Skip to main content

Major Record Labels Sue Over Ripping Audio Tracks from YouTube Videos

The target is a German company that is the "chief offender" of stream ripping, but the lawsuit also demands an order against third parties.

Universal, Warner Bros, Sony and other big record labels are suing the operators of YouTube-mp3.org, a service that allows its users to rip the audio from videos streamed on YouTube.

On Monday, the plaintiffs filed a copyright lawsuit in California federal court, stating, “Stream ripping has become a major threat to the music industry, functioning as an unlawful substitute for the purchase of recorded music and the purchase of subscriptions to authorized streaming services.”


With a few simple mouse clicks, the lawsuit reports, infringing copies of sound recordings are made available in MP3 format. The plaintiffs suggest that “tens, or even hundreds, of millions of tracks are illegally copied and distributed by stream ripping services each month.”

YouTube-mp3.org, alleged to be run by a German company and German citizen named Philip Matesanz, is accused of being the “chief offender, accounting for upwards of 40% of all unlawful stream ripping that takes place in the world.”

The lawsuit asserts a straight copyright infringement claim as well as claims for contributory copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement and inducement of copyright infringement. The complaint speaks of how Matesanz’ company has been promoting its service.

“In a blog posting announcing new functionality for the YTMP3 service (specifically, an ‘extension’ for a Google Chrome browser), the single example that Defendants provided of a video that could be stream ripped through the YTPM3 website was the song ‘More’ by the recording artist Usher, which is owned by Plaintiff Sony Music Entertainment,” states the lawsuit.

Google, which owns YouTube, is not a party in this lawsuit, but the record labels also claim the defendants are illicitly circumventing technology measures that YouTube has implemented to control access to and prevent copying of works.

Several top-level international music organizations issued statements on the news, including the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN) and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). In Britain, YTMP3 was put on “formal notice” by the BPI ahead of “intended legal action if it does not cease infringing.”

Here’s the entire complaint. It’s filed by attorneys at Sidley Austin and demands an order that would also enjoin web hosts, domain-name registrars and other third parties from facilitating access to youtube-mp3.org and providing advertising, financial and technical support. Additionally, the record labels are seeking statutory damages and costs.