In France, the Ministry of Culture was recently questioned on the stream-ripping issue. Philippe Latombe, a member of the MoDem party, asked the Government whether copies downloaded through these services are considered illegal. The question was part of a broader inquiry into the private copying rules and regulations. These allow people to copy music and movies in exchange for a tax that’s paid on storage media and devices including blank CDs, hard disks, and smartphones. Responding to the question, the Ministry of Culture confirmed that, under the right conditions, it’s perfectly legal to use stream-ripping services to download music and other media. “[Stream-ripping] is legal and the resulting copy falls under the exception for private copying as provided by law, if several conditions are met: it must be made from a lawful source at the request of the user, without being stored by the converter, and no circumvention of technical protection measures must be carried out.” If these three boxes are ticked, stream-ripping is in the same league as ripping or copying an old-fashioned CD or DVD.
The big question, however, is in what situation all these conditions would apply? With regard to YouTube ripping, the “source” could be considered legal, as artists and labels often upload the videos themselves. The second box is also ticked by many stream-rippers as they don’t permanently store music. The operator of the stream-rippers FLVto and 2Conv recently said that his site doesn’t even store basic logs as that would involve significant costs. This brings us to the third and final condition; whether the stream-ripper circumvents technical protection measures. This is a crucial question and the answer largely depends on who you ask.
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