The internet brings many benefits, but the widespread provision of software used in wholesale copyright infringement is decidedly not one of them. The High Court powerfully made that point in assisting record companies to stamp out the latest manifestation of such abuse – a process known as stream ripping.
On behalf of the international phonographic industry, 10 record companies launched proceedings with a view to blocking a number of websites that provided software to their users which enabled them to engage in stream ripping. The practice involves the bypassing of technological protection measures, thereby allowing conversion of streamed content into permanent downloads which can be shared with others. A blocking injunction was sought against the six leading internet service providers (ISPs), which did not oppose the making of such an order in principle.
Granting the order sought, the Court found that the websites authorised their users' acts of infringement by providing them with the means to engage in illegal stream ripping. They profited handsomely by inducing, inciting or procuring copyright infringement on a grand scale. The websites' attempts to distance themselves from such abuses amounted to no more than window-dressing and the identity of those who owned or controlled them was deliberately obscured.
The Court was satisfied that there was no commercially significant, legitimate use of the websites. Given the very substantial damage done to the phonographic industry by stream ripping, and in the absence of realistic alternative measures that could be taken by the record companies, it was fair and proportionate to order the ISPs to take steps to block access to the websites. The injunction was necessary to prevent, or at least reduce, stream ripping and would serve to discourage website users and operators from engaging in the practice.