Code-sharing community questions if Deezer can force block of stream-ripping tool

Deezer

An interesting side-debate is occurring on the issue of
stream-ripping as Deezer seeks to block access to tools that allow users
to grab permanent downloads of tracks streaming on its platform. One
code-sharing community that hosts one such tool – an app called
Deezloader Remix – has argued that it shouldn’t have to remove said tool
on Deezer’s say so, because it isn’t infringing any intellectual
property owned by the streaming firm itself.

Stream-ripping, of course, has been at the top of the music
industry’s piracy gripe list for a while. Music rights companies have
pursued legal action against the operators of stream-ripping sites and
sought web-blocks – in those countries where such a thing is an option –
ordering internet service providers to block access to stream-ripping
tools.

Meanwhile, Deezer has been trying to cut off access to
stream-ripping apps that specifically hack into its platform to allow
users to download tracks as MP3 files. It correctly states that these
tools exploit Deezer’s publicly available API in a way that breaches its
terms and conditions for developers. Therefore, it argues, code-sharing
websites like Github and NotABug shouldn’t host said tools.

In a notice sent to NotABug, Deezer wrote that the community
currently “makes available an application which uses illegal methods to
bypass Deezer’s security measures to unlawfully download its music
catalogue, in total violation of our rights and those of our music
licensors (phonographic producers, performing artists, songwriters and
composers). I therefore ask that you immediately take down [that]
application”.

According to Torrentfreak, Github complied with similar demands from Deezer, but NotABug is currently pushing back, arguing that the streaming firm hasn’t explained how its IP rights are being infringed by the Deezloader Remix app.

There are probably two elements to this argument. First, the
claim put forward by most stream-ripping apps and sites that they never
actually copy or host any copyright infringing content. Which is the
same argument always made by the makers of P2P file-sharing tools. This
argument rarely works in court because – under most copyright systems –
by facilitating and/or encouraging others to infringe, you can yourself
be held liable for that infringement.

However, a possible second element to the argument is that,
even if apps like Deezloader Remix are liable for ‘contributory’ or
‘authorising’ infringement for facilitating the unlicensed downloading
of music, the copyrights being infringed are owned by the labels,
publishers and collecting societies, not Deezer. So, therefore, Deezer
can’t sue over that infringement, and instead can only take action over
the breach of its API terms and conditions.

That is annoying for the labels, publishers and societies,
which would much prefer the streaming services take responsibility for
cutting off sites and apps that enable people to illegally grab
downloads of tracks on their platforms.

According to Torrentfreak, when asked about Deezer’s demands by
NotAHub, the developer of Deezloader Remix responded thus: “This
project uses a publicly available API from Deezer to get tracks
information and create a download link to their official servers”.

Arguing that tracks on Deezer’s server use a form of encryption
that was “cracked many years ago and they don’t bother fixing”, the
developer goes on: “The only thing that could be seen as copyrighted
material in this project could be the encryption key, as no tracks and
no Deezer code is directly inside this project”. Torrentfreak then adds
that it seems unlikely said encryption key would qualify for copyright
protection.

Which means that both the developer and NotABug are basically
saying that there isn’t a legal case for blocking access to Deezloader
Remix and that the streaming company should instead close the loophole
in its encryption system that allows streams to be ripped.

Though Deezer and its music industry partners would likely
argue that that would result in yet another game of anti-piracy
Whack-a-Mole, as each development in Deezer’s encryption system would
likely be hacked in time. Which isn’t to say that the streaming services
shouldn’t undertake such development work, but cutting off access to
tools that employ encryption hacks is another necessary tactic in trying
to restrict the unlicensed distribution of music online.

The developer of Deezloader has actually told Torrentfreak that
he has already stopped making any new updates to his app, so that if
Deezer did evolve its encryption systems, it is unlikely that particular
tool would be altered to deal with any new security measures. But there
are probably plenty of other stream-ripping tools that would make the
effort.

And so the battle between music rights owners and piracy tool makers continues.

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