Although YouTube is first and foremost a source for movie trailers, makeup tutorials, and cute puppy countdowns, its cornucopia of music videos is the root of a new lawsuit. The BBC reports that YouTube-mp3.org, a website with no affiliation to YouTube that nonetheless converts YouTube streams to audio files, is being sued by several major record labels for copyright infringement. Universal Music Group, Warner Bros., Sony, Arista Records, and more have joined together to file a suit against PMD Technologies UG, the German tech company behind the stream-ripping site. Damages sought include $115,000 “for every alleged instance of piracy,” or all the profits believed to have been made from the rampant ripping.
YouTube-mp3.org users can rip the audio from YouTube videos onto downloadable mp3s. There’s no charge to do so, but the site’s popularity presumably garners significant ad revenue, while skirting all the usual music licensing fees. Stream ripping has turned into big business, the suit claims, and YouTube-mp3.org is one of the biggest offenders with over 60 million users. The plaintiffs are also asking the court to “forbid web hosts, advertisers and other third parties from facilitating access,” arguing that “it should not be so easy to engage in this activity in the first place, and no stream ripping site should appear at the top of any search result or app chart.” Additionally, the British Phonographic Industry, which represents U.K. record labels, has put YouTube-mp3.org on notice if it continues with its copyright infringement.
This obviously isn’t the first time the record industry has butted heads with various music-sharing sites. Two years ago, Pandora was sued for royalties for songs in rotation on its oldies stations that were recorded before 1972. And although he hasn’t taken legal action (yet), the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney recently called bullshit on YouTube’s claims of paying $3 billion in music licensing fees, insisting that there’s still plenty of unlicensed content available.