Stream-ripping is now the most dominant form of music piracy in the UK, according to research by the Intellectual Property Office and PRS For Music.
The Online Copyright Infringement (OCI) Tracker, commissioned by the IPO, has revealed that 15 per cent of UK Internet users, approximately 7 million people, either stream or download material that infringes copyright.
Legitimate streaming has grown in popularity once again with Spotify seeing a noteworthy 7 per cent increase in user numbers since 2016.
However illicitly adapted set-top boxes, which allow users to illegally stream premium TV content such as blockbuster movies, threaten to undermine recent progress. 13 per cent of online infringers are using streaming boxes that can be easily adapted to stream illicit content. In an effort to understand where further action might be necessary to address this problem the IPO has also published a call for views. The Government response is scheduled to be published later this summer.
Legal streaming of music is also under threat. Stream-ripping, by which Internet users remove and store content away from its original advertising-revenue generating platform, is becoming a significant problem.
Several websites and apps allow users to turn Spotify songs, YouTube videos and other streaming content into permanent files to store on phones and computers.
Record labels, in a law suit brought against Youtube-mp3.org in September 2016, claimed that “tens, or even hundreds of millions of tracks are illegally copied and distributed by stream-ripping services each month”.
One service alone is thought to have more than 60 million monthly users. According to research, 15 per cent of adults in the UK regularly use these services, with 33 per cent of them coming from the 16-24 age bracket.
Overall usage of stream-ripping sites increased by 141.3 per cent between 2014 and 2016, overshadowing all other illegal music services.
Ros Lynch, Copyright and IP Enforcement Director at the IPO, said: “It’s great that legal streaming sites continue to be a hugely popular choice for consumers. The success and popularity of these platforms show the importance of evolution and innovation in the entertainment industry. Ironically, it is innovation that also benefits those looking to undermine IP rights and benefit financially from copyright infringement. There has never been more choice or flexibility for consumers of TV and music, however illicit streaming devices and stream-ripping are threatening this progress.”
“Content creators deserve to be paid for their work – it is not a grey area. This government takes IP infringement extremely seriously and we are working with our industry partners and law enforcement to tackle this emerging threat,” she confirmed.
“We hope that this research will provide the basis for a renewed and re-focused commitment to tackling online copyright infringement,” added Robert Ashcroft, Chief Executive, PRS for Music. “The-long term health of the UK’s cultural and creative sectors is in everyone’s best interests, including those of the digital service providers, and a co-ordinated industry and government approach to tackling stream ripping is essential.