Major music labels are seeking to have Australian telecommunications providers block four online services that allow users to download copies in MP3 format of the audio of YouTube-hosted videos.
Music Rights Australia has coordinated the application for a Federal Court injunction. The Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) is the lead applicant, with Sony Music Entertainment Australia, Universal Music Australia and Warner Music also participating in the action.
The group wants Foxtel, Optus, Telstra, TPG and Vodafone to block their fixed-line broadband subscribers from accessing four services: 2conv, Flv2Mp3, Convert2mp3, and Flvto. The application for injunction, lodged with the Federal Court, lists seven domain names associated with the services.
A pleading lodged with the court states that YouTube “does not provide a technical facility to users... to download in Australia a copy of the digital content that is available to be streamed online... other than temporarily and incidentally to making the digital content available to be streamed, unless a ‘download’ or similar link is displayed on the Streaming Website for that content.”
However, the four stream-ripping services, which the application says are based outside of Australia, allow their users to “create downloadable copies of digital content that is available to be streamed online” at YouTube (and subsequently allows users to download those copies).
The four stream-ripping services support downloads in a variety of file formats, including video formats. All of the services support downloading copies of YouTube audio and video, and Convert2mp3 says it also supports other sites such as Dailymotion and Clipfish.
2conv, Flv2Mp3, and Flvto all list the same Russian Federation address for claims made under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Convert2mp3 says its service is subject to German law.
In July last year, online news site TorrentFreak reported that a Danish court had ruled Convert2mp3 illegal and ordered ISPs to block it. The Russia-based operator of Flvto and 2conv (and presumably Flv2Mp3) has faced legal action in the US.
The applicants seek to have Australian telcos implement DNS blocking (or any other technical means that the applicants agree to).
The copyright works listed in the application include songs by international pop stars Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, as well as recordings by Australian artists including Sia, Illy, Dami Im and Jessica Mauboy.
The application argues that the stream-ripping services “have the primary purpose or the primary effect of facilitating an infringement, of copyright”.
Until parliament last year passed legislation expanding the website-blocking scheme, a copyright owner or licensee had to prove that an online location’s “primary purpose” was engaging in or facilitating copyright infringement before obtaining an injunction.
The 2018 legislation changed the threshold to a target online location having the “primary effect” of engaging in or facilitating copyright infringement, which the government said would allow businesses to obtain orders blocking a wider range of sites, such as ‘cyber lockers’.
The current action by music labels is the first application for an injunction to include “primary effect” language. (Other changes made by the 2018 legislation include facilitating injunctions to force search engine operators to remove links to target sites and to reduce the burden of proving a target site is hosted overseas.)
Music Rights Australia previously helped coordinate successful legal action that led to major ISPs blocking Kickass Torrents.
Currently before the Federal Court is a separate application by film studios that is seeking to have Australian ISPs block 79 online locations (spread across 99 domains). Those locations offer streaming or download services, or provide links to such services, according to the studios.