In the eighties and nineties, MTV was the place to go to watch music videos. That’s all changed now of course. If you want to watch a music video, YouTube is the number one destination.
If you like a song, it’s really easy to rip the music from the video, using one of the many free online services. Just paste in the URL and hey presto it comes out as an MP3. Some sites even let you specify the audio quality, and add tags. However, the music labels understandably aren’t keen on this "stream ripping", and plan to put a stop to it.
With this aim in mind, the world's largest record labels, including Sony, Warner Bros, and Universal, have filed a claim against YouTube-mp3.org and its German operator Philip Matesanz, in a federal court in Los Angeles.
The labels claim that "tens, or even hundreds, of millions of tracks are illegally copied and distributed by stream-ripping services each month" and say that YouTube-mp3.org has more than 60 million unique monthly users. They are seeking $150,000 per every alleged act of piracy and asking the court to stop web hosts and advertisers from facilitating access to the site.
Cary Sherman, the Chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said: "This site is raking in millions on the backs of artists, songwriters and labels. We are doing our part, but everyone in the music ecosystem who says they believe that artists should be compensated for their work has a role to play. It should not be so easy to engage in this activity in the first place, and no stream ripping site should appear at the top of any search result or app chart".
Geoff Taylor, BPI Chief Executive, added: "It’s time to stop illegal sites like this building huge fortunes by ripping off artists and labels. Fans have access now to a fantastic range of legal music streaming services, but they can only exist if we take action to tackle the online black market. We hope that responsible advertisers, search engines and hosting providers will also reflect on the ethics of supporting sites that enrich themselves by defrauding creators".
Of course, YouTube-mp3.org is just one stream ripping site. There are many, many more on the web, and you can also download songs from YouTube using third-party software such as Freemake YouTube to MP3 Converter.
This is just the first salvo from the music labels, so expect more sites to be targeted with legal action in the coming months and years.