GitHub restored youtube-dl library after EFF intervention

Today, after a series of the biggest scandals, in which got involved the IT community, GitHub has restored the library of the youtube-dl open source project.

Let me remind you that this story began last month, when copyright holders from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) insisted on the removal of youtube-dl and 17 copies of it. The library has been removed due to a violation of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).

“The project could have been used to “bypass technical protections used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube,” allowing users to “play and distribute music videos and sound recordings without the permission of [copyright holders]”, – insisted RIAA representatives.

In fact, the RIAA did not even claim a DMCA violation or that the library violated the rights of members of the Association, but argued that the library itself is illegal.

The incident sparked a flurry of criticism against the RIAA, GitHub and Microsoft, which has owned the service since 2018. Ordinary users, experts and human rights activists wrote that YouTube-DL was popular not only among pirates: for example, it was actively used by Internet archivists, and the library was often used to download free documentaries, videos that are in the public domain, and so on.

In the end, it turned out that even Nat Friedman, who headed GitHub after acquiring Microsoft in 2018, was also unhappy with the situation.

“Youtube-dl does not actually violate section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that the RIAA lawyers have referred to in their complaint. For example, the copyright holders claimed that youtube-dl infringes on copyright by providing people with a tool to bypass copyright protection in various materials, even if the library code itself does not contain content that infringes copyright”, – GitHub representatives told in the blog.

GitHub representatives are now referring to a letter recently received from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) lawyers, who took up the youtube-dl case. In the letter, the EFF team clarified that Google does not use any technical means to prevent the download of its videos, which should be available for free for all kinds of applications, browsers, smart TVs and so on. Hence the youtube-dl library cannot be locked under section 1201 as it does not bypass any copyright protection system at all. After all, there is simply no such thing.

GitHub senior policy manager Abby Vollmer writes that after receiving a complaint from the RIAA, GitHub had no choice and the resource had to comply with the law. However, the scandal surrounding the removal of youtube-dl was a good opportunity for the company to learn.

“After what happened in GitHub, a will be established a “Developer Protection Fund”, whose size will be $1,000,000. The company plans to use these tools to protect developers from “unreasonable removal requests based on section 1201 DMCA”, – says Vollmer.

In addition, GitHub is promising to hire technical and legal experts, as well as independent specialists, who will review all content removal claims related to DMCA section 1201. These people will need to protect open source developers from unnecessary litigation and make sure that copyright claims are legal and DMCA compliant. All of this will be done at its own expense on GitHub and free for developers using the resource.

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About Daniel Zimmermann

Daniel Zimmermann has been writing on security and malware subjects for many years and has been working in the security industry for over 10 years. Daniel was educated at the Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany and currently lives in New York.

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