From stream-ripping to crypto-mining – PRS for Music explores music piracy

Incopro UK’s COO, Helen Saunders: “Cryptocurrency mining is definitely a new trend that we have observed - we’ve seen at least 200 piracy sites use this method.”

John Mottram standing on far left beside a podium, while panellists sit on chairs onstage in front of a sign saying PRS Explores

Leading analysts, enforcers and legislators from across the music industry joined forces at PRS for Music’s King’s Cross headquarters to examine new areas and recent developments in music piracy at the first PRS Explores event of 2018.

The insightful evening of discussion began with a presentation from Mark Mulligan, Managing Director and Technology Analyst at MidiA, setting out the background and evolution of music and creative content piracy. Mulligan outlined a general decline in music piracy but also fragmentation of the types of pirate services being used, including apps singularly designed to provide access to pirate musical works.


Music piracy has come a long way since peer-to-peer file sharing networks, which is still a big issue for the film and TV industries. It is broadly on the decline, however if we find ourselves in a world of exclusive releases in music, we will likely see spikes – Tidal’s exclusive ‘The Life of Pablo’ release was a good example. The common trends we now see in music piracy are free music downloaders and stream-ripping apps.

Mark Mulligan, Managing Director and Technology Analyst at MidiA

Led by John Mottram, Head of Public Affairs at PRS for Music, a panel including Matt Cope, Deputy Director of IP Enforcement at the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), and Helen Saunders, Chief Operating Officer at IP and tech analysts Incopro, dug further into some of the areas Mark had highlighted, such as the growing use of cryptocurrency miners as an additional income stream for online businesses providing access to piracy tools or copyright infringing works.


Cryptocurrency mining is definitely a new trend that we have observed and we’ve seen at least 200 piracy sites that use this method. Whilst you are browsing on these sites, they are generating currency for themselves. Essentially, you are earning them money. We feel that this definitely an area to keep an eye on.

Incopro UK's COO, Helen Saunders

Also speaking at PRS Explores: Emerging Piracy Trends were Detective Constable Steven Salway, Anti-Piracy Operations, Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), and PRS for Music’s own Simon Bourn, Head of Litigation, Enforcement and Anti-Piracy, who went into detail on the growing trend seen in piracy apps the work PRS are doing with Apple and Google to ensure their takedown.


App-based piracy continues to gain popularity, and many of those which are music-focused rely on stream-ripping technology to source content from YouTube and other music streaming services. We will continue in our attempts to collaborate with YouTube for co-ordinated action. In the meantime we will report these to the app platforms for takedown.

Simon Bourn - PRS for Music

If pirates get a revenue stream cut off, they’ll find another route. Our aim is to disrupt and make things harder for these criminals if we can’t reach them to shut them down, most are based outside EU jurisdiction so we have to move around the laws of each country to disrupt their activities where we can.

PIPCU’s Detective Constable Steven Salway

As piracy continues to evolve, the panel touched on stream-ripping; research published last year by PRS for Music and the IPO found that stream-ripping had become the most prevalent form of music piracy, accounting for 70% of music-specific copyright infringement online.

PRS for Music continues to operate its Member Anti-Piracy System (MAPS), which has now reported 4 million URLs for sites linking to or hosting PRS for Music repertoire. 80% of the infringing links have been removed, and the initiative has led to 850 sites being entirely taken out of service.

PRS for Music launched PRS Explores in 2016, with the aim of facilitating debate about change within the music industry. Previous topics have included virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, and the EU Copyright Directive.

About PRS for Music

Here for music since 1914, PRS for Music is a world-leading music collective management organisation representing the rights of more than 175,000 talented songwriters, composers and music publishers. Redefining the global standard for music royalties, PRS for Music ensures songwriters and composers are paid whenever their musical compositions and songs are streamed, downloaded, broadcast, performed and played in public. 

For 110 years it has grown and protected the rights of the music creator community, paying out royalties with more accuracy, transparency and speed. In 2023, PRS for Music paid out £943.6m in royalties and collected a record £1.08 billion in revenues.

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