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Youtube-dl Wins Reprieve But Deezer & Spotify Downloaders Are On Thin Ice

Takedowns of tools and sites that help users to rip content from YouTube have been ongoing for years.

Some platforms have wilted under lawsuits while others are regularly targeted using the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA.

Until last month, it was generally assumed that there was no effective way to counter these actions but when the RIAA targeted youtube-dl on Github, the entire situation came to be seen in a different light.

While the future will be the judge of whether the RIAA made the right overall decision, having Github remove the wildly popular software now presents a dilemma for the labels. With the bear having been well and truly poked and with Github, the EFF, and other interested parties now putting their weight and money behind a legal defense, issuing takedowns for similar tools will now present a less straightforward proposition.

That being said, the issue of stream-ripping isn’t going away anytime soon, and with Deezer and Spotify facing similar problems, legal solutions will probably need to found. However, comparing the youtube-dl fight with those faced by tools that extract content from other streaming services isn’t something that should be done in haste.

Deezer Continues To Fight Against Stream-Ripping Tools

For years, music streaming service Deezer has been trying to prevent people from accessing its premium service without paying and/or downloading tracks as DRM-free audio files.

Last month, however, Deezer’s security team sent messages to pirate app users warning them that while they had been observed using unauthorized tools, the company wasn’t going to stop them. Well, not directly at least.

Just recently, TorrentFreak received new information which indicates that while Deezer isn’t going after ‘pirate’ users, it is certainly keeping up the pressure on those who create or distribute third-party tools. In addition to various takedown notices filed with Google and Twitter (1,2,3), the company also targeted Git platform, Fuwafuwa.moe.

A complaint filed with the project, forwarded to various app developers and obtained by TorrentFreak, has Deezer demanding that several Deezer-related projects – including ‘deemix’ (a tool based on Deezloader Remix), ‘freezer’, an app that claims to help users “Download and decrypt tracks from Deezer in style”, and ‘ayeBot’, a Discord bot that downloads music from Deezer – should be taken down on copyright grounds.

“DEEZER..[..]..offers, since 2012, an international online music on demand service, through free and paying services…with a formidable presence on the Internet and has acquired renown in the music industry and among Internet users,” the complaint reads.

“We have discovered that [links on the site] make available applications as Deemix, Deezloader or Freezer, which use illegal methods to bypass Deezer’s security measures to unlawfully download its music catalog, in total violation of our rights and those of our music licensors (phonographic producers, performing artists, songwriters and composers).”

The Deezer notice is notable since it cites no specific law as a basis for the takedowns. However, while speaking with “lesderid”, the operator of the git at Fuwafuwa.moe, TorrentFreak learned that the takedowns of the allegedly-infringing projects were carried out as requested since they were sent by Deezer in good faith.

“I try to be fair, but at the end of the day if it’s a legitimate notice sent by someone authorized to send it, I’ll take the content offline as required by EU law (largely equivalent to DMCA) to stay out of liability. I took down the repos and gave [the project operators] the option to submit a counter notice,” he explained.

Youtube-dl v Deezer downloading tools

Since these takedowns were actioned (and others too, according to various sources associated with the various projects), the question has been raised whether the youtube-dl matter could potentially render a better outcome for Deezer downloading tools moving forward. The knee-jerk reaction is probably not, but it’s still worth looking at some of the reasons why.

The main reasons for Github reinstating youtube-dl can be found in advice offered by the EFF. When these potential defenses for youtube-dl are compared to those available to Deezer downloaders, the contrast is clear to see.

The first key difference is that while both YouTube and Deezer have millions of users, only the former allows uploads from the public. This means that where it’s possible to say that youtube-dl has been used by “journalists and human rights organizations to save eyewitness videos” and “educators to save videos for classroom use”, such noble applications simply do not exist within a Deezer downloading tool. All of the content accessed is provided by companies or artists and is fully licensed, a massive difference when compared to YouTube.

In respect of YouTube’s much-referenced “rolling cipher”, characterized by the labels as encryption but dismissed by the EFF as simply a part of web-browsing, it’s fairly simple to spot the differences at Deezer. Indeed, and like competitor Spotify, Deezer uses a type of encryption in its business that the EFF strongly attempts to distance youtube-dl from.

“Importantly, youtube-dl does not decrypt video streams that are encrypted with commercial DRM technologies, such as Widevine, that are used by subscription video sites, such as Netflix,” the EFF statement reads.

YouTube is a Free Service – Deezer Premium is Not

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that most Deezer and Spotify downloaders are designed to circumvent either some of the restrictions placed on ad-supported accounts or provide full access to the related subscription service without paying for it. If we consider youtube-dl as a multi-purpose tool with substantial non-infringing uses, how Deezer downloaders operate sit in stark contrast.

Indeed, this type of behavior led Spotify to label similar software as “instruments of fraud” earlier this year, a claim that on face value shouldn’t be too difficult to build a case around. In the unlikely event the copyright claims against downloaders fall short, that is.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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EFF and GitHub’s Support for YouTube Rippers is Bad News for RIAA Lawsuits

The music industry is convinced. Downloading music from public streaming services, YouTube in particular, is the greatest piracy threat to the industry.

The RIAA and several key music labels are doing everything in their power to counter this menace. They’ve sued several YouTube download sites, removed streamripper URLs from search engines, and most recently they targeted the open-source tool youtube-dl as well.

The last move was a step too far for many. It immediately triggered outrage among developers and the public at large. The opposition reached new heights this week when GitHub and EFF drew a clear line in the sand. No further.

After some modifications, youtube-dl’s repository was reinstated. This was great news for the developers, users, and many stream-ripping sites that rely on the tool. But the decision and the reasoning behind it are much, much bigger than that.

In isolation, the youtube-dl code is a relatively small problem for the music industry. Similar tools will always be available. While the RIAA liked the message that was sent by the removal, they perhaps didn’t foresee that a refusal to take down the same code would be much worse.

‘YouTube Downloading Tools are Not Illegal’

Both GitHub and the EFF have made it very clear that YouTube downloading tools are not by definition illegal. On the contrary.

“Youtube-dl is a lot like the videocassette recorders of decades past: a flexible tool for saving personal copies of video that’s already accessible to the public,” the digital rights group wrote in a recent post on the topic.

GitHub also stressed that youtube-dl is a “socially beneficial tool” which can help researchers, journalists, and the public at large.

These comments, which are only a tiny selection of the broader message, are a potential game-changer. The backing from GitHub is particularly notable, as the company is owned by Microsoft, which in its own right is one of the largest copyright holders in the world.

github reinstates youtube-dl

That said, the legality of YouTube download tools is not impacted directly by the public commentary. Eventually, this is something that courts will have to decide over. In the US, there is no clear jurisprudence on this specific issue but that may change in the near future.

The RIAA’s main argument is that these tools violate DMCA section 1201, which prohibits the circumvention of technical protection measures. In YouTube’s case, the RIAA cites the “rolling cipher” protection that YouTube uses to make downloading from the site somewhat more complicated.

Rolling Cipher Encryption?

The question is whether this “rolling cipher” is indeed a protection measure under the DMCA. That’s up to a court to decide, but we have previously shown that anyone with a browser can easily download from YouTube without extra tools.

The RIAA’s position is strengthened by a 2017 order from a court in Germany, that was also cited in the GitHub takedown notice. There, the court ruled that the “rolling cipher” is a technical measure within the meaning of Germany’s Copyright Act.

However, not everyone believes that the court was correct here. EFF stated that, contrary to the court’s ruling, there is no encryption involved. YouTube’s video streams are visible to everyone who uses a regular web browser. The ‘rolling cipher’ simply refers to a changing signature, readable by Javascript, that’s used for some videos.

“The 2017 decision of the Hamburg Regional Court in Germany that RIAA references, which refers to YouTube’s “signature” mechanism, was wrongly decided and is not binding nor even persuasive under U.S. law,” EFF wrote.

GitHub also believes that the German court made an error. Following EFF’s lead, the company concluded that youtube-dl was not circumventing a technical protection measure. “We concluded that the allegations did not establish a violation of the law,” GitHub said.

Stream-Ripper Battle Continues in Court

These are strong statements that will eventually have to be tested before a judge and that may happen sooner rather than later. There are currently two major US lawsuits where the legality of YouTube rippers could be decided. While EFF and GitHub are not part of those cases, their input will likely prove a factor.

One of the lawsuits was filed by Jonathan Nader, the operator of the stream-ripper ‘Yout’, who sued the RIAA last month. Nader decided to be one step ahead of the music industry by demanding a declaratory judgment that his website doesn’t violate Section 1201 of the DMCA.

nader effTorrentFreak reached out to Nader, who said he prefers not to comment on the ongoing litigation. Especially since the RIAA has yet to formally reply.

However, the photo he shared with us reveals that he’s happy with EFF’s stance on the matter.

Nader’s lawsuit touches on the ‘rolling cipher’ argument as well, and he denies that anything is being decrypted or bypassed.

Another lawsuit where the same issue may be brought up was filed by several of the largest music labels two years ago, with support from the RIAA. They sued the YouTube ripping sites FLVTO.biz, 2conv.com, and their Russian operator Tofig Kurbanov.

Both sides are currently still fighting over whether a US court has jurisdiction. Kurbanov’s legal team recently petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear that matter.

If the court decides that the site operator has to defend himself, he is surrounded by a legal team that is confident that they can defeat the copyright and anti-circumvention allegations.

‘RIAA Opposed Every Technological Advance’

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Kurbanov’s defense attorney Evan Fray-Witzer equates stream-ripping to the other technological advances that were protested by the music industry over the years.

“It’s important to remember that the RIAA has consistently opposed virtually every technological advance from the 1970s forward including the advent of cassette tapes, compact discs, and MP3s. For 50 years they have been yelling that the sky is falling and yet – despite this hysteria – music continues not only to survive but to flourish.”

According to Fray-Witzer, this latest attack on stream-ripping is equally misguided and will eventually fail.

“Users have lots of legitimate uses for stream-ripping that have nothing to do with music. And, even when you’re talking about music, users have a legitimate right to time-shift, just as the courts found that people could record TV shows with their VCRs so that they could watch them at a different time,” he says.

2conv

The Yout.com and Kurbanov’s cases are not the first stream-ripper lawsuits. A few years ago, the record labels already sued YouTube-MP3. That site eventually settled the case privately and shut down. While the RIAA celebrated this as a major win, this outcome has little effect on the current cases.

“So far, the RIAA’s successes in court have been the result of defendants who lack the ability to fight back and to prove that these tools do not actually violate copyright law. Hopefully, that’s about to change,” Fray-Witzer notes.

“Stream-ripping sites and software are simply tools – tools with lots of legitimate uses, as the EFF has recognized,” the attorney adds.

DMCA Section 1201 Exceptions

It’s clear that the YouTube downloaders find themselves supported by the recent backing from GitHub and the EFF, but the moral support is just part of the story. In addition, both are also calling on the Copyright Office to broaden the DMCA Section 1201 exceptions.

“We are also advocating specifically on the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA to promote developers’ freedom to build socially beneficial tools like youtube-dl,” GitHub said this week, announcing their plan to get involved in the Copyright Office’s triannual review process.

Right now, US law makes it illegal for most developers to use or distribute code that bypasses technical protection measures, even if that technology or code can also be used for non-infringing or legal means.

Time will tell how these and other issues will develop over time but it’s clear that the RIAA’s takedown notice to GitHub was a wake-up call. Now we just have to see who and what it awakened.

TorrentFreak also reached out to the RIAA to hear their comments on these recent events but the group hasn’t responded. It’s not a stretch to conclude that they are not happy with GitHub’s reversal, to say the least.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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GitHub Reinstates Youtube-DL and Puts $1M in Takedown Defense Fund

Last month, the RIAA pulled the popular open source tool youtube-mp3 from GitHub.

The music group sent a takedown notice arguing that the software violated section 1201 of the DMCA, which prevents people from bypassing technical protection measures.

This enforcement action wasn’t well-received by the developer community. This included GitHub CEO Nat Friedman, who was ‘annoyed’ and personally offered his help to get the repository reinstated. This wasn’t a false promise, as youtube-dl returned today.

GitHub Reinstates Youtube-dl

“We are taking a stand for developers and have reinstated the youtube-dl repo. Section 1201 of the DMCA is broken and needs to be fixed. Developers should have the freedom to tinker. That’s how you get great tools like youtube-dl,” Friedman says.

GitHub has reinstated the repository after some changes were made. These changes include referrals to copyrighted music, which RIAA pointed out in its claim. However, the software still allows people to download files, including music tracks, from YouTube.

After a careful look at the “circumvention” allegations, GitHub now concludes that they are not valid. The company explains that it “received additional information” that allowed it “to reverse” the takedown.

No DMCA Anti-Circumvention Violations

“[O]ur reinstatement, based on new information that showed the project was not circumventing a technical protection measure (TPM), was inline with our values of putting developers first,” GitHub notes.

This new information comes from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which responded to the RIAA’s takedown request on behalf of the youtube-dl developers. The EFF’s letter explains in detail how the software works and stresses that there is no advanced decryption involved, as we highlighted earlier.

“Youtube-dl stands in place of a Web browser and performs a similar function with respect to user-uploaded videos. Importantly, youtube-dl does not decrypt video streams that are encrypted with commercial DRM technologies, such as Widevine, that are used by subscription video sites, such as Netflix,” the letter reads.

The letter helped to convince GitHub that it wrongly granted the takedown request. And since other copyright issues pointed out by the RIAA were addressed as well, the company decided to reinstate the repository.

Developers First

In addition, the revolt from the developer community was a clear reminder that developers should come first. As such, GitHub also announced that it will overhaul the way it handles DMCA section 1201 claims. One key change is that content won’t always be removed right away.

This change doesn’t apply to regular DMCA takedown notices but to ‘circumvention’ claims specifically. From now on, these will all be manually reviewed and scrutinized by experts.

“When we see it is possible to modify a project to remove allegedly infringing content, we give the owners a chance to fix problems before we take content down. If not, they can always respond to the notification disabling the repository and offer to make changes, or file a counter notice,” GitHub explains.

$1M in Defense Fund

The developer platform will aid developers financially as well. The company announced that it will put $1 million into a defense fund to help open source developers on GitHub protect themselves from overbroad or unwarranted DMCA Section 1201 takedown requests.

In addition, it will also get more involved in the political side of things. Every three years the US Copyright Office reviews its DMCA anti-circumvention exceptions and GitHub will have its voice heard there as well.

“We are also advocating specifically on the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA to promote developers’ freedom to build socially beneficial tools like youtube-dl,” the company notes.

All in all, it’s safe to say that the RIAA’s takedown attempt has completely backfired. We previously reached out to the music group for comment on related youtube-dl issues, but this request remains unanswered.

The RIAA continues to issue similar DMCA circumvention requests to other companies, including Google. These argue that YouTube rippers violate the DMCA as they bypass YouTube’s “rolling cipher.” At GitHub, those won’t work anymore.

Youtube-dl Devs Are Happy

Sergey, one of the youtube-dl developers, tells us that he is happy with all the support they have received from the EFF, GitHub, as well as the public at large.

“EFF’s help was invaluable. We’d like to thank EFF and Mitch Stoltz personally for their incredible support and dedication. We’d also like to thank GitHub for standing up for youtube-dl and taking potential legal risks by allowing youtube-dl to keep the rolling cipher code,” he says.

“We’re also grateful to all the tremendous amount of support and offers received lately (we physically were not able to respond to everyone) and all youtube-dl users,” Sergey adds.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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RIAA Takedowns Backfire as Pirated MP3s Now Surface on GitHub

The RIAA and other music groups see people who download music from YouTube as a major piracy threat.

To deal with this problem, they have increased their enforcement actions against stream-ripping tools and services.

RIAA Takes Youtube-dl Off GitHub

This has led to lawsuits and takedown notices, where it’s argued that stream-ripping sites and software violate the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions. That was also the case with the open-source software youtube-dl, which was pulled from Github last month.

The RIAA informed GitHub of the alleged copyright violations and the developer platform swiftly complied, taking the software offline.

We have seen similar requests in the past but this one struck a nerve, especially among developers. They believe that the RIAA went too far. As we highlighted earlier, hundreds of new copies of the youtube-dl code appeared online in response, also on GitHub.

While GitHub’s CEO Nat Friedman was annoyed by RIAA takedown efforts, he stressed that the platform legally had to comply, which it did. More recently, the company even said that users who continue to republish the code risk being banned.

Full MP3s Now Appear on GitHub

Thus far this hasn’t stopped the problem. The youtube-dl code continues to be uploaded to GitHub multiple times a day. This obviously frustrated the RIAA, but the music group has a bigger problem too. Full MP3s are being shared on the site as well now.

A few hours ago we spotted a new GitHub user named ‘FuckTheRIAA‘ who uploaded a copy of youtube-dl as well as a ‘FuckTheRIAA’ repository that includes three songs.

f riaa

These songs from Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, and Icona Pop, were not chosen randomly. The same tracks were mentioned in the RIAA’s original takedown request, as the YouTube videos were highlighted in the youtube-dl code.

“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,” the RIAA wrote.

How Will the RIAA Respond?

This is yet another example that shows how the RIAA’s takedown request has actually made things worse for the music group, at least for now. After nearly a day the three MP3 files are still available on GitHub.

TorrentFreak requested a comment from the RIAA on these unusual uploads but the group didn’t immediately reply. However, it seems likely that it will send another DMCA takedown request to remove the tracks from GitHub.

Whether the RIAA will also file takedown notices to remove all of the new youtube-dl forks has yet to be seen. For now, its takedown efforts have only made things worse, so they may let things cool down for a while first while exploring other options.

Lawful Uses?

Over the past two weeks, a lot of people and organizations have criticized the RIAA’s enforcement efforts, including the EFF, which stressed that “youtube-dl is a legitimate tool with a world of lawful uses.”

EFF believes that the circumvention restrictions in DMCA section 1201, which prevent people from bypassing technological restrictions, are too broad.

“DMCA 1201 is incredibly broad, apparently allowing rightsholders to legally harass any ‘trafficker’ in code that lets users re-take control of their devices from DRM locks,” EFF wrote recently.

That brings us to another issue we highlighted recently. How much circumvention is involved when anyone can bypass YouTube’s ‘restrictions’ in a regular web browser without extra tools?

The RIAA, however, is convinced that it has the law on its side and thus far its takedown efforts have been successful.

With all the controversy, it will be interesting to see how US courts interpret this issue. The legality of YouTube download services has never been properly litigated and the Flvto/2conv and Yout.com lawsuits could bring more clarity.

That said, the GitHub user named FuckTheRIAA appears to have made up their mind already. Meanwhile, youtube-dl remains available via the official website.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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GitHub Warns Users Reposting YouTube-DL They Could Be Banned

On October 23, 2020, the RIAA decided on action to stunt the growth and potentially the entire future of popular YouTube-ripping tool YouTube-DL.

The music industry group filed a copyright complaint with code repository Github, demanding that the project be taken down for breaching the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. While this was never likely to be well received by the hoards of people who support the software, the response was unprecedented.

Outcry Not Seen Since the RIAA Sued Users in the 2000s

When the RIAA decided it would be a good idea to sue individual file-sharers during the 2000s, the music industry group became a household name for all the wrong reasons. Famously described as ‘The Recording Industry vs The People’, the legal initiative rendered the RIAA one of the most hated groups online, with targets and their supporters recoiling at what many believed to be an abuse of power.

While the RIAA eventually parted ways with that legal strategy, the stain of those few years managed to persist but, as those who were ‘there’ moved on and a younger generation began to take their place, the RIAA’s position as a “copyright bully” began to fade away. Whether the RIAA expected it not, the move to take down YouTube-DL has reignited the online hatred in a way that took many observers by surprise.

Online Unrest, Protest, and Kickback

While nowhere near the bitterness experienced online in the 2000s, the takedown of YouTube-DL caused a significant response online. Dozens of news outlets covered the RIAA’s decision and debates were ignited in tech and legal focused communities over whether the labels were justified or not. All of this only added to the interest in YouTube-DL, as data from Google Trends shows.

YouTube-DL Trends

Importantly, the action also angered those who maintain, use, and support the software, plus those who didn’t appreciate the perceived overreach into the open source community. As a result, large numbers of people united to stand shoulder to shoulder.

In many instances their response struck at the heart of the RIAA’s aims: if they wanted YouTube-DL to be harder to find, activists would make it even easier. The software was mirrored, cloned, uploaded to hosting platforms and even turned into images that could be easily shared on millions of sites. This, despite the software still being distributed defiantly from its own site.

One of the responses was to repost the content to Github itself, where hundreds of YouTube-DL forks kept the flame alight. A copy even appeared in Github’s DMCA notice repository where surprisingly it remains to this day. Now, however, Github is warning of consequences for those who continue to use the platform for deliberate breaches of the DMCA.

Github Warns Users Not to Risk Their Accounts

As previously reported, Github is being unusually sympathetic to the plight of the YouTube-DL developers. Most platforms are very happy to simply follow the rules by removing content in response to a DMCA complaint and standing back while declaring “Nothing to do with us folks.” Github, on the other hand, has actively become involved to try and get the project reinstated.

Unfortunately, however, there is only so far Github can go, something the company made clear in a statement posted to its DMCA repository this weekend.

“If you are looking to file or dispute a takedown notice by posting to this repository, please STOP because we do not accept Pull Requests or other contributions to this repository,” wrote Jesse Geraci, Github’s Corporate Counsel.

“Please note that re-posting the exact same content that was the subject of a takedown notice without following the proper process is a violation of GitHub’s DMCA Policy and Terms of Service.

“If you commit or post content to this repository that violates our Terms of Service, we will delete that content and may suspend access to your account as well,” Geraci wrote.

This statement caused an update to Github’s earlier DMCA notice advice, which now reads as follows:

Github DMCA Policy

Github Has a Responsibility to Enforce a Repeat Infringer Policy

This response from Github’s legal team shouldn’t come as a surprise. While the jury is still out on whether YouTube-DL actually breached the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions, the platform had little choice to comply with the initial request of the RIAA.

However, while Github is clear that “Users identified in the notices are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” it appears to be drawing a clear line in the sand that continually reposting allegedly-infringing content is against the rules. In this respect, Github links to its terms of service and DMCA policy.

“It is the policy of GitHub, in appropriate circumstances and in its sole discretion, to disable and terminate the accounts of users who may infringe upon the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of GitHub or others,” it reads.

Github Probably Doesn’t Want to Suspend/Ban Anyone

The new comments from Github’s Corporate Counsel seem designed to serve as a reminder to people who want to protest on Github itself. While dissenting commentary isn’t under any threat of a response, it appears – reading between the lines – that Github hopes people won’t continue to risk their accounts on the platform by reposting material that will only have to be taken down.

If such content is repeatedly taken down by the platform, then Github’s repeat infringer policy will need to be considered under law and as history has shown, that either ends badly for users or for platforms themselves, there is no real middle ground.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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RIAA’s YouTube-DL Takedown Ticks Off Developers and GitHub’s CEO

The music industry has increased its enforcement actions against stream-ripping tools and services in recent years.

The RIAA and other music groups have filed lawsuits, sent cease and desist orders, and issued numerous DMCA takedown notices.

RIAA Takes Down Youtube-DL

Until recently these efforts were hardly noticed by the public at large but late last week something changed. When the RIAA targeted the very popular open-source tool YouTube-DL, many people responded in anger.

Last Friday the RIAA asked the developer platform GitHub to remove the YouTube-DL code and various forks because it allegedly violates the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions.

By enabling the public to download content from YouTube, the tool allegedly bypasses YouTube ‘rolling cipher’ protection. Not just that, the code also included links to copyrighted works to illustrate its use.

Cease and Desist Notices

Following our initial coverage, we learned that the pressure against YouTube-DL had already started weeks earlier in Germany. Law firm Rasch, which works with several major music industry players, sent out cease and desist orders in the hope of taking YouTube-DL offline.

Hosting service Uberspace was one of the recipients. The company hosts the official YouTube-DL site and still does so today. Instead of taking the website down, Uberspace replied to the notice through its own lawyer, who said that the hosting company hasn’t don’t anything wrong.

When the cease and desist notice was filed, yt-dl.org wasn’t even hosting the tool, as all download links pointed to GitHub, the company informs us.

“The software itself wasn’t hosted on our systems anyway so, to be honest, I felt it to be quite ridiculous to involve us in this issue anyway – a lawyer specializing in IT laws should know better,” Jonas from Uberspace says.

Former Maintainer Tageted as Well

The host wasn’t the only entity to be targeted. The German law firm also sent a cease and desist notice to developer Philipp Hagemeister who previously maintained the YouTube-DL repository. He also denies the accusations.

“They did not understand that I was no longer a maintainer, basically alleged that youtube-dl was an illegal enterprise rather than a legit open-source project, and misunderstood a bunch of other technical stuff,” Hagemeister tells TorrentFreak.

Both Uberspace and Hagemeister don’t want to go into too much detail as this is a pending legal issue. However, both defend their actions in relation to YouTube-DL. And they’re not the only ones who were ticked off by the enforcement actions, as we learned this weekend.

Takedown Backfires as Copies are Everywhere

Soon after the RIAA notice took YouTube-DL offline many developers spoke out in protest. They believe that the music industry group went too far and started to republish copies of the code everywhere.

Over the past several days, we have seen hundreds of new forks and copies appear online. These were also posted to GitHub, where YouTube-DL forks remain easy to find and continue to be uploaded.

The code was also posted in some places one wouldn’t expect. For example, there’s still a copy in GitHub’s DMCA notice repository, which some people find quite amusing. And the list of pull requests can be quite entertaining in themselves.

One of the most creative responses we’ve seen was posted to Twitter by @GalacticFurball who encoded YouTube-DL into images that can be easily shared, encouraging others to share these as well.

“I would also suggest that you save and repost the images, as one single source kind of defeats the point. Maybe start a hashtag trend or something. Make songs, and poetry. Get that data out there.”

youtube-dl image

This triggered even more creativity, with people finding alternative means to share the code online, all to counter the RIAA’s takedown request.

GitHub’s CEO Offers to Help YouTube-DL

Meanwhile, GitHub’s CEO Nat Friedman wasn’t sitting still either. While the Microsoft-owned developer platform had to respond to the takedown notice, Friedman himself actively reached out to YouTube-DL’s developers to help them get their project reinstated.

The CEO joined YouTube-DL’s IRC channel hoping to connect with the owner of the repository so he can help to get it unsuspended.

“GitHub exists to help developers. We never want to interfere with their work. We want to help the youtube-dl maintainers defeat the DMCA claim so that we can restore the repo,” Friedman told TorrentFreak, explaining his actions.

It’s clear that GitHub exists to help developers. That said, for the company’s CEO to jump in and personally help someone to respond to a DMCA claim, is quite unprecedented. As it turns out, the RIAA’s notice ticked off Friedman as well.

“This one annoyed me,” Friedman says.

“Perhaps because of the importance of tools like youtube-dl for archivists, and our related archive program and funding of the Internet Archive: We are thinking about how GitHub can proactively help developers in more DMCA cases going forward, and take a more active role in reforming/repealing 1201.”

GitHub’s CEO suggested that YouTube-DL won’t be reinstated in its original form. But, the software may be able to return without the rolling cipher circumvention code and the examples of how to download copyrighted material.

RIAA Efforts Backfire

By now it is clear that the RIAA’s takedown notice backfired badly. With the ‘Streisand Effect’ in full swing, there are now probably more copies of YouTube-DL online than there ever were.

However, there is more. Reading between the lines Friedman suggests that the current DMCA rules may be too strong in some cases. For example, tools like YouTube-DL have non-infringing uses, and there can be upsides to circumventing copy protections as well. To archive content, for example.

This issue may eventually become a policy question. Every four years the US Copyright Office grants new exemptions to the DMCA section 1201 anti-circumvention rules, and it wouldn’t surprise if these tools are put on the agenda in the future.

Instead of simply taking down YouTube-DL, the RIAA may have actually poked the bear and increased support for such tools. Not only from developers at home, but also from big players such as GitHub. Putting that cat back in the bag is not going to be easy.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.