GitHub Removes YouTube Archiving Tool After RIAA DMCA Takedown Notice

On Friday, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) claimed that a YouTube video archiving tool’s code stored on the software development hosting platform GitHub violates copyright law. The RIAA issued a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice, which resulted in GitHub removing 18 projects that previously hosted different versions of the tool, YouTube-dl, which is an open-source software project library that allows YouTube video and audio file downloads.

The DMCA takedown notice states that “[t]he 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.’”

Specifically, the RIAA noted that the YouTube-dl source code “prominently includes as sample uses of the source code the downloading of copies of our members’ copyrighted sound recordings and music videos.” For example, “Icona Pop – I Love It (feat. Charli XCX) [Official Video], owned by Warner Music Group; Justin Timberlake – Tunnel Vision (Explicit), owned by Sony Music Group; and Taylor Swift – Shake it Off, owned/exclusively licensed by Universal Music Group.” Moreover, RIAA proffered that this “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.” Consequently, RIAA asserted that in good faith and based on the information it has it believes that “this activity is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.” Therefore, according to RIAA this is an anticircumvention violation, which breaches 17 U.S.C. §1201. Meanwhile, the RIAA claimed that the specified source code is predominantly used for “circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to copyrighted sound recordings on YouTube,” including the aforementioned examples; however, it is also used for legitimate archiving purposes too.

Additionally, the RIAA pointed to a German court’s decision that found that the service “unlawfully circumvented YouTube’s rolling cipher technical protection measure.” RIAA noted that the service is identical to the YouTube-dl source code and also allegedly circumvents YouTube’s rolling cipher in order to obtain unauthorized access to these copyrighted files in violation of the DMCA and YouTube’s Terms of Service.

RIAA requested that the YouTube-dl source code be taken down immediately and to disable access to this code where it is hosted on GitHub.

However, entities such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) expressed its dissatisfaction with the RIAA’s DMCA takedown notice, claiming that it has legitimate uses. Others have claimed that this move will hurt the way journalists, human rights activists, content creators, and others archive and utilize YouTube content.