In 2016, PRS for Music in conjunction with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), published its first wave of research into stream-ripping services, looking at how they function, their business models and the reasons consumers choose to use them.

A second study has now been published revisiting where stream-ripping sits in the music piracy landscape, in order to understand the evolution of stream-ripping services over recent years.

What is ‘stream-ripping’?

Stream-ripping is the obtaining of a permanent copy of content that is streamed online. The process can be carried out on audio and audio-visual content and, in either case, it is possible to create an audio-only copy of the music. Once a copy is created and saved, it is possible for a user to listen to it offline and share it between their devices.

Our key findings

  • Overall usage of stream-ripping services dramatically increased by 1390% between 2016 and 2019, overshadowing all other illegal online music activity in the UK.
  • Stream-ripping services now account for 80.2% of the 50 most popular music-only infringing sites, an increase of 12% since the 2016 study.
  • Within a one month time-frame, stream-ripping services accounted for 98% of the total usage across the 50 most popular music-only infringing sites.
  • A large decrease in BitTorrent sites in the 50 most popular sites is likely due to increased geo-blocking and enforcement efforts, including PRS for Music’s own Member Anti-Piracy System (MAPS) tool.
  • YouTube remains the legitimate service most exploited by stream-ripping, with 70 of the 100 services surveyed exclusively offering ‘YouTube ripping’. Spotify is now the second most affected service.
  • Advertising is still found to be the main source of funding for stream-ripping services.
  • Of 60 stream-ripping services analysed to determine server locations and hosting providers, over half (32) were found to be based in the US. 25 of the services use the content delivery network CloudFlare, which could mask their true hosting provider’s location, leading to additional challenges for copyright infringement notifications.
stream ripping usage 2020
stream ripping usage compared 2020

This report was updated in September 2020 with amendments to the sample of piracy sites analysed, as highlighted in Appendix B.

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