By Sophie Nevrkla
A new study by PRS for Music and the IPO has discovered that stream-ripping is the most prevalent form of music piracy in the UK, accounting for just under 70% of music-specific copyright infringement online.
Statistics in this study revealed that the use of stream-ripping websites, which let users illegally create permanent, offline copies of audio or video streams from websites like YouTube, increased by 141.3% between 2014 – 2016, making it the fastest growing form of music piracy.
Stream-ripping can take place via apps, websites, plug-ins or specially developed software on any online audio and video content to create a permanent audio cop of the music, without the rightsholders’ permission. The track can then be saved and accessed anytime offline, on any digital device such as smartphones or tablets.
YouTube is, by a significant margin, the most popular source of content for these sites, used by 75 out of the 80 stream-ripping services mentioned in the report. SoundCloud, Spotify and Deezer were amongst other popular licensed platforms targeted by online pirates.
Dennis Collopy, academic and music industry expert, commented that the surveys findings are cause for "great concern", and that the report "suggests there are problems convincing not just the post-Napster but also the post-YouTube generation of the value of music".
The vast majority of stream-ripping traffic was generated by individuals seeking out the services directly, though search engines also sent a large proportion of traffic to these illegal online services – in the case of download sites, 60% of the tragic was generated by search engines.
Of the 9,000 people surveyed in the report, 57% of UK adults stated that they were aware of stream-ripping services, whilst just 15% claimed to have used a stream-ripping service. The demographic most likely to use stream-ripping websites are males in the 16-34 age bracket, most of them of the ABC1 social grade. In the survey, apps were identified as the most common form of stream-ripping service, with 11% of individuals aware of their existence, and 54% using them.
Advertising was discovered to be the central funding model keeping stream-ripping services afloat, with 52.5% linked to malware/PUP advertising.
The reasons given for stream-ripping were: music was already owned by the user in another format (31%); wanting to listen to music offline (26%), or on the move (25%); unaffordability (21%) and overpriced music (20%).
Robert Ashcroft, CEO of PRS for Music, commented: "We hope that this research will provide the basis for a renewed and re-focused commitment to tackling online copyright infringement. The long term health of the UK’s cultural and creative sectors is in everyone’s best interests, including those of the digital service providers, and a co-ordinated industry and government approach to tackling stream ripping is essential."
Ros Lynch, copyright and IP enforcement director at the IPO, stated: "Content creators deserve to be paid for their work – it is not a grey area. This government takes IP infringement extremely seriously and we are working with our industry partners and law enforcement to tackle this emerging threat."