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This article was published on October 27, 2020

GitHub took down popular YouTube downloader — so devs made more copies

GitHub took down popular YouTube downloader — so devs made more copies
Ivan Mehta
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Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

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.

Youtuber Quinn Nelson, who runs the channel Snazzy Labs, said that he used the tool to archive his own content.

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.

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

While the original YoutTbe-dl repository is still down, there are now hundredsofnewforks 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.

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.

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