Use of Illegal Stream-Ripping Services Increases by 1390%

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The use of illegal stream-ripping services dramatically increased by 1390% in the period between 2016 and 2019, a study published by PRS for Music has found.

Stream-ripping services, which enable users to illegally create permanent offline copies of audio or video streams, are now “overshadowing all other illegal online music activity in the UK,” according to the research, which was conducted by online rights monitoring company INCOPRO.

Following analysis of data taken from INCORPRO’s Identify database, it was revealed that websites promoting these services now make up 80.2% of the 50 most popular music-infringing sites.

There was, however, a significant drop in the proportion of BitTorrent sites from the top 50, from 14 to six. This is likely due to greater geo-blocking and enforcement efforts across the wider music industry.

The legitimate service most frequently exploited by stream-ripping in this period remained YouTube, with 70 out of 100 services observed found to exclusively offering ‘YouTube ripping’. This is followed by Spotify, which has overtaken SoundCloud, while other heavily targeted licensed platforms included Deezer, Amazon Music and Tidal.

The research also noted that the main source of funding for stream-ripping services was advertising, with the biggest categories generic/other (52%), scams (34%) and malware/potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) (14%).

Simon Bourn, head of IP and litigation at PRS for Music, commented: “This report shows that music piracy is very much still alive and kicking, and that stream-ripping is now responsible for a mammoth proportion of the overall piracy problem. Streaming royalties now account for over 20% of our members’ income, and the popularity of this illegal activity has a severe and direct impact on the royalties we can collect for them from legitimate services. Each time a stream is ripped, the user is then listening to and consuming that rip outside of the licensed ecosystem.”

Andrea C. Martin, CEO at PRS for Music, highlighted the importance of protecting digital income streams in light of the COVID-19 crisis: “The prolonged absence of income from live performance means that revenues generated on legitimate digital platforms are more important than ever. While the report shows that our efforts are going in the right direction, it is equally clear that we must persist and continue to work closely with both government and the wider music industry to foster a secure digital environment for music creators and consumers alike.”

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