded and custom clients from accessing their networks.
In 2017, Deezer targeted popular tool Deezloader and many related project forks. A year later, the company spoiled the party for reincarnation app Deezloader Reborn and later targeted Deezloader Remix.
Spotify has been active too. In March 2020, a law firm acting for Spotify took down a piece of Windows software that allowed users to download and remove DRM from music tracks while skipping ads. XSpotify, which also carried an ad-blocking feature, was described as a tool that “steals” Spotify encryption keys in breach of the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA.
Just two months later, Spotify sent a wave of DMCA notices to Github, hoping to make modded clients harder to find.
Appealing Directly to Pirates: The Spotify Approach
While the anti-piracy actions detailed above were never publicized by Spotify or Deezer themselves, sometimes the companies’ actions (when they directly involve pirating ‘customers’) become too big to hide. Most notably, around March 2018 Spotify mass-emailed an unknown number of users warning that their activity had been noted and their ‘pirate’ client had been disabled.
After thanking recipients for being Spotify users (even pirates need accounts), Spotify changed its tone.
“If we detect repeated use of unauthorized apps in violation of our terms, we reserve all rights, including suspending or terminating your account,” Spotify wrote.
Appealing Directly to Pirates: Deezer’s Sweet Talk
This week, a number of people using modified Deezer clients received an interesting email directly from the ‘Deezer Security Team’. At least one user posted a copy to Reddit, with others confirming they’d received the same communication.
“We see you,” the email begins, with a small pirate flag waving alongside.
“We know that you’re not using the official version of Deezer, and we’re not going to stop you.”
As disarming sentences go, this is a pretty big one when it comes to piracy. While Deezer knows that these specific users are pirating its service, has their email addresses (and probably all of their IP addresses too), and could instantly ban them or worse, it says it will do absolutely nothing. Not even the threat of a ban makes it to the email.
The image above was posted with the title “Respect” suggesting that being nice to pirates is a better headline approach than being too aggressive. And, while there were some critical voices, there was also a lot of support for Deezer as a company.
Interestingly, however, the company’s message, that people should be worried about malware, wasn’t a topic of conversation in the places we found it reported.
Whether any of this will result in modded-client users signing up to Deezer is another matter but viewing the company as a friend, not a foe, might bode well for future relations. And keep people away from rival Spotify.