There’s no doubt that streaming services have helped combat the music industry’s piracy problems. Apps like Spotify and Apple Music made the Napsters and Limewires of the world less relevant through sheer convenience — just listen to a couple ads (or pay $US10 a month), and you can get all the songs you want, faster and in higher quality.
But as this chart from Statista shows, piracy hasn’t just upped and vanished, even as on-demand streaming has become the norm. According to a late 2016 study by recording industry group IFPI — which commissioned research firm Ipsos Connect to survey more than 12,600 internet users in 13 countries — more than one-third of those surveyed still said they have accessed copyright-infringing music over a recent six-month span.
Of note here is the shift in how people are pirating. Old-fashioned illegal downloads are still popular, but the most prevalent method today is known as “stream ripping.” This is when someone takes a song or music video from a streaming service and turns it into a permanent download. It may not feel as underhanded as digging through The Pirate Bay — you just take a link, plug it into one of the many illegal tools online, and hit “convert” — but it’s still giving artists and record labels major headaches.
It’s a pain for Google’s parent company Alphabet, too. It’s probably no coincidence that the IFPI’s report mentions the popularity of YouTube just before getting into the stream ripping dilemma — the survey says 82% of YouTube users use the site for music, and given its status as the most popular free on-demand streaming site, it’s likely the most “stream ripped” site as well.