Takedowns of tools and sites that help users to rip content from YouTube have been ongoing for years.
Some platforms have wilted under lawsuits while others are regularly targeted using the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA.
Until last month, it was generally assumed that there was no effective way to counter these actions but when the RIAA targeted youtube-dl on Github, the entire situation came to be seen in a different light.
While the future will be the judge of whether the RIAA made the right overall decision, having Github remove the wildly popular software now presents a dilemma for the labels. With the bear having been well and truly poked and with Github, the EFF, and other interested parties now putting their weight and money behind a legal defense, issuing takedowns for similar tools will now present a less straightforward proposition.
That being said, the issue of stream-ripping isn’t going away anytime soon, and with Deezer and Spotify facing similar problems, legal solutions will probably need to found. However, comparing the youtube-dl fight with those faced by tools that extract content from other streaming services isn’t something that should be done in haste.
Deezer Continues To Fight Against Stream-Ripping Tools
For years, music streaming service Deezer has been trying to prevent people from accessing its premium service without paying and/or downloading tracks as DRM-free audio files.
Last month, however, Deezer’s security team sent messages to pirate app users warning them that while they had been observed using unauthorized tools, the company wasn’t going to stop them. Well, not directly at least.
Just recently, TorrentFreak received new information which indicates that while Deezer isn’t going after ‘pirate’ users, it is certainly keeping up the pressure on those who create or distribute third-party tools. In addition to various takedown notices filed with Google and Twitter (1,2,3), the company also targeted Git platform, Fuwafuwa.moe.
A complaint filed with the project, forwarded to various app developers and obtained by TorrentFreak, has Deezer demanding that several Deezer-related projects – including ‘deemix’ (a tool based on Deezloader Remix), ‘freezer’, an app that claims to help users “Download and decrypt tracks from Deezer in style”, and ‘ayeBot’, a Discord bot that downloads music from Deezer – should be taken down on copyright grounds.
“DEEZER..[..]..offers, since 2012, an international online music on demand service, through free and paying services…with a formidable presence on the Internet and has acquired renown in the music industry and among Internet users,” the complaint reads.
“We have discovered that [links on the site] make available applications as Deemix, Deezloader or Freezer, which use illegal methods to bypass Deezer’s security measures to unlawfully download its music catalog, in total violation of our rights and those of our music licensors (phonographic producers, performing artists, songwriters and composers).”
The Deezer notice is notable since it cites no specific law as a basis for the takedowns. However, while speaking with “lesderid”, the operator of the git at Fuwafuwa.moe, TorrentFreak learned that the takedowns of the allegedly-infringing projects were carried out as requested since they were sent by Deezer in good faith.
“I try to be fair, but at the end of the day if it’s a legitimate notice sent by someone authorized to send it, I’ll take the content offline as required by EU law (largely equivalent to DMCA) to stay out of liability. I took down the repos and gave [the project operators] the option to submit a counter notice,” he explained.
Youtube-dl v Deezer downloading tools
Since these takedowns were actioned (and others too, according to various sources associated with the various projects), the question has been raised whether the youtube-dl matter could potentially render a better outcome for Deezer downloading tools moving forward. The knee-jerk reaction is probably not, but it’s still worth looking at some of the reasons why.
The main reasons for Github reinstating youtube-dl can be found in advice offered by the EFF. When these potential defenses for youtube-dl are compared to those available to Deezer downloaders, the contrast is clear to see.
The first key difference is that while both YouTube and Deezer have millions of users, only the former allows uploads from the public. This means that where it’s possible to say that youtube-dl has been used by “journalists and human rights organizations to save eyewitness videos” and “educators to save videos for classroom use”, such noble applications simply do not exist within a Deezer downloading tool. All of the content accessed is provided by companies or artists and is fully licensed, a massive difference when compared to YouTube.
In respect of YouTube’s much-referenced “rolling cipher”, characterized by the labels as encryption but dismissed by the EFF as simply a part of web-browsing, it’s fairly simple to spot the differences at Deezer. Indeed, and like competitor Spotify, Deezer uses a type of encryption in its business that the EFF strongly attempts to distance youtube-dl from.
“Importantly, youtube-dl does not decrypt video streams that are encrypted with commercial DRM technologies, such as Widevine, that are used by subscription video sites, such as Netflix,” the EFF statement reads.
YouTube is a Free Service – Deezer Premium is Not
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that most Deezer and Spotify downloaders are designed to circumvent either some of the restrictions placed on ad-supported accounts or provide full access to the related subscription service without paying for it. If we consider youtube-dl as a multi-purpose tool with substantial non-infringing uses, how Deezer downloaders operate sit in stark contrast.
Indeed, this type of behavior led Spotify to label similar software as “instruments of fraud” earlier this year, a claim that on face value shouldn’t be too difficult to build a case around. In the unlikely event the copyright claims against downloaders fall short, that is.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.