Stream-ripping, or the conversion of streamed content into downloadable files, has become a major problem for the recorded music industry, which reports a 50 percent increase in such unauthorized ripping in the U.S. from 2013 to 2015.
The industry in the U.S. sent a message Monday that it aims to stop the practice with organizations representing key record companies filing a copyright infringement and technology circumvention suit against a website called YouTube-mp3 (YTMP3) and its German operator Philip Matesanz in a federal court for allegedly ripping music from YouTube.
The industry rates the website, which is located at the web address www.youtube-mp3.org, as the largest in stream-ripping, with more than 60 million unique users per month.
In the U.K., the BPI, representing local record labels, put the stream-ripping site on formal notice of intended legal action if it does not cease infringing.
The lawsuit has, however, been criticized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation for “grabbing for power to conscript Internet intermediaries as content police,” as it wants certain orders served on Internet intermediaries like web hosts and domain-name registrars to block access to their routines services to YTMP3 and related websites.
YTMP3 is charged with seamlessly removing audio tracks of videos streamed from YouTube by its users, converting those tracks to MP3 format audio, and copying and storing them it on its servers, according to a complaint filed Monday by record companies including Sony Music and Warner in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
The website then distributes copies of the MP3 audio files from its servers to its users in the U.S., enabling them to download those MP3 files to their computers, tablets or smartphones, according to the complaint, which added that all of this happens without the permission of the music companies or of YouTube.
YTMP3 could not be reached for comment. On its website, it says that its service is completely free. “We need approximately 3 to 4 minutes per video,” it added. “Different from other services the whole conversion process will be perfomed by our infrastructure and you only have to download the audio file from our servers,” it added on its website.
The industry complaint has, however, been criticized by EFF as it asks the court to enjoin the defendant and all third parties “with notice of the Order, including any Web hosts, domain-name registrars, domain name registries, and proxy or reverse proxy services, and their administrators, from facilitating access to any or all domain names, URLs and websites” through which the defendants infringe the complainants’ copyrights.
The industry also wants the court to enjoin all third parties with notice of the order from maintaining, operating, or providing advertising, financial, technical or other support to YTMP3 and related domain names, URLs and websites, and also want a ban on any app that interoperates with YTMP3 and related sites through which the complainants' copyrights are infringed.
“By asking all of those intermediaries to block all 'websites through which Defendants infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights,' without specifying the URLs, the labels are seeking to conscript all of these companies as investigators who must chase down the defendants and block every website they use, under any name,” EFF wrote in its post Monday.