GitHub takes down YouTube video download tools after an RIAA notice

The RIAA argued that the tools were meant to circumvent YouTube's piracy prevention measures.

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Mariella Moon
October 24th, 2020
Tyumen, Russia - April 30,2019: YouTube App icon channel on iPhone XR
Anatoliy Sizov via Getty Images

You won’t find the source code for YouTube-DL, a popular tool that can be used to download videos from YouTube, and for some of its forks and copies on GitHub anymore. When you visit their pages, you’ll find a notice that says the “[r]epository [is] unavailable due to DMCA takedown” instead. That’s because the Microsoft-owned code hosting platform took them all down after getting a legal request from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Public Knowledge Legal Director John Bergmayer explained on Twitter that the letter wasn’t exactly a DMCA takedown notice despite what GitHub posted on the source codes’ now-empty pages. The association said in its letter that YouTube-DL violates section 1201 of the US copyright law and hence is illegal in and of itself. It argued that the tool violates copyright law, because it’s clearly meant to “circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube” and to “reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings owned by [RIAA’s] member companies without authorization for such use.”

YouTube-DL fans pointed out, however, that not everyone uses the tool for piracy. Some people use it to download a backup of their own content, while others use it to archive videos that could be taken down anytime due to one reason or another.

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