The music industry sees stream ripping as one of the largest piracy threats, worse than torrent sites or direct download portals.
The RIAA, IFPI, and BPI showed that they’re serious about the issue when they filed legal action against YouTube-MP3, the largest stream ripping site at the time.
This case eventually resulted in a settlement where the site, once good for over a million daily visitors, agreed to shut down voluntarily last year.
YouTube-MP3’s demise was a clear victory for the music groups, which swiftly identified their next targets, putting them under pressure, both in public and behind the scenes.
This week this appears to have taken its toll on several ‘stream ripping’ sites, which allowed users to download videos from YouTube and other platforms, with the option to convert files to MP3s.
With several million visits per month, Pickvideo is the largest of the three. According to the site, they took the drastic measures following a cease -and-desist letter.
“We’re sorry to inform you that all downloading and conversion services have been disabled to comply with a ‘Cease & Desist’ request,” a message on Pickvideo’s homepage reads.
The German-based site Video-download.co doesn’t mention a specific threat. However, it does reference the aforementioned YouTube-MP3 case, which shows that it’s worried about the legal ramifications.
“Bad news… We decided to disable all functionality for video-download forever due to the recent takedown of the bigger site youtube-mp3.org, which was based in Germany (so are we).”
The same is true for EasyLoad. In a message directed to its users, the site also cites YouTube-MP3’s legal troubles as the reason for shutting down its video downloading and conversion service.
“Due to the recent takedown of the site youtube-mp3.org we are forced to disable the functionality of our site. Sorry and thanks for your feedback and support,” EasyLoad writes.
TorrentFreak reached out to the three sites, but at the time of publishing, they are yet to respond (see update below). It seems likely that they were targeted by music industry representatives recently, but that’s not confirmed.
While the music industry groups can scrap a few targets this week, their ‘stream ripping’ problem isn’t going away. A quick search for terms such as “Youtube download Mp3” reveals dozens of working alternatives.
UK music group BPI informed TorrentFreak today that the YouTube-MP3 case is having an impact on the operations of other ripping sites, but the industry is well-aware that their battle isn’t over yet.
“These sites are making large sums of money from music without paying a penny to those that invest in and create it,” a BPI spokesperson tells TF.
“We continue to pursue our strategy to clear these illegal sites, to prevent music fans from being ripped off and to further encourage the use of legal music sites.”
It is worth noting that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) previously stressed that not all stream ripping sites are facilitating copyright infringement by definition.
While some people may use these sites to ‘pirate’ tracks there are also legitimate purposes, the digital rights group said. Some creators specifically allow others to download and modify their work, for example, and in other cases ripping can be seen as fair use.
“There exists a vast and growing volume of online video that is licensed for free downloading and modification, or contains audio tracks that are not subject to copyright,” the EFF stressed.
“Moreover, many audio extractions qualify as non-infringing fair uses under copyright. Providing a service that is capable of extracting audio tracks for these lawful purposes is itself lawful, even if some users infringe.”
Despite these arguments, however, the music industry is not going to stop applying pressure against the sites they see as clear infringers. And as today’s examples show, that sometimes pays off.
Update: The owner of Video-download.co tells TorrentFreak that he received a letter from a US company, urging him to shut the site down before June 12 of face legal action. The letter stated that the website violated the law and referenced the youtube-mp3.org case.
The owner of EasyLoad also confirmed that the site received a cease and desist letter.