Finally some good news in this hellish year. GitHub has restored popular video downloader tool, YouTube-dl, after the company banned it in October. The code hosting platform said that new information about the tool indicated that it didn’t violate technical protection measures put in place by YouTube.
Last month, the Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. (RIAA), the organization that represents record labels, issued a DCMA takedown notice against the tool. The notice said that YouTube-dl had used copyrighted songs from artists such as Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, and Charlie XCX, as samples of videos people can download. In response, GitHub took down the repository hosting YouTube-dl’s code.
However, researchers and activists were furious as they used this tool for legitimate purposes; mostly for transcribing interviews or archiving important non-licensed videos. Soon developers began to create more copies of the repository and host it on places such as GitHub and GitLab.
On Sunday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights non-profit, wrote a letter to GitHub arguing that YouTube-dl doesn’t break any DCMA rules or circumvent YouTube’s technical protections. Plus, it said that the tool streamed just a few seconds of an artist’s song to help users check if the software is working, and that’s fair usage.
After reading EFF’s letter, GitHub reinstated YouTube-dl and said it’s putting several measures in place to prevent such mishaps in the future. First, it said that every DCMA 1201 claim (Circumvention of copyright protection systems) will be reviewed by experts inside and outside the company.
Second, it’ll take the help of legal experts to decide the boundaries of DCMA takedowns. Plus, if the case is murky, it’ll side with the developer till violation is clearly proven. GitHub will also ask developers to make changes to prevent takedowns, if the claim is proven.
Additionally, the platform is also committing $1 million to protect developers from fraudulent DCMA claims. You can read GitHub’s announcement here.