Music trade body the Recording Industry Association of America has let rip over websites that are ripping off artists’ copyrights and intellectual property.
In its submission to the US Trade Representative for this year’s Notorious Markets List, the RIAA pinpoints more than 20 sites that are jeopardising the music industry through piracy and copyright infringement.
The submission highlights online marketplaces, streaming and downloading sites, indexing sites, cyberlocker storage sites and stream ripping sites (which strip audio from videos) that are “harming American creators, businesses, and the American economy”. It also mentions the sales of counterfeit CDs, outdated laws and a lack of proper enforcement mechanisms as threats to the music industry.
George York, senior vice president of international policy at the RIAA, said in the submission that sites involved with stream ripping, stolen MP3s and unlicensed sales were “distortions in the marketplace” that “threaten our industry’s recovery and jeopardise the US competitive advantage in digital trade”.
“Simply put, the prosperity of the music industry and America’s cultural production, which contributes significantly to the US services trade surplus, is greatly undermined by distortions in the marketplace that flow from what is essentially illegal trafficking in stolen goods – our sound recordings. The weight of the academic literature acknowledges that such online pirate services cause significant economic harm to the music industry,” York said.
Stream ripping – of which more than 70 sites are being tracked by the RIAA – was highlighted as an area of piracy in last year’s Notorious Markets report, and included the YouTube ripping site youtube-mp3.org. This site has since been shut down after several record labels took legal action against the site.
“Several other illegal stream ripping services named in our filing last year no longer permit the conversion and download of music videos on YouTube” possibly as a result of the case against youtube-mp3.org, the trade body said. “Unfortunately, several other stream-ripping sites have “doubled down” and carry on in this illegal behaviour, continuing to make this form of theft a major concern for the music industry,” the RIAA said, adding that even if sites shut down they can quickly reappear.
Both China and Russia were flagged by the RIAA as culprits in counterfeiting and selling fake CDs, with the vast majority “flooding” online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay where “unwitting buyers are purchasing at full retail price”. York said that such counterfeits result in a one-for-one displacement of legitimate sales.
The RIAA acknowledged that Amazon and eBay had made efforts to crackdown on counterfeits but noted there were other markets where more work was needed.
Meanwhile, the RIAA noted two emerging trends that should also be on the USTR radar. The first was Nigerian-based sites (of which there were more than 200) that distributed direct download links to pre-release or just-released music. The other was the rise of third-party app stores that appear to have sections of their site dedicated to the distribution of infringing apps that have already been removed from major app stores for violations.
The RIAA said music piracy by online markets caused two particular harms to the industry, including: disseminating music without authorization and without providing any compensation to the creators and owners of the music; and artificially distorting the market value of the music, thereby reducing the compensation to the creators and owners from licensed services.
“The cost of such music piracy is potentially enormous,” the RIAA said. “One recent study quantified the commercial value of music digital piracy in 2015 at $29 billion worldwide, and estimated that it could grow to $53-$117bn in 2022… This piracy imposes significant economic harm on legitimate music revenues.”
The RIAA noted that: “enforcement, both civil and criminal, along with efforts to highlight the problems and engage other governments in solutions, such as through the Notorious Market Report, can help to modify the behaviour of other illegal services.”
The websites listed by the RIAA include:
BitTorrent Indexing and Tracker Sites:
Unlicensed Pay-for-Download Sites: