Free music is easy to find nowadays. Just head over to YouTube and one can find millions of tracks, including many of the most recent releases.
This is a problem for the major record labels which don’t want tracks to leak outside YouTube’s ecosystem. For this reason, YouTube rippers are seen as a major threat.
The music industry is actively tackling this issue by requesting IPS blockades and taking site operators to court. Ideally, however, the major labels would like YouTube to take more responsibility as well.
YouTube Targets Rippers
While YouTube isn’t particularly vocal on the stream-ripping problem, it’s certainly not ignoring the issue. The video service has sent numerous cease and desist letters to the operators of these sites and more recently it actively began blocking IP-addresses.
The blocking efforts had some limited effect but YouTube rippers swiftly found workarounds, triggering an ongoing cat and mouse game. This is perhaps why YouTube is looking into other avenues as well.
Earlier this year, YouTube informed the UK Parliament that it has started domain name disputes as well. These cases are filed at the World International Property Organization (WIPO), which has an arbitration panel to resolve domain name issues.
WIPO Domain Dispute against Youtubeconverter.io
When we searched the database we found one case against Youtubeconverter.io. This stream-ripper is a familiar name. It was previously targeted by the RIAA and was also included on the most recent EU piracy watchlist.
In the WIPO complaint, Google argued that the site uses its trademark without permission, that the owner had no legitimate interest in the domain, and that the domain was registered in bad faith. As such, the domain should be taken down.
After a careful review, WIPO panelist Stephanie Hartung sided with Google. The domain name owner, a Vietnamese resident named Ken Nguyen, failed to respond but according to Hartung, there is no indication that the domain was registered for legitimate purposes.
Not Bona Fide
“Respondent has not made use of the disputed domain name in connection with a bona fide offering of goods or services, nor has Respondent been commonly known by the disputed domain name,” she writes.
While there can be exceptions for sites that have a legitimate and noncommercial use, that is not the case here. The stream-ripper clearly violates YouTube’s terms of service and is actively profiting from this activity through advertisements.
“The disputed domain name resolved to a commercially active website promoting to allow to convert and download videos and audios from the ‘YouTube’ platform – which obviously is in contrast to, and thus violating, Complainant’s Terms of Service – and also displaying pay-per-click advertisements, presumably at Respondent’s financial advantage.”
Private and False WHOIS Info
According to the WIPO panelist, it’s also evident that the domain itself is confusingly similar to the YouTube trademark. In addition, the Vietnamese owner registered it in bad faith, using a privacy service to conceal his true identity while providing false WHOIS info.
Taken together, the WIPO panel decided that the domain name has to be transferred to Google. At the time of writing, this hasn’t happened yet, but the domain isn’t resolving either.
Cat and Mouse
While Google and YouTube can celebrate this outcome as a victory, the problem doesn’t go away. There are hundreds of other tools and services that do exactly the same as Youtubeconverter.io.
In fact, the owner of Youtubeconverter.io hasn’t thrown in the towel either. When the WIPO panel decided over the matter last week, the disputed domain name redirected to ytconv.cc, which looks exactly like its predecessor, without using the YouTube trademark in the name.
And so the cat and mouse game continues.