What Music Piracy Really Looks Like In 2017

Stream Ripping, Ahoy! Here's What Music Piracy Looks Like In 2017
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Stream Ripping, Ahoy! Here's What Music Piracy Looks Like In 2017
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Mickael Estace (CC by 2.0)

So, after being accused of promoting piracy, YouTube commissions a study that shows (surprise!) it actually helps curb piracy.  This is only true, though, if you don’t count the massive amount of users using stream ripping piracy sites to download content from the platform.

Right before posting strong Q2 2017 numbers thanks to strong streaming revenue, Warner Music Group secretly criticized YouTube.  In a leaked memo, WMG CEO Steve Cooper blamed the platform for taking advantage of legal DMCA ‘safe harbor’ loopholes.

Accordingly, instead of inking a long-term deal with YouTube, it only signed a limited deal.  This signals that the major label may soon focus on ‘fixing the YouTube problem for good.’

But what does this have to do with music piracy?

In an interview with Re/Core last month, RIAA CEO Cary Sherman accused YouTube of running a ‘DMCA protection racket.’  Sherman, Cooper, and other music industry insiders believe that the platform enables people to upload videos without paying artists their fair share.  Sherman explained,

Maybe it’s because YouTube is not the place where you go for your pirated movies.  But it certainly is the place you go for your pirated… I shouldn’t call it pirated.  It’s “user-uploaded.”   They’re putting up an entire album, and a picture of the artist, and therefore YouTube has become the largest on-demand music service in the world.

To defend itself from these claims, YouTube recently commissioned a new study that (allegedly) proves the contrary.

RBB Economics examined the pivotal role that the platform played in the music industry.  The study focused exclusively on YouTube data.  RBB Economics asked 1,500 users across France, the UK, Germany, and Italy about their consumption habits.  Unsurprisingly, the results showed positive results for the Google-owned video platform.

Spinning the paid survey results, YouTube’s Simon Morrison wrote,

“The study finds that… if YouTube didn’t exist, 85% of time spent on YouTube would move to lower value channels, and would result in a significant increase in piracy.”

According to Morrison, a significant portion of active users on the site would switch to piracy sites and services if the video platform suddenly vanished.  RBB Economics agreed.

“The results suggest that if YouTube were no longer able to offer music, time spent listening to pirated content would increase by +29%.  This is consistent with YouTube being a substitute for pirated content.”

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Image by YouTube/RBB Economics

According to YouTube, without the site, there would be more music piracy.  However, are things really all that clear?  Yes, of course. That is, if you exclude a massive amount of the site’s users actively stream ripping music content from the site.

So, what exactly does music piracy look like in 2017, according to a reliable (read: unbiased and unpaid) third-party source?  Let’s take a look.

Muso recently shared their “high level, all industries view” of global piracy for 2016.  The London-based firm specializes in pirate audiences.  Here’s a quick overview.

1. Nice try, YouTube.  Stream ripping from your platform is actually on the rise

Muso saw a total 191 billion global total visits to all form of piracy sites.  These include streaming, web download, public and private torrents, and stream rippers.  Muso registered 107.9 million visits to streaming sites.  Public torrent sites came in second place with 31.9 million.

Muso also saw 29.6 billion visits to web download sites, and 7.87 million to stream ripping websites.

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Image by Muso


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Image by Muso

However, there’s one key fact to pay attention to.

“2016 saw the continued rise of stream ripper sites, used primarily for downloading MP3s from YouTube music videos, overtaking web downloads to become the second largest form of online music piracy.”

With the paid RBB Economics study, the Google-owned video platform portrayed itself as a “savior” from music piracy.  However, it can’t spin this: many users on the platform actually stream-rip music videos from the platform to MP3.  Of course, more MP3 stream ripping means less payouts for artists and labels.

2. Say hello to the undisputed king of piracy demand: The United States of America

India counts with a population of around 1.33 billion people, the highest on the list.  However, less than 35% of the country’s population has access to the internet.  In the country, Muso registered 9.768 billion total visits to piracy sites.

The United States of America counts with a population of slightly over 324 million people.  And close to 89% of the population has internet access.

Besting Russia to take the top spot, Muso registered 20.356 billion total visits to piracy sites in the US.  70.94 sites were visited per internet user. Poland registered the most piracy visits per internet user at 197.33 sites.

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Image by Muso

3. Welcome to the mobile piracy reality

Muso registered 34.2 billion visits to music piracy sites throughout 2016.  However, they noted a major behavioral shift.  For the first time, mobile pirate site visits overtook desktop ones.  52% of people visited these sites through mobile devices.  During the year, this number went up 6%.  In 2015, that number reached 28%.

Between January 2016 to December 2016, Muso saw 13.8 billion visits to stream pirated content.  60% of this activity was done through mobile.  As with last year, more people stream ripped music through mobile than on desktop.

4. While the numbers remain high, daily piracy actually stagnated

Despite a shift to mobile for pirating content, overall piracy levels remained static.  As the year progressed, daily visits to pirate sites fell 6%.  In January 2016, Muso registered 16.44 billion visits.  In December 2016, it registered 13.87 billion visits.

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Image by Muso

16 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    YouTube is not the savior of anything. Through DMCA loopholes, YouTube is able to legally facilitate the illegal distribution of music. The fact that they’re paying copyright owners a pittance of ad revenue from it doesn’t make that distribution right or legal.

    The industry will be just fine without YouTube, irrespective of any increase in torrent activity. Torrenting is ultimately less convenient than stream ripping, and far less convenient than a subscription service. Convenience is king. If YouTube were to go away, I believe we would see an increase in legal subscribers (at higher royalty rates). We shouldn’t be concerned by any increase in torrenting that comes along with it.

    Let’s push Congress to fix the DMCA.

  2. Remi Swierczek

    YouTube is the biggest PIRATE BOAT on $300B music ocean!

    With UMG created, ass kissing VEVO, on the lowest deck Google is able to maintain $300B ocean as DEAD DRY SMELLY $16B SWAMP!

    Welcome to UMG created World where music is used as the fertilizer on advertising and streaming farms!

    Music is the best and the biggest CROP for internet monetization – PERIOD – Digital medieval has to STOP NOW!

    • Damien Y. Bizeau


      during the winter 2003-2004 I was living at a girlfriend in Virginia and provided anti content piracy whistleblower services for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland, requesting upfront to the legal chief counsel there Mr. Larry Watson a $1.600.000 consulting fee to work on the case; the agency never paid me a dime. The anonymous/pseudonymous peer to peer file sharing and bootlegging of mainly French music and films I was aware of had been done by Eric Francis Maurice VERMOTE, a NASA GSFC French contractor who had been communicating with Margot Frieder, the woman I was with, using his NASA e-mail account to arrange for bootlegs distribution to her (a complete collection of a very famous French singer “Serge Gainsbourg”). Frieder was a primary school teacher at the time and I was looking for a job. Having discovered the content piracy back in December 2003 while I was going through a separation and divorce with Elaine Marie Diamondidis in Rockville and facing huge financial problems I talked to Vermote nicely to explain to him I did not approve his copyrights and IP violations; he responded calmly to me he knew there was an on going complaint againt “X” in France in connexion with his type of weird activities and that he wasn’t worried about what he was doing. Vermote made a couple CDs of music he choose for me and also gave me a DVD ; the FBI didn’t want to check them out when I phoned in Washington D.C their headquarters about them. During our short friendship Vermote made me loans and I ended up not being able to pay him back $700 although he never asked me to reimburse him but I felt very bad about it. NASA Eastern Shore Special Agent (Office of Inspector General) Pete Roe investigated the case and I learned from him that he and his team asked Vermote to stop his content piracy and bootlegging; it is to note that at his personal home computer laboratory Vermote detained NASA IT equipment. Mr. Larry Watson made very clear to me he wouldn’t do anything for me to get paid to work on the case, in collaboration with IT experts and cybercrimes’ consultants and it made me sick; I started calling and faxing his office a lot and ended up being subject to a deportation matter in 2005-2006 in which I obtained Voluntary Departure. The worse had happened in 2004 when NASA got me convicted of harassment and I ended up in jail at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility Psychiatric Unit; when my father Daniel Bizeau learned I had gotten incarcerated he died from a heart attack the next day (he was 56 years old only). My main concern has always been the fact that I need to have a stable job to be able to try to organize visitations with my daughters and it has always been out of reach for me. My life has been very difficult during the last 14 years and although my oldest daughter Lana is now 18 years old, I can’t pay for her to come see me and for her studies at American University. My youngest daughters Dorian is 17 and I have no communication with her at all, I think she resents the whole mess I am in psychically, financially and socially. I would like a Dispute Resolution with NASA to move on and live normally again because I feel betrayed, need support and have been diminished in this matter. The FBI indicated to me that Vermote didn’t relate things like I did and the content piracy apparently never got technically verified, which is why I think Vermote was able to get me convicted of Public Defamation (Press matter) in July 2011 in Paris with respect to my blogging activities about my issues.

  3. Versus

    “The study finds that… if YouTube didn’t exist, 85% of time spent on YouTube would move to lower value channels, and would result in a significant increase in piracy.”

    Ah, that old chestnut of an argument:
    “If we weren’t ripping you off, someone else would be ripping you off even worse.”

    • Remi Swierczek

      You are lost YouTube functions as a free Jukebox that prevents creation of $300B music POWER PLANT.

      YouTube is like a constantly open bypass valve on Hoover Dam!

      $500M in advertising breadcrumbs (actual pay out to music in 2016) on $300B of DEAD music goodwill equals CERTIFIED STUPIDITY AND IGNORANCE.

    • Versus

      I see albums with 10 million views on YouTube, with no ad appearing before. Assuming ten tracks per album, that’s 100 MILLION track spins without a cent paid out.

      If you think you can avoid this problem by putting ads on your own music, think again. You are not only “competing against free” with your own music, but against free versions of everyone else’s music. So the thuggery works like this: If you actually charge (i.e. put ads) on your music videos, people will seek non-ad versions of your music; failing that, they will seek non-ad versions of someone else’s music. If you don’t put ads on your music, then you don’t make a penny. Either way you’re scammed.

  4. Versus

    YouTube is probably the largest pirate site of all, especially when one includes he stream ripping.

  5. YoYo

    What gets me is the labels are upset that YouTube isn’t paying their fair share. Paying who? The record label, who will take 90% of that revenue and keep it? Or the artist, who will receive a paltry payment of 1-5% of 80% of the streaming revenue?

    • Versus

      First, not all labels make such raw deals with their artists; some actually offer a fair deal.

      Second, outside of labels, self-releasing independent artists are scammed by YouTube as well.

    • Versus

      But either way, the greed of (some) labels does not negate or excuse the greed of YouTube; it just compounds the problem.

  6. Versus

    GoogleTube finds every loophole, makes every excuse, and even tries to claim the moral high ground, to avoid protecting the intellectual property of “content creators”, without which GoogleTube would be useless. Of course, GoogleTube protects its own intellectual property by any means necessary: its algorithms, and most important, its DATA, which is now the most valuable resource in the world.

    That is: Your “information” (but not ours) wants to be free, so we can make a fortune from it and not pay you a single cent.

    (The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21721656-data-economy-demands-new-approach-antitrust-rules-worlds-most-valuable-resource

  7. Doris Webb

    Hi my name is Doris Webb> I want to know I from California. I wonder music is making piracy towards me and can it stop I need to sue. People won’t stop disrespecting and pursuing me can you take it down from the last 15 years. Im tired of being pursued unlawfully. Me and my family can get killed.

  8. Edteach

    If you can torrent you can down load any album and put on anything you want. I.E. CD, IPOD what ever.