Stream ripping, particularly from YouTube, has become a top source of music piracy. But putting YouTube to MP3 conversion sites in the music industry's crosshairs is shortsighted argues Timothy Geigner of Techdirt
Guest post by Timothy Geigner of Techdirt
Concentrated attacks on technology tools that can sometimes, but not always, be used for nefarious purposes have quite a long history, from Google and Wikipedia, to suing online sites like Craigslist over how users use the service. Even torrent technology itself, having become a four-letter-word that the content industry has managed to tether to copyright infringement, is nothing more than a tool with plenty of legitimate uses.
Well, it appears that the latest target in the music industry's crosshairs are sites that rip YouTube videos into MP3 format.
Last week the major record labels managed to take out YouTube-MP3, the largest ripping site of all. Still, there are many like it that continue business as usual. For many music industry insiders, who see streamripping as one of the largest piracy threats, this is a constant source of frustration.
In the UK, music industry group BPI worked hard to tackle the issue proactively. Last year the organization already signed an agreement with YouTube-MP3 to block UK traffic. This limited the availability of the site locally, but the group believes that YouTube itself should take responsibility as well.
The crux of the plan, according to industry insiders, appears to be to get YouTube involved to block these sites from ripping its content into audio format. Between complaining that YouTube hasn't threatened enough legal action of its own and some rather silly complaints revolving around Google "steering" traffic to ripping sites via autocomplete on Google searches of all things, something of a full court press appears to be on. And, in one sense, it's understandable. Music groups that allow their music to be on YouTube look for the advertising revenue that comes along with it. One imagines that running a video through these ripping sites doesn't trigger that same ad revenue, otherwise nobody would be complaining.
But here's the thing: there are a ton of legitimate uses outside of the music business to use these sites. I use them all the time. I primarily use them for videos that are essentially speech-based content so I can listen to them on the go. History lectures, public debates, reviews: they're all on YouTube, they're all perfectly listenable in audio format, and none of the makers of that content are shouting about YouTube MP3 rips.
So what we're left with again is the content industries attacking a tool with legitimate uses simply because some percentage of the public uses it in a way they don't like.