21 Jun 2015

SoundCloud Introduces API Limits to Fight Piracy

SoundCloud are getting a lot of bad press coverage again. This time it's around an announcement they made last week, which certain journalists have totally mis-interpreted. It's time again to de-bunk some myths...

As many artists and labels are aware, SoundCloud has been growing as a source for piracy. There are some dodgy people out there, who rip tracks from SoundCloud, and make those rips available on various pirate sites. This problem has increased to the level where more and more artists and labels are no longer putting full tracks on SoundCloud, but uploading short low-quality clips instead. This defeats the purpose of SoundCloud, and is not good for the artists and labels, but also not good for SoundCloud.

The pirates who abuse SoundCloud this way, are getting increasingly sophisticated. You may think of guys sitting behind their screens all day to find and rip tracks, and then uploading those rips one by one to pirate sites. Unfortunately they are much cleverer than that. They have written little applications that use the SoundCloud API (Application Programming Interface) to browse and search SoundCloud to find new tracks. Those applications then use a different part of the SoundCloud API to play those newly found tracks, hooking the output thereof into another piece of software that rips the audio to an MP3, after which a final bit of code then automatically post all those illegal rips to numerous pirate sites. These little applications run 24 hours a day. seven days a week, and just suck everything new out of SoundCloud into their piracy sites, without any human intervention whatsoever.

SoundCloud are now trying to stop this abuse by limiting the number of tracks an API-based application can request, thus limiting the number of tracks these pirates can steal. The limit is still high, because it still allows an application to grab a new track every six seconds. I can only guess that the problem has gotten so bad that this limit will actually have some negative effect on those rogue applications, and I would not be surprised if this limit is going to be reduced some time later on.

Despite what the various press reports have been saying, this change has no effect on the number of plays a track can get on the SoundCloud site, from the official SoundCloud apps, and/or from the standard SoundCloud widgets for embedding tracks on websites and social media.

Rate-limiting APIs is not unusual. Here at Musiqware, we make extensive use of the APIs from numerous sites and services, mostly to verify that our new releases appear on all the legitimate services correctly. Most of these APIs have rate limits to avoid various types of abuse. None of those limits cause a problem for our legitimate use of the APIs. Now SoundCloud have also imposed a limit on their API to avoid abuse. They should be applauded for doing something to reduce the pirates' abuse of their service...!

1 comment:

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