The practice of stream-ripping is the fastest growing and most prolific method of music piracy in the United Kingdom according to a new study from the Intellectual Property Office and music collection society PRS for Music. The report summary can be read here.
Such a method sees individuals use programs, apps, plug-ins, or websites to convert streams into permanent audio formats. For instance http://anything2mp3.com/ allows a person to copy and paste a link from Soundcloud, YouTube or Bandcamp (to name a few) and at the click of a button, download an MP3 of that track. Subscription services like Spotify and Deezer have also fallen victim with their licensed content being converted and downloaded in a similar way.
The 9,000 people strong survey revealed that stream-ripping had increased by 141.3% between the years 2014 and 2016. Some record labels claim hundreds of millions of tracks are targeted by stream-ripping services every month, with 15% of all UK adults using such services.
This practice has significantly overtaken other piracy techniques. Cyberlockers, like Dropbox, which hosts the audio files in a private folder and allows users to download such files from that folder once given access, were used 105,000 times for this purpose in September 2016 alone. However, the practice of torrenting or file-sharing, widely recognised as one of the earliest threats to labels’ profits, has continued to fall in recent years. With the continued blocking of torrent sites like Piratebay, Kickass Torrents, Fenopy and H33T by Internet Service Providers since 2012, torrenting has plateaued. The study does however state that BitTorrent was used 23,567 times in that September period.
Interestingly, 33% of those who rip streams were aged between 16-24, indicating that a new generation of music fans have circumvented the policy makers’ efforts to prevent piracy online. The most widely used streams were from YouTube with YouTube Downloader being the most frequently used app.
According to the study 25% of those surveyed believed the stream-ripping services had the necessary rights to convert and download the content. This indicates the possible gap in people’s understanding of online content and the government’s need push an agenda on education.
The research also revealed the reasons people gave as to why they stream-rip, including wanting to listen to music offline (26%), wanting to listen to music on the move (25%), feeling that music is overpriced (20%) and stating that they already owned that music in a different format (31%) (note that the above figures amount to over 100% as subjects were able to choose more than one option).
Whilst such piracy has, and continues to cost the music industry a vast amount of income, the report did find that the average UK adult spent £75 on music last year, an increase on £68 from the previous year.
Further YouTube states its existence only enhances the music industry, notably in terms of profitability. For more information on this please see here.