STrEAM-RIPPING, the process of turning music and video on the internet into files, is now the fastest growing form of piracy on the internet.
The technique, which has been around as long as streaming itself, works because a music file, even a streamed one, has a URL, and using specialist software which is freely available on the interwebs, for both desktop and mobile, users can download what they want.
Label bosses claim "tens, or even hundreds of millions of tracks are illegally copied and distributed by stream-ripping services each month".
New research from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and PRS for Music suggests that 15 per cent of adults in the UK use stream-rippers, with many coming from the 16-24 age bracket.
Stream-ripping site activity increased 141.3 per cent in two years. September 2016 saw sites used 498,681 times in the UK. BitTorrent was used just 23,567 times.
The survey said that 31 per cent of users were ripping because they already owned the music in another format, and believed they, therefore, owned it in perpetuity. Wrong. Sorry. You want digital and physical, you buy both.
Wanting to play the music offline was next at 26 per cent, and as London Underground users, we hear that. It's not always convenient to stream.
Only 56 per cent of those surveyed felt they understood what was legal and what wasn't.
A lot of it comes down to local laws. Many sites offer cut-price MP3 downloads claiming to be legal because of where they are hosted. However, in reality, the downloader's local law is what applies, so put your roubles away.
The big problem with stream-ripping, aside from the obvious, is that the versions of tracks hosted could vary wildly in quality - some could be as low as 96kbps, especially if the object is to repel rippers.
Although some stream-ripping packages will give you the option to download at 320kbps (the same quality as a commercial CD), the end result is only ever as good as the original file, so you might get a file that claims to be high quality but that sounds awful.
One grey area of the law is ripping from online radio stations. Many software makers claim that this is a free and legal way to get new music and offer software to strip out the jingles and presenters. In reality, however, the UK law is very clear.
Technically, you still can't rip your own CDs. It was legal for a bit and now it isn't again, technically, you still can't rip your own CDs. It was legal for a bit and now it isn't again, because idiots. µ
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