Youtube-dl’s hosting provider is fighting the record companies’ lawsuit * TorrentFreak
The major record labels don’t want people downloading music from YouTube, which is common practice for millions of people.
To stop this, music industry titans around the world are employing a variety of legal tactics. For example, they have obtained website blocking orders and are taking stream ripping sites like 2Conv and Yout.com directly to court.
Youtube dl Takedown Battle
At the end of 2020, the open source software youtube-dl was added to the list of attack targets. The tool is used by many stream ripping sites and was freely available on GitHub. The RIAA asked the developer platform to take them offline. According to the music group, youtube-dl violates the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.
The RIAA initially had success when GitHub complied with the takedown request. However, after public outrage and involvement from digital rights groups, including the EFF, that decision was eventually reversed. Additionally, GitHub has pledged $1 million to a takedown defense fund.
It was a clear setback for the record companies, but they didn’t give up. Instead, they targeted YouTube DL hosting provider Uberspace.
The RIAA had already sent cease and desist orders to the hosting company in 2020 before contacting GitHub. The company didn’t do anything at the time, not least because the software itself isn’t hosted on the website, which just links to it.
Label Sue Uberspace in Germany
Earlier this year, Uberspace informed us that Sony Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Universal Music had taken the matter to court in Germany. Their complaint, which cites a previous case from 2017, alleges that youtube-dl aids copyright infringement by circumventing YouTube’s technical protections.
Uberspace responded to the lawsuit a few days ago and applied to the Hamburg Regional Court to dismiss the lawsuit for various reasons. The hosting provider is supported by the German Society for Civil Rights (GFF), which has the necessary expertise and contacts to be able to defend itself.
“With its lawsuit, the music industry is again exerting pressure on a neutral provider of Internet infrastructure under the pretext of copyright,” the Society for Civil Rights states in a current statement on the legal dispute.
Numerous legal uses
The defendants point out, among other things, that youtube-dl is an essential instrument for safeguarding freedom of the press and freedom of information. This is backed up by several public statements from organizations such as Amnesty International and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
“The youtube-dl software can be used for countless purposes. Journalists, scientists, law enforcement agencies and human rights organizations use youtube-dl regularly, for example for documentation and evidence preservation purposes.
“For example, Amnesty International expressly recommends the use of youtube-dl to document human rights violations on the Internet, since platforms such as YouTube, Facebook or Twitter remove these videos,” adds the defence.
Uberspace’s legal team adds that YouTube and its creators also have an interest in being able to download content from the platform. For example, to create “reaction videos” in response to other YouTubers, which are then monetized through advertising.
The defense further notes that YouTube allows creators to publish content under a Creative Commons license that expressly allows others to reuse the content. This would be impossible without first downloading a copy from the platform.
The dismissal motion also dismisses the record companies’ claims that youtube-dl circumvents effective safeguards. As we’ve seen in similar cases, Uberspace’s denial motion emphasizes that anyone can easily download YouTube videos directly from a browser, without tools like youtube-dl.
“YouTube makes all information about viewing videos in the public area of YouTube available to any retrieving device openly and unencrypted. YouTube does not use ‘encryption technology’ designed to prevent ‘unauthorized downloading’ of YouTube content,” the defense writes.
Even if a legitimate dispute arises, Uberspace doesn’t feel it has to intervene by blocking the site at that stage. The company just hosts the youtube-dl website and doesn’t even store the software that is deployed on GitHub.
There may be more to this lawsuit than meets the eye. Uberspace’s legal team accuses music companies of forum shopping. That means they probably chose the Hamburg court based on the positive judgment of 2017. If they win again, it could improve their position in other cases.
This point is also raised by the EFF, which suggests that if this effort is successful, record labels could go after GitHub next.
“Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music seem to be hoping that German law will give them leverage they can’t get in the United States. They’re suing a small hosting company called Uberspace over essentially the same theories that failed to impress GitHub (and EFF) two years ago.”
The above is just a selection of the defense and the full file available through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Bürgerrecht and goes into much more detail.
The record companies will no doubt disagree with the arguments and will counter them in a follow-up lawsuit. After that, the court decides. Regardless of the outcome, it will no doubt have a broad impact on the future of stream ripping tools and services.