Major Labels Sue Hosting Company Over youtube-dl Stream Extractor Webpage
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By Chris Cooke | Posted on Tuesday, January 18, 2022
The major labels sued a German hosting company that currently hosts an official homepage for the open source download manager youtube-dl. It’s part of the music industry’s ongoing battle against stream mining and the technology that powers it.
Stream mining, of course, has been the music industry’s biggest piracy problem for some time. This has led to a lot of debate about whether websites that allow people to grab permanent downloads of temporary streams are liable for any kind of copyright infringement. Some test cases in Europe – including in connection with website blocking injunctions – have suggested that they probably are.
There is also a second legal question to ask which, in the United States in particular, has begun to dominate the debate around the legality of stream-ripping.
And that is whether stream-scraping sites also violate rules – for example in the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act – that prohibit circumvention of technical protection measures put in place by digital platforms to help manage copyrights.
It became the central argument of the major legal battle in the United States between the record labels and the Yout stream-ripping service, which began after the labels tried to have the stream-ripping service removed from the Google search engine.
Yout argues that YouTube actually has no technical protection measures to stop stream mining, noting that – if you know what you’re doing – you can actually download a YouTube stream through a web browser.
The labels counter that manually downloading a file from YouTube this way is complicated due to various hurdles put in place by Google’s video site. And these obstacles constitute a technical measure of protection.
This debate also continues around youtube-dl, which also facilitates stream-ripping, and which the majors have also been targeting for a while now. In particular, in 2020 the music industry tried to have the youtube-dl code removed from Github. These attempts were initially successful but, after a mini-controversy, Github restored the code to its platform.
Along with all this, the music industry has also targeted the German hosting company Uberspace with a cease and desist, as it hosts the official youtube-dl webpage, even though the actual code is not there not stored.
The fact that Uberspace is based in Germany is particularly interesting, because when the record industry sought to have youtube-dl removed from Github, they actually cited an earlier case in German courts, because there was no real legal precedent in the United States.
In this German case, it was concluded that the measures put in place by YouTube to try to stop the extraction of streams constituted a “technological protection measure” under European law.
Anyway, according to Torrentfreak, Uberspace is now being sued in German courts for hosting the youtube-dl webpage. If the case proceeds, it could test whether tools such as youtube-dl and Yout actually circumvent good faith technology protection measures when facilitating the downloading of content from the YouTube platform.
Although it may also end up focusing on whether any liability for such a possible circumvention should extend to a hosting company that merely hosts a webpage on some code.
Either way, Uberspace’s Jonas Pasche told Torrentfreak last week that he doesn’t believe the lawsuit is warranted, and mainly on the grounds that the main YouTube platform has no protective measures. technology designed to prevent the downloading of files. Unlike, he added, the YouTube Music subscription service and the video site’s movie rental service.
“YouTube has measures to prevent users from downloading specific content, which they use for YouTube Movies and Music: DRM,” he said. “They don’t use this technology [on the main site], allowing a fairly trivial download. You can think of youtube-dl as just a specialized browser, and you wouldn’t ban Firefox just because you can use it to access music videos on YouTube.”
We are waiting to see how this new German affair unfolds.