In recent years, YouTube has become a premiere destination for music—nine of the top 10 videos of all time are music videos—but, with websites that convert the audio to an mp3 file, it has also become one of the best spots for digital music pirates, and the Recording Industry Association of America wants it to stop.
Famous for lawsuits directed at BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer filesharing websites, the RIAA has pressured CNET's Download.com to remove software that can be used to rip the audio from YouTube videos, and has had conversations with Google about removing sites that do the same thing, such as youtube-mp3.org, from its search engine listings.
"These software applications turn YouTube from a streaming site into a download site," Cara Duckworth, a spokesperson for the RIAA, wrote in an E-mail. "There is no question that is why these applications are so popular and have been downloaded millions of times."
Though RIAA has formally requested that Google remove more than 500,000 URLs from search over the past 13 months, it has never formally requested that Google delist conversion sites.
In a release from the organization late last year, the RIAA wrote that Google "has taken some modest steps to deal with copyright infringement online," but that Google receives "financial benefits from sites and applications that engage in piracy."
In that paper, RIAA asked Google to "prohibit activity on YouTube that induces infringement," by allowing these converters to rip its audio. The practice is currently prohibited by YouTube's user policy agreement, but many sites were still active as of Friday afternoon.
In recent days, Google has shown a willingness to budge on the issue—it sent the owner of youtube-mp3.org a cease-and-desist letter, asking its German owner to end the service.
In 2008, the RIAA announced it would abandon its practice of suing individual pirates, and, for the most part, has stopped. It has since called on search engines, internet service providers, and other "intermediaries" to voluntarily remove access to popular pirating sites.