Last week, GitHub took down the popular YouTube video downloader tool “YouTube-dl” after the Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. (RIAA), the organization that represents record labels, issued a DCMA takedown notice. As a result, the code hosting site took down multiple repositories.
RIAA argued that the YouTube-dl repository used technology violated section 1201 of copyright laws to obtain licensed content illegally. The notice also said that the tool’s developers used copyrighted songs from artists such as Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, and Charlie XCX as examples of content users can download. It also cited a ruling from a German court that favors the takedown.
Then there’s the other side of the argument from developers and activists saying the tool was meant to download videos from the government and other resources could use under creatives common licensing.
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. https://t.co/VUbTokd4cP
— EFF (@EFF) October 23, 2020
Youtuber Quinn Nelson, who runs the channel Snazzy Labs, said that he used the tool to archive his own content.
This is absurd. I used youtube-dl to download and archive MY OWN CONTENT. Wouldn’t have been possible without it. https://t.co/NweQe4OWf9
— Quinn Nelson (@SnazzyQ) October 26, 2020
A report from the Freedom of the Press Foundation describes how various journalists used the tool in different ways ranging from fact checking to gauge the reach of conspiracy theories. It also said that a lot of journalists used the tool to download videos for transcription of interviews.
While the original YoutTbe-dl repository is still down, there are now hundreds of new forks of it on GitHub and Gitlab. Security engineer Lance Vick noted that programmers have even exploited a bug to attach the original YouTube-dl source code to GitHub’s repository for DCMA takedowns.
Hey @GitHub. Remember that security bug where anyone can attach commits to repos they don't control? That bug you said you wont fix?
It was used to attach the "youtube-dl" source code to your own DMCA repo. Have fun @DMCA.
You two deserve each other.https://t.co/NzlFTAKytp
However, the challenge for these project managers would be to keep up with YouTube’s code changes so that the tool can download video without hindrance. Plus, for users, it’ll be hard to know what project to follow and what tool to download in order to have the most updated version.