Did Streaming Accidentally Give Birth to a New Form of Piracy?

Did Streaming Accidentally Aid This New Form Of Music Piracy?

Steve Parkinson (CC by 2.0)

Music streaming killed music piracy, right?  Not exactly.

Last February, a study published on Digital Music News showed that 20% of Americans actively pirated music.  In fact, 35 percent of Americans who buy music legitimately have also acquired music illegally at some point.

In a joint study published seven months later, researchers found that legal threats had no effect on curbing piracy.  They found that people perceive the risks of music piracy as just too low to affect current behaviors.  Furthermore, these same people perceived the benefits of pirating as far too juicy to resist.

Thankfully for the music industry, the surging popularity of legitimate music streaming put a dent in active music piracy.

At the same time, however, streaming has given birth to a new form of piracy: stream ripping.

Music streaming services are unquestionably on the rise, according to the IFPI.  More people prefer to listen to their favorite artists and tunes using services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music.   In March, Spotify reported 50 million paid subscribers.  Apple Music reported 20 million paid subscriptions in less than two years (and sharply rising).

But times are changing just as quickly on the piracy front.  A chart by Statista shows that stream ripping has become the norm when illegally accessing music.

Recently, the IFPI commissioned research firm Ipsos Connect to survey over 12,600 internet users in 13 countries.  IFPI underscored how copyright infringement currently harms the industry.  The results weren’t pretty.

49% of 16 to 24 year olds surveyed preferred to illegally save their music on their devices while listening to streaming.  Close to 55% in this group admitted to accessing music in “copyright infringing ways” in the past six months.  For those aged 25 to 34, the stream ripping number fell slightly to 40%.  Over 45% in this age, however, admitted to illegally acquiring music in the past six months.

Among all age groups, downloading music on piracy networks, like The Pirate Bay and ExtraTorrent, fell.

Image by Statista

In terms of sex, more men actively stream ripped their favorite music than women, 35% to slightly over 20%.  Men also preferred using other means of piracy to access their tunes. Downloading among both age groups, however, fell to 23% and 16%, respectively.

How do listeners prefer to stream rip?  While not naming the service outright, right before showing stream ripping stats, the IFPI noted,

“YouTube is the most used music service: 82 per cent of all YouTube visitors use it for music. More people use YouTube to consume music they already know than to discover new content.”

So, why has stream ripping has become the most popular method of acquiring music illegally? Thanks to small tools made freely available. Statistica explains,

However, now that a lot of music is available on YouTube or similar platforms, all it takes is a small tool to rip and save the song you are looking for.

In fact, stream ripping provides users with a cleaner way to pirate, albeit still illegally.

Statista finished their analysis of IFPI’s study, saying,

“It may seem less shady than rummaging through the malware-infected back alleys of the internet, but it is just as illegal in the end.”

4 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    I feel like, as long as the internet exists, piracy will exist along with it. Ending piracy is not a realistic goal. The trick is to make piracy inconvenient compared to paying for music, and unfortunately, stream ripping appears to be pretty damn convenient. Google could update their website so the software doesn’t work, though it would likely only take a day or two for someone to come out with updated software that bypasses whatever fix they attempted to make. You could try to shut down the distributor of the software (which does bypass DRM, making it illegal under DMCA), but then 10 more programs pop up in it’s place.

    Perhaps the solution is to do all those things anyway. It won’t stop stream ripping, but if people have to update their software all the time, it may make it more convenient to just pay $10/month for a streaming subscription and not have to worry about it.

    I do believe that even in spite of this form of piracy, and the low royalty rates, the music industry is still in better shape with streaming than without it. If we were all still relying solely on iTunes downloads and CDs to make money, piracy would’ve wiped us out by now. I do think relying solely on streaming for revenue is a bad idea, and we should window new releases as CDs and iTunes downloads to maximize revenue. I also think that all ad-supported services should be non-interactive in nature, and we need to find a way to put pressure on Spotify and Youtube to end or severely limit their ad-supported interactive offerings. But streaming certainly has a significant role in our industry. The important thing is not to end piracy, but to do everything we can to maximize revenue for artists, songwriters and rights holders. If whatever form that takes results in some piracy, so be it.

  2. doktor audio

    with everybody being online all the time, why is it still necessary to rip content off the web? if your phone dies, you still lose everything.

    as watching an ad is the oft only price for consumption of music or any other content, why is using adblockers not (!) considered piracy?

    and most importantly, what about the headline? has streaming evoked this form of piracy or not? napster and kazaa were as easy back then. one click away.

    please expand on why you think it is new. thanks.

  3. music stowaway

    In the days when I was young free and single, lot’s of music fans would tape music off the radio or off Top Of The Pops (TV show)..

    Interestingly, they’d often end up buying the records of their
    favorite tunes as well..

    Taping music off the radio is kind of like the old way of ripping
    music, but instead of it being from an online stream.. it’s being taken from an over-the-air broadcast..

    Very naughty indeed…!

  4. Kaëtus

    Hello, I am from Mozambique and recently (this year) I have found spotify.

    Before spotify, I used to download loads of pirated music. As I couldn’t buy the CD Of my preferred artists cause there’s no dedicated CD store in my country.

    In Here, piracy is openly propagated in the streets. Kids sell copys of Beyonce, Rihanna, Justin Bieber on CD and sometimes on flash drives.

    Only recently we started using and trusting online payments. Here the majority of the population don’t even know what’s that all about.

    That’s the thing about globalization from our perspective. The world let me know the great stuff that can’t get… Not Legally at least…

    To keep things in perspective, spotify is not even available in Africa (yes I did some tricks to get it). Even if I am willing to pay, I can’t, they don’t allow my credit card to pass and couldn’t by pass this.

    Anyway, I prefer to have quick and easy access to low quality free spotify music. Than going through the hassle of searching torrents, Russian sites and God knows what to get good quality music.