Does Stream-Ripping Qualify as Copyright Infringement?

By: Scarinci Hollenbeck

YouTube-mp3 (YTMP3) is a free-to-use stream-ripping service that extracts audio from YouTube videos, converts the audio to MP3 files, copies the MP3 files to its servers and allows users to download the files from its of the music industry’s biggest record companies, including UMG, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Bros. Records, along with their affiliated labels, recently filed a copyright infringement and technology circumvention suit with the United States District Court for the Central District of California. The suit contends that the service enables users to download content owned by the plaintiffs without the latter’s consent. 

The record companies’ case

The plaintiffs named YTMP3 operator and PMD Technologie UG owner Philip Matesanz as the defendant. According to the complaint, Matesanz provides the means (via the website and facilities which host YTMP3 servers) that enable people to commit copyright infringement, and as such, violates the plaintiffs’ copyrights, as well as YouTube’s Terms of Service. The complaint further alleges that YTMP3 is responsible for more than 40 percent of all illicit music stream-ripping from YouTube. According to the plaintiffs, “[YTMP3’s] infringing activity is enormous.”

This isn’t the first time Matesanz has faced legal action for this stream-ripping website. On July 5, 2012, Google threatened to file a suit against Matesanz if he failed to shut down YTMP3. More than 4.3 million people came to Matesanz’s aid, signing a petition on asserting that YTMP3 has the right to publicly broadcast content.

Potential Damages

Pursuant to US copyright law, downloading copyrighted works without permission of the copyright owner is a violation of the owner’s exclusive rights to reproduce and distribute the works in question. Infringers can be held liable to copyright owners for up to $150,000 per work. If the defendants are held liable in this suit, their potential liability could be enormous as the complaint alleges “that tens, or even hundreds, of millions of tracks are illegally copied and distributed by stream ripping services each month,” and that defendants account “for upwards of 40% of all unlawful stream ripping that take place in the world.”

Do you have any questions? Would you like to discuss the matter further? If so, please contact me, Shane Birnbaum, at 201-806-3364.

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