Websites dedicated to “stream ripping” music from YouTube represent the biggest threat to the global music business, UK news outlet The Independent reported this week, citing industry figures, who added that that these shady sites are also posing business threat to “fantastic range” of legal streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. The report describes the nature of the issue: Sites that allow YouTube videos to be converted into an MP3 file and illegally downloaded to someone’s phone or computer are attracting millions of visitors, with estimates suggesting that a third of 16-24-year-olds in the UK have ripped music from the Google-owned platform. Other platforms affected by the illegal ripping sites include DailyMotion, SoundCloud and Vimeo, however YouTube is by far the most pirated. The results of a crackdown that began in 2016 are beginning to be seen, thanks to a coordinated effort by organizations representing record companies in the US and the UK. Earlier this week, stream ripping website MP3Fiber was forced to shut down following legal pressure. However, dozens of sites offering similar services still remain active and are easily accessible through Google, whose search engine provides more than 100 million results for the term “YouTube MP3 converter.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said that even referring to the aforementioned questionable websites as “stream ripping” sites is misstating copyright law. “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 told the US Office of the United States Trade Representative last year. “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.”
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