The takedown request states:
- A list of youtube-dl forks to take down (uninteresting)
The clear purpose of this source code is to (i) circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube, and (ii) reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings owned by our member companies without authorization for such use. We note that the source code is described on GitHub as “a command-line program to download videos from YouTube.com and a few more sites.”1
This seems purposely false.
As for (i) IMHO the clear purpose of the source code is to download videos from youtube (and other services). I wouldn't even consider YouTube a "streaming service". I would consider youtube-dl to be centered on downloading the files that people upload. In fact, youtube-dl repository goes back to July 2008. YouTube started testing live streams in 2009, rolled out live streaming in April 2011 and wasn't opened to the general public until 2013 (Source).
And for (ii), it seems narcissist to consider that youtube-dl was made just for videos and sound recordings owned by their member companies without authorization. It's not like YouTube only had RIAA content, precisely.
We also note that the source code prominently includes as sample uses of the source code the downloading of copies of our members’ copyrighted sound recordings and music videos, as noted in Exhibit A hereto. For example, as shown on Exhibit A, the source code expressly suggests its use to copy and/or distribute the following copyrighted works owned by our member companies: (...)
Not at all. They are included as tests for the features, not as "sample uses". It doesn't even include a command line on how to download them. Those are date in json format (a list of dictionaries) which are assigned to a variable named
_TESTS. That can hardly be construed as suggesting the use of the program to copy or distribute those videos. In fact, what it might have produced is to artificially raise the view count of those videos by their members, as they would be downloaded automatically when running the tests by GitHub testing architecture (or manually by the developers themselves), without the vedeos really been seen.
The source code notes that the Icona Pop work identified above is under the YouTube Standard license, which expressly restricts access to copyrighted works only for streaming on YouTube and prohibits their further reproduction or distribution without consent of the copyright owner; that the Justin Timberlake work identified above is under an additional age protection identifier; and that the request for the Taylor Swift work identified above is to obtain, without authorization of the copyright owner or YouTube, an M4A audio file from the audiovisual work in question.
The tests want to ensure that the code is able to download
- Normal videos (
'note': 'Test generic use_cipher_signature video (#897)')
- Videos with an age limit (
'note': 'Test VEVO video with age protection (#956)')
- And the comment on Taylor Swift video (
JS player signature function name containing $) actually seems like a bug that was detected related to that video, so it was included to ensure it didn't reappear. (issue 4706, "Looks like Google switched to a new JS compiler that includes dollar signs in function names.")
We have a good faith belief that this activity is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. We assert that the information in this notification is accurate, based upon the data available to us.
This is probably a boilerplate text, but what appears before is not really a content infringing on their members copyright. It might be that Icona Pop, Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift would be upset that youtube-dl developers ensured that their videos could be viewed properly, though.
Anticircumvention Violation. We also note that the provision or trafficking of the source code violates 17 USC §§1201(a)(2) and 1201(b)(1). The source code is a technology primarily designed or produced for the purpose of, and marketed for, circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to copyrighted sound recordings on YouTube, including copyrighted sound recordings owned by our members. For further context, please see the attached court decision from the Hamburg Regional Court that describes the technological measure at issue (known as YouTube’s “rolling cipher”), and the court’s determination that the technology employed by YouTube is an effective technical measure within the meaning of EU and German law, which is materially identical to Title 17 U.S.C. §1201 of the United States Code. The court further determined that the service at issue in that case unlawfully circumvented YouTube’s rolling cipher technical protection measure.2 The youtube-dl source code functions in a manner essentially identical to the service at issue in the Hamburg Regional Court decision. As there, the youtube-dl source code available on Github (which is the subject of this notice) circumvents YouTube’s rolling cipher to gain unauthorized access to copyrighted audio files, in violation of YouTube’s express terms of service,3 and in plain violation of Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §1201.
Actually, and without having digged into those decisions, I see more value on the claim that youtube-dl is infringing DMCA based on the that it is circumventing the technological measure of the rolling cipher. Exclusively, as I see no basis for the prior statements.
Indeed, the comments in the youtube-dl source code make clear that the source code was designed and is marketed for the purpose of circumventing YouTube’s technological measures to enable unauthorized access to our member’s copyrighted works, and to make unauthorized copies and distributions thereof:
However, they are not including such clear comments as evidence. Plus again, it's egoistic to claim that it was done to get access for their members works.
they identify our member’s works, they note that the works are VEVO videos (virtually all of which are owned by our member companies), they acknowledge the those works are licensed to YouTube under the YouTube standard license, and they use those examples in the source code to describe how to obtain unauthorized access to copies of our members’ works.
Again, those are not examples but tests. Apparently, the developers simply included existing videos in their tests to check that it was working correctly. It would have been preferable that they used their own test videos (as they also did at times). Just above the entry of Icona Pop, there is one for youtube-dl test video "'/\ä↭𝕐, so following the RIAA rationale, the purpose of youtube-dl developers would be that people copy and distribute such video, instead of ensuring that videos with special characters in their description are handled correctly.
In light of the above noted copyright infringements and anticircumvention violations, we ask that you immediately take down and disable access to the youtube-dl source code at all of its locations where it is hosted on GitHub, including without limitation those locations in the representative list set forth above.
RIAA and good faith
It's also interesting to note that the RIAA members content is so tangential that had RIAA reached youtube-dl requesting them to be removed from the list of tests, rather than directly sending a DMCA takedown, I'm quite sure they would have happily complied, since those entries are clearly not for what RIAA claims.
The takedown request is also overly ample, by targetting the whole repository, whereas it could have targeted instead only the file https://github.com/ytdl-org/youtube-dl/extractor/youtube.py which seems to be the one they are angry with. This is just one of the 766 files on the extractor folder.
My usage of youtube-dl
Finally, since they seem to be demonizing youtube-dl, let me clarify my stance. Yes,
I have used youtube-dl in the past. Last one was 6 months ago. It had absolutely no relationship with VEVO, RIAA or music companies.
In fact, I have been in the situation where downloading then viewing was the only recourse to watch certain videos, as the web interface of the platform didn't work on the user browser, required obnoxious steps or simply, was constantly being stopped due to low bandwidth, to the point of making it impossible to watch.
So much for the "clear purpose" of youtube-dl to infringe upon RIAA member companies.