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Spotify suspends subscribers who stream-rip via high-speed recording app

By | Published on Friday 16 July 2021


Spotify has suspended the accounts of a number of subscribers who were using a specific stream-ripping app called Audials Music to grab permanent copies of tracks they were streaming via the digital music platform. However, the maker of that app reckons that Spotify is only able to spot the ripping if people use of a high-speed record feature.

Stream-ripping, of course, has been the music industry’s top piracy gripe for a number of years now. There are different ways that apps and websites can grab permanent copies of music that is available to stream, with some stream-ripping sites mainly grabbing audio from YouTube videos, while others work with an assortment of streaming platforms.

Generally speaking, the licensing deals done between the music industry and the streaming companies oblige the latter to do whatever they can to stop stream-ripping services from grabbing any audio stored on their servers and then turning it into MP3 files that can be downloaded and played outside of any one streaming service’s own platform.

This means that the streaming platforms instigate various technical measures in a bid to stop the stream-ripping. In turn, the streaming-ripping apps and platforms have to evolve to counter those measures. And so a game of cat and mouse unfolds.

Of course, one simpler way to grab audio from a streaming service is to simply record said audio as it plays, basically a digital version of taping music off the radio on a cassette player, 1980s style. And that’s basically what Audials Music does.

It’s an interesting approach given the recent statement regarding the legalities of stream-ripping by the French government. Asked whether ripping audio out of a stream was by definition illegal, the Ministry Of Culture in France recently said that it was of the opinion that stream-ripping was covered by the private copy exception in French copyright law providing certain conditions were met.

The key condition was that “no circumvention of technical protection measures” occurs – ie the stream-ripping technology can’t be deliberately designed to get around the technical measures introduced by Spotify et al to stop the ripping. Many stream-ripping sites do just that, and therefore grabbing audio that way probably would constitute copyright infringement, even in France.

However, if you just record a stream as it plays through a user’s device, no technical measures are being circumvented. So, according to the French Ministry Of Culture, users pulling MP3s out of their Spotify listening that way wouldn’t be breaching the country’s copyright rules.

Though, 1980s kids will tell you, the problem with taping music off the radio – or using a tape-to-tape player to make copies of an album on cassette – was that making a copy of a three minute track took three minutes.

Unless, that is, you had a high-speed tape-to-tape player, which would play the original cassette at high speed allowing the copy to be made much quicker. And Audials Music is basically the digital version of that. “Audials Music is the only software to enable its users to download from Spotify at 30 times the speed”, says the app’s website.

However, it seems, it’s the high-speed option that has allowed Spotify to spot this particular manifestation of stream-ripping as it occurs. After all, it’s kind of odd when a user listens to a three minute track in six seconds. And while stream-ripping of this kind might be allowed under the laws of France, it still breaches Spotify’s terms and conditions.

Torrentfreak notes┬áthat Audials – responding to the news that some of its users had had their Spotify accounts blocked – has written on the company’s official forum: “Spotify apparently stores detailed data about each user … in particular, it saves when you have heard which piece of music. Basically, this data should look identical, whether you are only playing or recording”.

“But Audials has a ‘high speed’ function [which means] Spotify plays music faster and so the recording succeeds faster. However, this means that the data stored by Spotify could say, for example, that you have listened to music with a playing time of 50 minutes within five minutes. We strongly suspect that this is the criterion used by Spotify to select users for temporary bans. So far, we have only received reports from users who actually used the ‘high speed’ option and were blocked”.

Therefore Audials’ official guidance to any of its users who have had their Spotify accounts suspended is first to politely request it be unsuspended (apparently that usually works) and to then stop using the high speed version of the stream-ripping tool. Good times.