What was the last album you illegally downloaded? Don’t rush to answer, because the Recording Industry Association of America is keeping tabs. The RIAA recently released a report to the United States Trade Representative, detailing the issue of music piracy in 2017. 80 percent of the music industry’s revenue in the first half of 2017 arrived from digital sources, but illegal downloading appears to still be thriving.

George York, representing the RIAA, detailed the various ways that these sites are able to stay one step ahead of the industry and law’s efforts to terminate these services:

In some cases they reemerge with the same domain name, from the same hosting Internet service provider (ISP), and with the same functionality. In other instances, however, they can return with slightly altered domain names with new hosting ISPs and new registrant information.

That never-ending game of whack-a-mole is a known issue among these hosts, where the ease of creating these sites makes it hard to know if they’re truly ever shut down. A shining example is The Pirate Bay, which was raided and shut down in 2014, but York noted that in 2016 it rebounded with over 3 billion views. York even noted how the site gleefully flaunts its disregard for the law: “The site [makes] no pretense of legitimacy and fails to respond to any take down notices and has previously ridiculed those who have sent them such notices.”

Last year, the United States Trade Representative released their own report, which brought attention to a new issue facing the industry of sites devoted to ripping MP3s from streaming services—YouTube in particular. The RIAA’s report noted that some sites were achieving billions of views, and potentially one in three people who use the internet have used one of these illicit YouTube ripping sites.

Now, the report did tout a few successful attempts to strike down the site, one of the biggest stream ripping sites on the web. But when York projects that digital piracy could easily eclipse $50 billion by 2022, it illustrates a problem that is still woefully out of check. Streaming is often thought to have curbed music piracy, but this report seems to affirm why whenever you type a song title into Google, the first suggestions are often “Download” or MP3.


Streaming may be increasing, but illegal downloads remain a powerful, and often primary, mode of music consumption for many music fans.