Convert2MP3, one of the world's most popular stream ripping sites, has been shut down following a joint operation by international labels body IFPI and German trade organization Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI).
According to IFPI, Germany-based Convert2MP3 was visited 684 million times in the past 12 months.
In 2017, German record labels filed a lawsuit in the German courts against Convert2MP3 for large-scale and sustained violation of record labels' copyright by enabling users to create downloadable audio files from videos on YouTube and other sources.
To avoid the case proceeding to the courts, the site's operator has now instigated a global shut down of Convert2MP3 and any other infringing sites they run.
Convert2MP3's operator has also agreed to surrender its domains to IFPI and has given assurances they will not infringe copyright or "circumvent technological protection measures in relation to recorded music" in future.
The settlement also includes financial compensation for rights holders, says IFPI, although the terms and amount is subject to confidentiality. IFPI declined to reveal the name of the operator, saying only that it is an individual based in Germany.
"Stream ripping is a threat to the entire music ecosystem," said IFPI chief executive Frances Moore in a statement. She said sites like Convert2MP3 "show complete disregard for the rights of artists and record companies and take money away from those creating and investing in music."
Moore added, "The successful outcome of this case sends a clear signal to other stream ripping sites that they should stop their copyright infringing activities or face legal action."
The shutdown of Convert2MP3 comes just under a year since the site was declared illegal in Denmark, following legal action carried out by the Rights Alliance on behalf of IFPI, collecting society KODA, the Danish Artist Union and the Danish Musicians Association. In that instance, the Danish courts ordered local ISPs to block access to the site.
One year earlier, in 2017, what was then the world's largest stream ripping site, YouTube-mp3.org (also based in Germany), was shutdown following legal action from record companies in the U.S. and U.K. Prior to its close, 60 million people were visiting YouTube-mp3.org every month, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in estimated advertising revenue. Court orders have also been obtained in Australia, Italy, Russia, and Spain forcing ISPs to block stream ripping sites.
Not every attempt to tackle the problem has been successful though. Earlier this year, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed a copyright infringement case brought by Universal Music, Sony Music and 10 other record labels against the operator of FLVTO.biz, a notorious Russian stream-ripping website. The RIAA has since appealed that verdict. Numerous other stream ripping sites remain freely available online, despite a concerted effort by rights holders and music trade bodies to ban them.
"Since the music industry has transformed into a digital business it is of the utmost importance that the rights of artists and their partners are protected online," said Dr. Florian Drücke, chairman/CEO of BVMI, which represents around 250 labels and music companies in Germany.
Drücke said the shutdown of Convert2MP3 was part of a wider recognition in the international law courts and among music fans that "digital licensing is crucial for the creative industries and that business cases based on free riding are unacceptable."