Stream ripping has been one of the most persistent trends in potential copyright infringement, topping reports from the IFPI, Muso, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Websites that allow stream ripping were a focus in the RIAA’s letter to the U.S. Trade Representative with information for the Notorious Markets List. Seven stream-ripping sites were named, the most under any one piracy category.
Despite all the heavy pressure from the industry over stream ripping, the practice did get a surprising reprieve. The Electronic Frontier Foundation made its own submission to the U.S. Trade Representative with a partial defense of the activity.
“Websites that simply allow users to extract the audio track from a user-selected online video are not ‘illegal sites’ and are not liable for copyright infringement, unless they engage in additional conduct that meets the definition of infringement,” the EFF said. “There exists a vast and growing volume of online video that is licensed for free downloading and modification, or contains audio tracks that are not subject to copyright. Moreover, many audio extractions qualify as non-infringing fair uses under copyright.”
The EFF’s cautionary words may follow the exact letter of the law. As with other types of media copying, the technology is not inherently illegal, but the intent sometimes is.