RIAA Tosses Bogus Claim At Github To Get Video Downloading Software Removed

from the mumbo-and/or-jumbo dept

The RIAA is still going after downloaders, years after targeting downloaders proved to be a waste of time and a PR catastrophe. It's not actually thinking about suing the end users of certain programs, but it has targeted Github with a takedown notice for hosting youtube-dl, a command line video downloader that downloads videos from (obviously) YouTube and other video sites.

Not that this is going to be any more effective than suing file sharers. The software has been downloaded countless times and forked into new projects hosted (and distributed) elsewhere.

Github has posted the RIAA's takedown request, which looks a lot like a DMCA notice for copyright infringement. But it isn't actually targeting infringement. As Parker Higgins pointed out on Twitter, the RIAA -- after saying a bunch of stuff about copyright infringement -- is actually claiming this software violates Section 1201 of the DMCA, which deals with circumvention of copyright protection schemes.

The request lists a bunch of Github URLs as "copyright violations." But these aren't actually copyright violations. A little further down the RIAA gets to the point.

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.”

So, it's not really about copyright infringement. The RIAA tries to blur that line a bit by saying the source code includes a short list of videos the program can download -- all three of which are videos owned by major labels. Then the RIAA goes a step further, basically claiming that any software that can download YouTube videos violates Section 1201 of the DMCA and only exists to engage in copyright infringement.

The source code is a technology primarily designed or produced for the purpose of, and marketed for, circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to copyrighted sound recordings on YouTube...

[T]he youtube-dl source code available on Github (which is the subject of this notice) circumvents YouTube’s rolling cipher to gain unauthorized access to copyrighted audio files, in violation of YouTube’s express terms of service,and in plain violation of Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §1201.

This suggests the primary use of youtube-dl is to violate the law. There are plenty of non-infringing uses for this software, including the downloading of CC-licensed videos and those created by the US government, which are public domain. Basically, the RIAA is mashing up the takedown notice provision of DMCA 512 to try to remove code it claims (incorrectly) is violating DMCA 1201... while ignoring the Supreme Court's ruling in Sony v. Universal that says that tools with substantial non-infringing uses (in that case -- oh look! -- a video recording tool) is not by itself infringing.

Making blanket statements like these is irresponsible and misleading, but that's the sort of thing we've come to expect from entities like the RIAA. It's the same questionable claim the MPAA made back in 2014, when it demanded third-party hosts remove Popcorn Time repositories because the software could be used to engage in copyright infringement. It didn't make sense six years ago. It doesn't make any more sense now.

Added to all the stupidity is the fact that the RIAA appears to be threatening anyone even loosely-connected to the youtube-dl project. A couple of contributors to the project over the years have reported they've received legal threats from the RIAA for working on unrelated code and maintaining the repository.

The RIAA is welcome to continue its mostly-fruitless fight against copyright infringement. But it needs to do so honestly and do it without causing collateral damage to people who haven't engaged in infringement. The RIAA has no claim here. Github isn't engaging in infringement or circumvention. The software isn't either, not until someone uses it to accomplish this. If the RIAA has a problem with end users, it needs to take its complaints to them. This is just more bullshit being brought by an entity with enough heft it will rarely be challenged, even when it's in the wrong.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: copyright, dmca, dmca 1201, dmca 512, downloading, recording, youtube-dl
Companies: github, riaa, youtube

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2020 @ 10:37am

    Re: Pointless

    They would certainly like to.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.