Streaming Piracy: Is There a Problem Here?

YouTube is easily the biggest streaming music platform – by far – and it’s completely DRM-protected, just like Spotify, Pandora, and Grooveshark.

The question is, do enough people want to circumvent these limitations, or are they happy with a self-contained, streaming-only experience?

So far, MP3 and MP4 download workarounds – mostly for YouTube – have had niche appeal.  And it’s been that way for years. But whether that’s a function of consumer disinterest or simply untapped opportunity remains unclear.  Maybe there’s a killer app lurking in this category, if that fateful combination of simplicity and virality strikes.

Enter, a stupid-simple workaround for saving YouTube clips as MP3s or MP4s.  Just like so many circumvention tools before it.  But this one is downright simple-stupid to use, and it’s growing really, really fast.

Like others, the process is easy: simply captures a YouTube video from its url (makes sense), though the user must go to YouTube first and fetch that url – instead of the process happening in one interface. Here’s the process involved in saving an MP4 of an interview we recently did with Datarock.  This screenshot basically compresses a few steps: (a) entering the url after finding it on YouTube, (b) matching it to and downloading, (c) finishing the MP4 (or MP3) download itself.

  • Save

Maybe the real killer comes from a consolidated app experience, one that doesn’t involved tab-toggling and cutting-n-pasting.  And honestly, this is still a scrappy space with players far bigger than Clip.  But the scary question is whether that remains the status quo.

30 Responses

  1. balbers

    I haven’t tried Haven’t needed to, because it sounds like it does the same thing that does, which I’ve used for years. Keepvid allows you to download any video from youtube, in a variety of formats and resolutions, and has added a function to download only the audio of any video as an mp3.

    Is there anything about that is easier or better? If not, I’ll just stick with keepvid.

    • Zoso

      access is ownership right? and who needs clip DJ been using media helper in firefox for years, ONE click…

      • HansH

        @Zoso So you are ripping off artists? Strange. This is what you said in the streaming payout thread: “the alternative is to pay fairly for access to music. why are you so offended that artists should be paid fairly?”

        • Central Scrutinizer

          Hey this a free streaming service, you can not read AND remember. You are only licensed to read, comprehension and retention of data requires premium service and a different license

  2. Versus

    Hasn’t YouTube been all about piracy from the start?

    Isn’t most of the music uploaded to YouTube done so illicitly? Isn’t it also the case that the creators and rightful owners of this content don’t generally see a cent for all those streams?

    – Versus

  3. Central Scrutinizer

    Someone has commented before about Firefox conversion storage add-on for its browser that performs this function It’ s the first add-on (or used to be) listed on their add-on page.

    Simple to use, makes copyright infringement quick and easy.

    Total criminilization

    • It was me

      I made that comment and I cannot believe it goes on. I think it’s mainly because it’s seemingly legit companies doing this.

      There don’t have nasty names like ‘Pirate Bay’ so the perception is that they would never be so blatent.

      Well they are, and it’s happening right now on millions of PC’s over the world.

  4. Myles na Gopaleen

    When are the clever code hackers going to put the pinch on spotifY?

    • James

      Yes, I’ve been wondering that too. I was looking for examples of Spotify embeddable widgets the other day, and came across several sites that seemed to offer the ability to rip from Spotify, e.g. – “Ripping music from Spotify is both easy and legal.” – is it really?

      • HansH

        This software doesn’t really rip. It records the music from your sound card.

      • Myles na Gopaleen

        not so easy and not so legal. However, still just recording in real time, not ripping. Like the old days of tape recording shows off of the radio. I guess I just revealed how old I am

      • Bald Headed John

        Ha! Did you use google to find that site?

        • Bailey

          So is recording from spotify with the soundcard legal or illegal? It does not circumvent, crack any protection, it’s for personal use and according to the developers of this app, AudialsTunebite, which I was going to use, it is totally legal. So is it, or is it not?

          AudialsTunebite claims to record music from spotify easily with the help of the soundcard, so is it actually ripping/downloadind or streaming, etc from spotify?

          Here are also described the steps used to record with the app:

  5. Tone is a very cool service. i dig their simpistic approach.

    however, as someone who’s been downloading music (legally and illegally) since ’98, i’m starting to see the negative aspects of convenience and ubiquity. overall, it’s resulted in degraded sound quality, less compensation for artists and weakened attentions spans.

    many in my generation (and younger generations) have the attitude that artists don’t deserve compensation. it’s a “me me me” mentality where everything should be free and available.

    “why should i pay for spotify or pandora when i can get it for free?”

    well johnny, you’re right. you CAN get it for free. but does that make it right? just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

    and remember, i’m a guy who was probably the first person in my town to use napster. i’m not a dinosaur. just a lover of arts. i’m happy to spend money to support an artist now. that wasn’t really the case 5 years ago when i was intoxicated by convenience (and content)


    • great

      glad you’ve come to that realization; hopefully more people do as well.

      unfortunately in the years it took to come to that realization, many artists (on major label and indies) have stopped making music because they simply couldn’t pay their everyday bills.

      it’s ironic, in a way: big labels used to exploit artists by not compensating them. now it’s the fan.

    • Visitor

      Thank you for this.

      It’s the classic philosophical “is-ought” gap. Just because it is possible to get music for free, doesn’t make it right to do so.

      Otherwise, the same logic could be used to rationalize any behavior which one thinks one can get away with, from mugging to murder.

      – Versus

  6. wallow-T

    To paraphrase a 12-years-ago online tech journal whose name I have forgotten:

    In the old music business, you used free evanescent copies (radio) to motivate sales of permanent physical copies.

    In the new music business:

    – streaming delivers a bit pattern to a end-user’s computer.

    – downloading delivers a bit pattern to a end-user’s computer.

    In contrast to the radio/physical copy dichotomy, there is no fundamental difference between streaming and downloading. Any attempt to enforce such a difference requires that the end user surrender control of her computer.

    (I’ve been recording Internet radio for a decade, for car listening. The only reason I don’t routinely breakout the individual tracks is (A) the sound quality is crap, and (B) it’s a labor intensive job. But those are ultimately going to be solvable problems.)

    • wallow-T

      Also, to repeat a point I make often: The personal computer and the Internet form a toolkit for making and distributing copies. That’s what they do — if they could not make and distribute copies of arbitrary files, they would have no value at all.

    • Myles na Gopaleen

      Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg Rest In Peace

      It’s been 500+ years but for good or bad the age of copyright is just about over

  7. @brucewarila

    Stream clipping is the new old way to rip off the music industry.

  8. Shocked

    Why would you publicize a method to make piracy even easier? It’s similar (but obviously not as stupid) to the evening news telling people the biggest risks to terrorist attacks. I don’t feel so bad for the way grooveshark is grooving into you.

    • Really

      “I’m shocked…SHOCKED!!”….how about…. “Won’t anyone just think of the children!” that’s another good one.

      C’mon this isn’t the evening news and are you so naive to think that if someone wanted to rip illegal copies of music from the internet they just wouldn’t do a google search to find out the easiest way to do it?

  9. Danc

    Interesting interview by new British artist Misha B (ex of X-Factor) in today’s Metro. She says the first record she ever boight was Hallelujah by Alexandra Burke – i.e. a record that came out abut 3 years ago. Soon the ‘what’s the first record you bought?’ question will be irrelevant!

  10. Bob

    So I’m confused. By “competely DRM protected” he meant “completely unprotected,” right? Becase YouTube has no DRM.

    Also, anyone who questions whether YouTube is a major source of piracy hasn’t looked at the download numbers associated with things like “YouTube download helper” on That one tool has over 100 million downloads, and there are other tools like it.

  11. Roger Bixley

    Never heard of this service until you told me about it, so thanks.

    I tried it on some content I own the rights to. When I play it on YouTube, it sounds okay. Not even close to how it sounds off the CD and not even close to how it sounds when you get it from iTunes. But through my headphones, not bad.

    But when I downloaded it using, the resulting mp3 sounded HORRIBLE. I don’t know what kind of codec they’re using to pluck the soundtrack from youtube, but it’s bad. Just bad.

    If you’re concerned with people downloading their favorite songs and filling up their iPods with these converted tracks, you’ve got nothing to worry about. You’re better off grabbing your old cassette player and taping the song off the radio.

  12. klers

    I don’t why poeple shat it of I whated to have it back

    pleas don’t do it