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Aussie music industry seeks web-blocks against stream-ripping sites

By | Published on Friday 11 January 2019

Internet

The Australian music industry is seeking new web-block injunctions against a bunch of stream-ripping services. They are hoping to force internet service providers in the country to block their customers from accessing sites where people can convert the audio of a YouTube stream into an MP3 file that they can then download.

Stream-ripping has been at the top of the music industry’s piracy gripe list for a few years now, with legal action threatened or taken against various sites offering such a service. The most high profile legal battle to date was when the US record industry sued Germany-based YouTube-mp3, ultimately forcing the entire stream-ripping set-up offline.

Meanwhile, web-blocking remains a preferred anti-piracy tactic for the record companies in countries where such an option is available under the local copyright regime.

Web-blocking was enabled in Australia via a specific new law in 2015, which was then beefed up by the recently passed Copyright Amendment Act 2018. One key change was that web-blocks are now available against sites whose ‘primary effect’ is copyright infringement, whereas the criteria was previously sites where infringing copyright was a ‘primary purpose’.

The movie industry has generally made much more use of Australia’s web-blocking law, though the record companies did seek an injunction against a then still active KickassTorrents the year after web-blocks were introduced in the country. And then when authorities elsewhere in the world had the main KAT website shut down, they asked for web-blocks against other piracy sites exploiting the Kickass name.

But Kickass, of course, was a website facilitating illegal file-sharing, as have been most of the sites targeted by web-blocks to date, both in Australia and elsewhere. Which is why it’s interesting that Music Rights Australia – representing both record labels and music publishers – has decided to specifically target stream-ripping sites through its latest web-block efforts.

The operators of most stream-ripping sites would likely argue that their services have legitimate as well as illegitimate uses, in that someone who owns a YouTube video might use their platform to quickly and easily grab their audio. In that respect, the expansion of the core web-blocking criteria from ‘primary purpose’ to ‘primary effect’ could be relevant here. A stream-ripping site’s primary purpose may be legit but the primary effect is still infringement.

That said, the makers of pretty much every file-sharing software and website that has ever existed have likewise insisted that their technologies have legitimate uses. And doing so hasn’t generally worked as an argument against web-blocks – or full-on copyright infringement litigation – where the vast majority of usage is illegitimate and the service provider does nothing to try to limit illegal uses. So if web-blocks are available against file-sharing sites, they are probably available against stream-ripping set ups too.

Confirming that the organisation is seeking web-blocks against 2conv.com, Flv2mp3.by, Flv2mp3.com, Flv2mp3.org, Convert2mp3.net, Flvto.biz and Flvto.com, a spokesperson for Music Rights Australia tells Computerworld: “These no fault injunctions are used to block the worst of the illegal sites which undermine the local and international music industry”.

They go on: “We use this effective and efficient no fault remedy to block the illegal sites which undermine the many licensed online services which give music fans the music they love where, when and how they want to hear it”.



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