The most popular “streamripping” site, in which millions of users have converted YouTube videos into audio files, shut down on Thursday following a legal campaign initiated by the music industry.
YouTube-mp3.org, a site in Germany started in the bedroom of computer science student Philip Matesanz, was inaccessible on Thursday with no further message.
The global recorded music industry group IFPI, along with its U.S. and British affiliates, announced that the platform had closed and that a U.S. court has issued an injunction on its activities. The industry groups, in turn for not taking further legal action, said that YouTube-mp3.org’s operator has agreed not to infringe on copyrights in the future.
YouTube-mp3.org—which music industry representatives said had 60 million visitors a month and accounted for more than 40 percent of global streamripping—allows users to transform music on YouTube into downloadable files of the sort purchased on iTunes.
The music industry said that streamripping had grown by 50 percent in the United States between 2013 and 2015, despite the success in persuading listeners to pay for licensed music through streaming sites such as Spotify.
Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the British Phonographic Industry trade body, said that the site “wasn’t just ripping streams, it was ripping off artists.”
“Most fans understand that getting music from a genuine site supports the artists they love and allows labels to nurture the next generation of talent,” he said in a statement. “Music stands on the cusp of an exciting future in the streaming age, but only if we take resolute action against illegal businesses that try to siphon away its value,” he said.
In a lawsuit filed last year in a federal court in California, record companies alleged that Matesanz has earned millions of dollars through advertising revenue from the site. Matesanz, who is in his mid-20s, has defended his site and earlier withstood battles with Germany’s music industry and Google, the parent of YouTube.
In a petition to Google executives that drew more than four million signatures, Matesanz said that his technology preserved individuals’ rights. “For decades people were allowed to take a private copy of a public broadcast. You could record the radio program with a cassette recorder or make a copy of your favorite movie by using a video recorder,” the petition said.
The music industry—which has enjoyed a revival in profits after years of stagnation—has been increasingly aggressive in tackling piracy. In 2015, it succeeded in shutting the popular site Grooveshark.