GitHub removes YouTube-DL source code from its repositories following a legal request from the RIAA that it claims was intended to “circumvent TYouTube’s piracy prevention measures.”
YouTube-DL is a popular, open-source, and in our view entirely legitimate command-line tool used to download videos from the Google platform. It was hosted on GitHub, owned by Microsoft, and has been surprisingly removed.
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The RIAA, the powerful Recording Industry Association of America, has explained that – in its opinion – YouTube-DL violates section 1201 of the US copyright law. And therefore, it is illegal, because it is intended “clearly to circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized broadcasting services such as YouTube” and “to reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings owned by its member companies without authorization for such use.
GitHub removes YouTube-DL, the measure is controversial, as are other similar measures. Imagine if they suspended the Google search engine because some users use it to search for pirated content. Or the .torrent network was removed for the same reasons.
YouTube-DL supporters have criticized the decision on these grounds, pointing out that not everyone uses the tool for piracy. Some people use it to download a backup copy of their own content, while others use it to archive videos that could be deleted at any time for one reason or another.
Even the non-profit organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has come out to give its point of view and agrees with the general opinion: “Youtube-dl is a legitimate tool with a world of a lawful uses. Demanding its removal from Github is a disappointing and counterproductive move by the RIAA.”
The RIAA’s demand and GitHub’s decision is having the opposite effect. Numerous open-source groups are now hosting the code on their own websites.
For the older folks around, the case may remind them of the DeCSS code in the late 1990s, where the RIAA filed a lawsuit against this tool that allowed DVDs to be played on free systems like Linux by removing the copy protection. It was a resounding defeat for the RIAA. DeCSS ended up being printed on T-shirts.
GitHub removes YouTube-DL source code. Microsoft, the current owner of the world’s largest software host, did not want to enter the YouTube-DL case, except to say that the code maintainers have the right to file a counterclaim.