Labels awarded $83m in lawsuit against operator of stream-ripping sites

Photo credit: Giorgio Trovato

The Russia-based owner of two stream-ripping sites has been ordered to pay record labels $82.9 million in damages.

The case, against Russian website owner Tofig Kurbanov, was brought by the RIAA and more than a dozen record labels including UniversalWarner and Sony back in 2018 for the circumvention of YouTube’s anti-piracy measures and alleged infringement of copyrights in audio recordings.

The RIAA stated at the time that the two sites, and, were responsible for “enormous damage being inflicted on the US record industry”.

The lawsuit followed the record business’s legal action against, which at the time was the the world’s largest site dedicated to offering illegally “stream ripped” music, in 2016.

According to a court order published by US District Judge Claude M. Hilton last week, the plaintiffs are “awarded statutory damages for violations of the copyright Act in the amount of $82,922,500” and that plaintiffs “are entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs”.

Defendant Tofig Kurbanov is also “enjoined from directly or indirectly infringing in any manner pertaining to Plaintiffs’ Copyright works” according to the order and ”must permanently delete and destroy all electronic copies of any of plaintiffs copyrighted works or derivative works thereof”.

The labels’ legal victory follows the news from earlier this month that music piracy declined consistently year-on-year from January 2017 until the second half of 2020, but gradually started to increase across 2021.

According to data company MUSO, the No.1 online destination for music piracy is so called ‘stream-ripping’ websites, which accounted for 39.2% of all music piracy globally in 2021, up from 33.9% in 2020.

Stream-ripping sites allow users to rip and download audio from YouTube.

In October, a court in Virginia issued a default judgment in favor of the RIAA and the record companies in the case against Tofig Kurbanov.

The labels sought an award of statutory damages of $50,000 for each of the 1,618 copyrights they alleged were infringed.

In a report published in December, US Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan recommended that the operators of the sites should pay the damages requested by the RIAA.

The magistrate also recommended the issuance of a permanent injunction against the websites’ piracy activities and ordered the operators to pay the labels’ attorneys’ fees and costs.

The RIAA describes the sites’ activity as a “sophisticated piracy operation”, which included more than 300 million global users during a single twelve-month period.

It adds that the site “encouraged copyright infringement and then profited itself by selling advertising on its websites”.

According to a report filed in December by the court in Virginia,  the “defendant is the designer, owner and operator of [the sites] and, where site users can freely download MP3s of Plaintiff’s copyrighted audio recordings from streaming sites like YouTube”.

The report, which you can read in full here, adds that “over 300 million individuals in the United States used the sites from October 2017 to May 2021”.

It adds that “over 300 million individuals globally used the sites from October 2017 to September 2018”.

Elsewhere in the report, US Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan writes that the defendant’s websites caused the “plaintiffs to lose profits and streaming revenue because of the enormous internet traffic to and use of the websites’ stream-ripping functions”. 

The report adds that the “defendant has wrongfully profited from this scheme by selling digital advertising on the websites” and furthermore, that the “actual profits that Defendant has received from the websites [are] impossible to calculate given Defendants refusal to produce his financial documents”.

 Music Business Worldwide