This article was published on November 9, 2009

YouTube, mashup is pretty good, very illegal

YouTube, mashup is pretty good, very illegal
Martin SFP Bryant
Story by

Martin SFP Bryant


Martin SFP Bryant is the founder of UK startup newsletter PreSeed Now and technology and media consultancy Big Revolution. He was previously Martin SFP Bryant is the founder of UK startup newsletter PreSeed Now and technology and media consultancy Big Revolution. He was previously Editor-in-Chief at TNW.

YouScrobbleYouScrobble takes elements of and Youtube and wraps them up in a neat package. What a shame that it’s almost certainly illegal.

YouScrobble is designed to make searching for music quick and easy. By combining’s music database with YouTube’s library of music videos it creates a slick platform for finding and watching your favourites artists’ perform.

Because it’s pulling in data from, not only does a search for a song reveal its video in an embedded YouTube player but you get an artist biography, photos and links similar artists.

So far, so slick. Discounting the fact that the design is basically ripped off YouTube (but it’s in green instead of red so I’m sure Google won’t mind </sarcasm>), there’s nothing illegal here – it’s a really good way to browse and discover music videos.

Where YouScrobble drops the ball is by enabling downloads. Yes, each song has a ‘Download’ link you can click to get a free copy of the song downloaded to your hard drive.

“YouScrobble uses and YouTube to satisfy your needs and is therefore fully legal!” shouts the front page. That’s not strictly true.

youscrobble_downloadYou see, the download YouScrobble gives you isn’t a fully authorised MP3. Instead it’s scraping the audio from the YouTube video and saving it as an MP3. There are countless scripts, apps and websites that already do this but it doesn’t mean they’re legal. While YouTube is authorised to stream music (including via embedded players on other sites) downloads are a completely different thing.

Aside from the legal issue, the downloads aren’t always what you might expect. I tried it with a song I already own and like – ‘See A Penny (Pick It Up)’ by obscure American act YACHT. Rather than give me an crystal clear MP3 of the original recording I got the audio from this bootleg video of a live performance of the song. Sure, sometimes you’ll get the recording you expect, but not always.

So, unauthorised downloads that will annoy rightsholders and an inconsistent quality level that will frustrate users. A poor combination, and one that’s amplified on both fronts when you realise that they’re limiting you to 15 downloads per day unless you pay between $4.99 and $14.99 to upgrade to 100, 200 or 500 songs per day. How much of that do you reckon is going to the artists and record companies?

The YouScrobble Terms of Service basically say (it’s nothing to do with us if it’s illegal, that’s down to YouTube). I wouldn’t bet on that, guys.

Seriously, they’re playing with fire here. If I were them I’d be expecting a lawsuit any day. It’s a shame too; if the developers stuck to creating a better front-end for music discovery on YouTube they’d be onto a winner. Instead they’ve gone down the seedy route of scraping audio and charging for it.

Go back to the drawing board guys, or chances are you’ll be going to court.

[via Orli]

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