Stream-ripping takes over as most aggressive form of music piracy increases 141%

PRS for Music and Intellectual Property Office research finds stream-ripping now overshadows all other methods of illegal music piracy

Stream-Ripping report
  • ABC1 16 to 34 year-olds are biggest culprits  
  • YouTube revealed as most popular source for illegal stream-ripping 
  • Malware/PUP advertising main funding model associated with stream-ripping services
  • Over 9000 people surveyed


A study carried out by PRS for Music and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), has found that stream-ripping is now the most prevalent and fastest growing form of music piracy in the UK, with nearly 70% of music-specific infringement dominated by the illegal online activity. 

Research revealed that the use of stream-ripping websites, which allow users to illegally create permanent offline copies of audio or video streams from sites such as YouTube, increased by 141.3% between 2014 and 2016, overwhelmingly overshadowing all other illegal music services.

In 2016, PRS for Music and the IPO jointly commissioned two separate studies by INCOPRO and Kantar Media to better understand stream-ripping and its impact on the UK market and online consumer behaviour.

Stream-ripping can be carried out via apps, websites, plug-ins or specially developed software on any online audio and video content to create a permanent audio-only copy of the music, without the rightsholders’ permission. Once saved, the track/file can be listened to offline on any digital device such as smartphones and tablets. 

YouTube was found to be the most popular source of content for these sites, used by 75 of the 80 stream-ripping services surveyed. SoundCloud, Spotify and Deezer were amongst other popular licensed platforms most targeted.

While the majority of stream-ripping traffic was found to come from individuals actively seeking the illegal services directly, search engines also delivered a significant proportion of traffic to the stream-ripping services; notably, over 60% for in the case of download sites.

In a survey of over 9000 people, 57% of UK adults claimed to be aware of stream-ripping services and 15% claimed to have used a stream-ripping service. Those who claimed to have used a stream-ripping service were significantly more likely to be male, ABC1 social grade, and between the ages of 16 to 34 years.

Of those surveyed, apps were identified as the most common type of stream-ripping service in terms of both awareness, 11%, and use, 54%.

Reasons given for stream-ripping were: music was already owned by the user in another format (31%); wanting to listen to music offline (26%), or on the move (25%); unaffordability (21%) and feeling that official music content is overpriced (20%). 

Advertising was found to be the main funding model keeping stream-ripping services active, with over half (52.5%) linked to malware/PUP advertising.*


 We hope that this research will provide the basis for a renewed and re-focused commitment to tackling online copyright infringement.  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.

Robert Ashcroft, Chief Executive, PRS for Music

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.

Ros Lynch, Copyright and IP Enforcement Director at the IPO

Consumer attitudes towards accessing music through the use of stream-ripping services is of great concern. As this research indicates, the advent of stream-ripping and the dominance of the 16-34 age group with high levels of digital literacy and an ability and willingness to find alternative ways to access free music, suggests there are problems convincing not just the post-Napster but also the post-YouTube generation of the value of music.

Dennis Collopy, academic and music industry expert


Notes to Editors

The full report can be downloaded from our website.

*Malware is a computer program software which is specifically designed to damage or gain access to the user’s computer. PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs) are computer programs usually installed in conjunction with a program which the user wants. PUPs are not always benign, malicious examples include adware and spyware.

About the survey: Precisely 9112 people surveyed - unweighted base across CAWI and CAPI

About the research: Stream-ripping analysis carried out between January 2014 and September 2016

Stream-ripping services are defined as any site, software program or app which provides users with the ability to download content from an internet stream which can be used offline.  These services can be split into five further sub-categories as follows:

  • Download Apps source and download content from licensed services – delivering through an app.
  • Download Sites source and download content from licensed services – delivering through a website.
  • Stream-ripping Sites allow the user to download content from licensed services, via the input by the user of the URL/link for where the content is made available on the licensed service.
  • Stream-ripping Plug-ins, otherwise known as browser extensions, provide browser level functionality allowing for streamed content to be downloaded. The advantage of these services is that the ripping functionality can be turned on and off by the user in real-time without the need to switch between the streaming service and the stream ripping service. Content can also therefore be downloaded in bulk, removing the need to download files one by one.
  • Stream-ripping Software is downloaded via developer websites, software or review sites, and allows for streamed content to be copied, or ripped, and stored as a downloadable file.

About the Intellectual Property Office
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights including patents, designs, trademarks and copyright.

About Dennis Collopy
Dennis Collopy is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire (‘UH”), as well as Senior Lecturer on UH’s Music and Entertainment Industry Management programme. His music industry focused research includes three “Music Experience and Behaviour in Young People” studies (with David Bahanovich) published between 2008 and 2011 followed by two Intellectual Property Office (IPO) commissioned studies; “Measuring Infringement of IP Rights” in 2013-14 and “Social Media and IP Rights”  in 2015-17, both in  collaboration with Audiencenet.

About PRS for Music

PRS for Music is a world-leading music collective management organisation representing the rights of more than 165,000 talented songwriters, composers and music publishers around the globe. Headquartered in the UK, it works diligently on behalf of its members to grow and protect the value of their rights. With a focus on innovation and integrity, PRS for Music is redefining the global standard for music royalties to ensure creators are paid whenever their musical compositions and songs are streamed, downloaded, broadcast, performed and played in public. In 2022, PRS for Music collected £964m and paid out £836.2m in royalties.

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