YouTube Backup Tool YouTube DL Taken Down on GitHub After RIAA Complaint

The RIAA has issued a DMCA takedown notice against the Github repository of YouTube DL. YouTube DL is a YouTube backup tool.

YouTube is more meant to stream video content. When it comes to backing up content, there isn’t a whole lot of options afforded to users. So, when users want to view YouTube offline, some turn to the tool YouTube DL. The tool allows users to backup content in a variety of formats to suit their needs.

Recently, however, the tools Github repository was taken down by a DMCA notice issued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The tool remains online through other resources, but the official Github page has been taken down after the complaint. From the complaint:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am contacting you on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. (RIAA) and its member record companies. The RIAA is a trade association whose member companies create, manufacture or distribute sound recordings representing approximately eighty-five (85) percent of all legitimate recorded music consumption in the United States. Under penalty of perjury, we submit that the RIAA is authorized to act on behalf of its member companies on matters involving the infringement of their sound recordings, audiovisual works and images, including enforcing their copyrights and common law rights on the Internet.

The above list includes a representative sample of the youtube-dl forks of the youtube-dl source code being hosted on GitHub. Based on our review of the representative sample noted above, we have a good faith belief that most of the youtube-dl forks are infringing to the same extent as the parent repository.

The clear purpose of this source code is to (i) circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube, and (ii) reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings owned by our member companies without authorization for such use. We note that the source code is described on GitHub as “a command-line program to download videos from YouTube.com and a few more sites.”1

We also note that the source code prominently includes as sample uses of the source code the downloading of copies of our members’ copyrighted sound recordings and music videos, as noted in Exhibit A hereto. For example, as shown on Exhibit A, the source code expressly suggests its use to copy and/or distribute the following copyrighted works owned by our member companies:

• Icona Pop – I Love It (feat. Charli XCX) [Official Video], owned by Warner Music Group
• Justin Timberlake – Tunnel Vision (Explicit), owned by Sony Music Group
• Taylor Swift – Shake it Off, owned/exclusively licensed by Universal Music Group

This has all the makings of a classic copyright fight with a very traditional innovation opponent. Going back over a decade, when Napster began to proliferate, the RIAA made a very high profile announcement that they were going to litigate the file-sharing application application into the ground. The net result is that more potential users learned that you could download MP3s through file-sharing applications online. So, while the litigation process was going on, the popularity of file-sharing underwent an overall explosion.

So, by making this huge high profile fight, the RIAA ended up popularizing the very thing that they vowed to fight. As many have noted in the more than a decade since, what the RIAA did was a major mistake on pretty much every level. As file-sharing proliferated thanks to alternatives like KaZaA and Limewire, the RIAA took the continued approach of litigating both individuals and the developers themselves. This only encouraged even more people to join file-sharing networks and further popularized the various Napster alternatives that came out of the early 2000s.

The prevailing two thoughts were that the RIAA will never learn from their previous mistakes and that getting accused was the equivalent of getting struck by lightening given the millions who used file-sharing every day.

So now, after all these years, we are seeing history more or less repeat itself yet again. Here we have a tool that many have no doubt never heard about before suddenly getting high profile attention thanks to legal action taken by the RIAA. The repositories might have been taken down, but the main website remains up. The tool is continuing to be offered for free so people can easily access it still. So, it is likely that others will find themselves encouraged to download it for the time being.

Legally, the RIAA technically is within its right to DMCA it thanks to the law they lobbied for all these years ago. One of the aspects of the DMCA is the notorious anti-circumvention laws. Those anti-circumvention laws have been responsible for hamstringing innovation in the US. The thinking is that if something could technically be used in some way shape or form to circumvent a DRM, whether or not that is the intended use, major record labels, movie studios, or software companies could simply argue that infringement is the intended use and that would mean curtains for whoever was creating that tool whatever it is.

Internationally, this should be yet another warning message as to why you shouldn’t pass laws that mirror the DMCA in the first place. This assumes that those laws haven’t been passed already in the first place of course. If you criminalize innovation where a guilty verdict could be won thanks to a hypothetical situation, innovation will forever suffer in the country.

The only thing that really did hurt this project is that, if true, they probably shouldn’t have used copyrighted works as an example of things that could be backed up in the first place. That has been a longstanding precedent seen in the MGM vs. Grokster case. If you actively encourage people to infringe on copyright, then you can easily expect legal trouble.

Still, even if this is the beginning of the end of this software project, there is going to be others that will make tools to backup content on YouTube – and maybe even more easily no less. Stream ripping has been a thing for years already and there is no reason to believe that it is going away any time soon.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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