To tackle the ongoing rise of online piracy, the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) has taken on a new strategy.
The MPAA has hired an important government law and lobbying group – Becker & Poliakoff – to represent its interests on Capitol Hill.
So far this year, the law firm has a reported lobbying income of $945,000. Several other notable media groups have retained the services of the firm, including Broadcasting Media Partners. Last year, Becker & Poalikoff had a reported lobbying income of $1.6 million.
In lobbying registration documents filed with Congress, the law firm states it wants to tackle copyright policy with lawmakers. A 2-person team – Bert Gómez and Omar Franco – will focus on discussing “streaming piracy devices and applications” as well as the “economic impact of film industry production.”
Gómez and Franco will likely discuss the detrimental impact of easily accessible streaming devices and mobile apps. Kodi devices, for example, enable users to download and install add-on applications for streaming copyrighted movies and TV shows online. Terrarium TV, Mobdro, and Appflix – all easy-to-obtain Android apps – let users download video files usually without legal ramifications.
To take on a growing suite of applications and devices, MPAA members have taken set-top box sellers to court. Several months ago, Netflix and Amazon filed a lawsuit against SET Broadcast. SET TV, its IPTV service, allows users to purchase a subscription to stream copyright infringing works. The service hasn’t made any deal with existing Hollywood companies.
The hiring reveals the MPAA’s plan to enlist lawmakers in taking down streaming piracy for good across the US. If successful, the powerful entertainment industry organization could see copyright laws updated against streaming providers.
So, what does this mean for the music industry?
It’s no secret streaming has sparked a revival in the music industry.
Just take a look at the numbers.
Streaming revenue for the first half of 2018 reached $943.7 million at Sony, up 39.1% over the first half of 2017. Digital revenue at Warner grew 14.1% to $576 million – mostly from streaming. And, for the first half of 2018, Universal brought in $1.44 billion in streaming revenue.
Yet, as with the entertainment industry, stream ripping websites, apps, and devices are a threat to this clearly-growing and viable revenue source.
And, it may be the fault of the music industry’s favorite punching bag – YouTube.
The YouTube factor.
The music industry has long blamed YouTube for not paying fairly on free, legal streams. Music organizations, labels, and top executives have another reason to blame the popular video platform – stream ripping.
YouTube credits itself for the decrease of piracy in the industry. According to a study from RBB Economics released last year, people spend more time on the platform, which is free. Thus, argued RBB, without YouTube, people would pirate more.
Keep in mind that YouTube paid RBB Economics to publish the favorable, ‘unbiased’ report. Also, that it came days after a damning report from a third-party research firm.
Muso found that yes, people do pirate less. But, in actuality, fewer people head to piracy sites – including The Pirate Bay. Instead, they head to web-based music download sites.
And, while fewer people use torrenting websites, more people love directly downloading music videos from YouTube.
Why? Well, the video platform doesn’t charge anything to watch a music video. You may have to put up with watching an unskippable 15-or-30-second video ad. But, that’s a small price to pay for a seemingly unlimited global music catalog.
Stream ripping websites bypass ads and let users download their favorite music directly.
Plus, more people now love downloading YouTube music videos on mobile, thanks to the rise of stream ripping apps. On Android, Snaptube and TubeMate let users search for a YouTube video and select the preferred download format, including MP3.
So what has the video platform done to combat these websites and apps?
Not a single thing. Not even a minor change to its algorithm to prevent these sites and apps from working.
The RIAA and the music industry have scored a few noteworthy victories in the past several years.
Last year, YouTube-to-MP3.org shut down the largest stream ripper. Then, several weeks ago, MP3Fiber closed its doors, along with Pickvideo.net, Video-download.co, and EasyLoad.co.
Yet, the fight remains far from over.
If the MPAA manages to successfully lobby politicians against streaming devices, apps, and websites, the music industry will benefit.
Successful lawsuits against video streaming sites and device makers will set a favorable precedent for music organizations. This means the RIAA would have a stronger – and more terrifying – legal position against stream rippers.
Yet, until the music industry forces YouTube to close its algorithm loophole which allows these websites and apps to function easily, expect this fight to continue raging for years to come.
Featured image by Descrier (CC by 2.0)