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Music Groups Waste No Time Using Australia's New Copyright Law To Shut Down Stream Ripping Sites

from the intended-consequence dept

Late last year, after Australia proposed amending its copyright laws, which included some subtle language changes, the country approved the amendments and we immediately warned that this would be abused, feature-creeped, and otherwise utilized by the content industries to restrict access to the internet in favor of their own bottom lines. One of the subtle language changes mentioned above consisted of going from allowing site-blocking of sites where their “primary purpose” was infringing activity to allowing blocking of sites where their “primary effect” was infringing activity. This change was an important one, because it puts the onus for whether a site can be blocked on how users use the tool, rather than how it was intended to be used. And, of course, there is simply more subjectivity in “primary effect” than there is in “primary purpose”, leading us to warn that this would be abused.

And, a mere few months later, the music industry is in court citing the new law to get approval to have ISPs block stream-ripping sites.

The Federal Court action is being coordinated by Music Rights Australia, with the support of the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) as well as Sony Music Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd, Universal Music Australia Pty Limited and Warner Music Australia Pty Limited.

Stream-ripping sites allow users to record and save the audio streamed from a service such as Spotify or YouTube. The services have not previously been the subject of legal action in Australia. (In November, Sony Music emerged victoriousfrom a fight against stream-ripping service MusicMonster.fm in a German court, with the service being declared illegal.)

Now, as we’ve discussed in the past, the problem here is that there are a ton of legitimate uses for stream-ripping sites. I personally use them all the time to get audio-only for videos made public by educational institutions, by people that do how-to videos, lectures, etc. The primary purpose of stream-ripping sites is not infringement; it’s to rip streams, not all of which are infringing. But the primary effect? Well, that’s open to interpretation and the Australian government has bent over backwards to give the content industries the benefit of every doubt. Plenty of infringement happens with stream-ripping sites, because that’s how users choose to use them. But it’s not their purpose.

And yet, because of this poorly amended law, these sites are now staring down the censorship barrel.

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Companies: music rights australia, sony music, universal music, warner music

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Comments on “Music Groups Waste No Time Using Australia's New Copyright Law To Shut Down Stream Ripping Sites”

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36 Comments
Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Applying that logic to other fields...

Ah-ah-ah! You’re behind the times, good sir!

Why, a telegram, from my dear old Aunt out West, just yesterday said that auto-mo-biles have been used to rob banks and commit murders!

Why, polish my monocle! Such things are inexcusable! Australia had better get off their duffs and start shutting down the sellers of such vile technology, or we will write a strongly worded letter to the editor of the Daily Rag!

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Applying that logic to other fields...

I posit it’s even worse than that.

Stream Ripping =! Recording.

The copyright cults war against stream ripping is just them trying to fight their war against the tape cassette and VHS again.

And they’ll lose spectacularly once again. A stream ripping "site" is, admittedly, the equivalent of having a 3rd party doing your recording for you but even if you shut those down how will you get rid of people’s ability to simply capture the audio/video channel your computer feeds the monitor and speaker jack?

"The effect of selling cars is that people can violate the speed limit, which is an illegal act."

At the end of the day the logic inescapably extends to "possession of modern technology threatens our business model, so kindly abolish the concept of electronics".

At some point the bodies politics of human society must understand that Red Flag Acts simply aren’t healthy.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Certainly

"…this is really an attack on ownership. You can’t own your computer if the record companies can tell you what you can and can’t do with it."

Correct. This is just another repetition of the battle which was fought over the tape cassette and the VCR. At the end of which we either end up with copyright completely broken around the issue or a paradigm where you can’t legally own a computer nor have the skills to program it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: I'm confused...

Because reasons, namely The Holy Copyright seems to cause temporary(or occasionally permanent) insanity, resulting in truly crazy ideas being presented and accepted as perfectly valid and sensible.

I guarantee you, if they thought they could get away with making recording the radio illegal such that if you wanted to hear something again you had to pay they would do so in a heartbeat.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: I'm confused...

“Why are stream rips considered different from recording radio broadcasts?”

Are they? I do remember there being a lot of hand wringing on both sides of the pond about how the music industry would shut down if people were able to just record from the radio instead of buying records. It certainly does qualify as copyright infringement. It’s just that they were never able to actually do anything about it back then.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'm confused...

"It’s just that they were never able to actually do anything about it back then."

And they still can’t. Sure, they can shut down 3rd parties from recording FOR you, which is what a stream ripping site does…

…But other than preventing people from owning computers and learning how to program there’s little they can do about anyone capturing and saving video and audio.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I'm confused...

Well, they can’t do anything effectively, but they can certainly do a lot more than they used to be able to.

That’s really the story with this whole battle. They really wanted to try and stop people from recording from the TV and radio back in the day but had to live with reality. Now, they’ve latched on to the fantasy that they not only can, but must, prevent every use they don’t approve of, even if it kills them and their audience.

They’ll never be able to completely prevent infringement and still have a usable product and a willing customer base, but that won’t stop them from trying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I'm confused...

"Home Taping Is Killing Music" was the slogan of a 1980s anti-copyright infringement propaganda campaign by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), a British music industry trade group. With the rise in cassette recorder popularity, the BPI feared that the ability of private citizens to record music from the radio onto cassettes would cause a decline in record sales.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I'm confused...

Exactly. Yet, despite a generation of kids like myself growing up doing things like taping songs from the radio, copying records we borrowed from the library and doing mix tapes for each other, we still went on to spent a shit ton of money on music. Which we may not have done if we weren’t able to develop a love for the medium when we didn’t earn the money to do so.

I guarantee they would have prevented it if they could, but I also guarantee it would have been worse for them in the long term.

Anonymous Coward says:

Snuck in under the radar

There was a big hubbub in Australia when the current laws were being introduced a few years ago. Significant media coverage, plenty of forum discussion. At the time, the government cited the “primary purpose” test as a safeguard that would prevent the overreach critics were worried about (e.g. potential blocking of VPN services):

https://www.malcolmturnbull.com.au/media/debate-on-the-copyright-amendment-online-infringement-bill-2015

But this switch to “primary effect” received much less attention, despite its significance. After the controversy over the original laws, the music industry must hardly believe its luck that it was able to get this through without anyone noticing until it was too late.

David says:

Well, what did you think would happen?

Oh. Just that. Well, why didn’t you say so? Oh. You did. Well, so you were right. I hope you are proud of yourself.

Ok, so let’s vote for change. Oh, change is not on the ballots? Let’s vote for hope then. That option has been recently removed as well?

Why are you even telling us this? Want to gloat or what?

Anonymous Coward says:

no surprises with this! another country doing whatever the entertainment industries tell it to do! absolutely disgraceful that every other internet user and business has to be penalised just to let these industries keep the control they had and ramp it up even further! well done Aus! as bad as Iran, China, N.Korea etc for removing citizens rights to share and their privacy as well!!

Vic B (profile) says:

To me the analogy is more like this: A fuel truck takes gas from production to station. On the way, some people jump on the truck and drill tiny holes in the tank to siphon off gas for their cars because they don’t want to pay for it at the station.
The arguments I hear are that the high cost of gas made me do it, or the truck driver beat me up or the latest/coolest technique to siphon off the gas, even how some guys siphon off so much they make a living off it… I get it, I did too. But don’t give me moral rectitude for ripping someone else and then be offended when they bite back.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A very poor analogy, as in your scenario the station now has less gas to sell, whereas in the case of copyright infringement, the original author has exactly the same amount to sell before and after. They may have lost the opportunity to sell to the individual who infringed, but that is far from guaranteed.

“But don’t give me moral rectitude for ripping someone else and then be offended when they bite back.”

When they bite back by attacking people who did not rip them off as well, you can be damn sure they’ll get crap for it, no matter how much they think you were in the right. Being wronged is not carte blanche to screw other people over.

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I guess we’re setting aside that the stream is authorized. This is not pirated media, not a cd from a shady stall at a flea market, not a camcorded copy of a movie still in theaters.

IT.
IS.
AUTHORIZED.

The only thing even slightly similar to "siphoning gas from the delivery truck" would be using a third-party stream-rip site instead of just cranking up the downloader of your choice.

The truck is legit. The trip is legit. The full load makes it to the intended destination.

The customer just expects to still be able to use the fuel when the truck is back at headquarters.

Vic B (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“They may have lost the opportunity to sell to the individual who infringed, but that is far from guaranteed.” That’s a quick dismissal! Spotify charges $x to listen to music with no ads or free with ads. That’s the model! It’s not, oh but I want to keep a copy of what I listen to and I don’t want to pay for it. And to own the music, you must pay the additional price for it.
Again, I get that a teen or outgrown teen with no money or a scammer who has figured out how to make money off free music stream would argue against The Man and build a logical argument that piracy is ok. I also agree that the music business is a money machine wrapping itself in art.

Killercool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

No, no, no, no.

To own the music, you just need a recording device and access to a legal broadcasted/streamed version.

It’s that simple. It’s been that simple, and completely legal, since personal recording devices have been feasible. It took many hours in quite a few courts to drive that point home to the studios, that media that I can legally access in my own home is legal to keep a copy of.

That’s why anti-circumvention laws were seen as such a betrayal – it was walking back long established law. Just because someone put an extra program on a DVD, or a particular subroutine on a webpage, it was suddenly illegal do do something that is otherwise legal.

We’re not talking people copying and then redistributing media.

This is about people, in their own home, with their own equipment, being told that they’re criminals for keeping copies of media that they are consuming legally.

That’s bullshit. The price was paid when I listened to the ad. The effective price of that piece of media was whatever they got paid to insert 30 seconds of nonsense before their bit started.

This has been hashed out in courts before, even in Australia.

The only reason this is different is because, technically, if you turn your head and squint hard enough, someone else is making your recording for you. Even though the consumer sees no difference between these websites and a Kinkos, or a library copy machine.

Though lately, publishers have been lobbying to get rid of those, too.

GHB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I know this is a few years late, but in case anyone knows what is he referring to “particular subroutine on a webpage” is probably disabling right-clicks, selection, F12 and many other user actions associated with with copying text. This “DRM” is very trivial to bypass:
-Firefox’s shift right-click
-Inspect element can be opened in ways that JS cannot event-listen to, such as being on another site/page, F12, then visit the “DRM”’ed site (the devtools remain open across pages) or just the menu bar.

There are good reasons why website code cannot access such browser features like these:
-It is on the user’s browser and PC. When visiting a site, the user’s device sends a request to a server and the server will send the website data back.
-Letting sites control your browser is a security risk. The closest into doing that or at least attempted to exploit bugs at a certain degree are tech support scam sites which often perform browlocking techiques (such as preventing you from leaving the page)

Thankfully 1201 stated that the DRM have to be “effective”, and must be primarily designed to bypass restrictions to warrent its enforcement, which is probably why they cannot sue browsers for having an inspect element feature and many others.

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