RIAA blitz takes down 18 GitHub projects used for downloading YouTube videos

Main target of the takedown was the youtube-dl project, a Python library that had amassed more than 72k stars on GitHub and was used in many YouTube video ripping tools and services.

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Image: ZDNet

Microsoft-owned GitHub has removed today 18 projects from its code-hosting portal following a legal request filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

All the code repositories removed today are related to the youtube-dl project.

Youtube-dl is a Python library that allows developers to download the source audio and video files behind YouTube videos.

In a letter sent to GitHub, RIAA argued that the "clear purpose of this source code [the youtube-dl library]" was to "circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube" and to allow users to "reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings [...] without authorization."

RIAA noted that the project's source code "expressly suggests its use to copy and/or distribute the following copyrighted works."

RIAA, a trade organization that claims to represent around 85% of all the US recording industry, requested that GitHub removed the youtube-dl project from its site, along with forks (copies managed by other users).

Youtube-dl and 17 copies were listed in the RIAA letter, all of which are inaccessible at the time of writing:

Although GitHub classified the RIAA letter as a DMCA takedown request, it is not one. As Public Knowledge Legal Director John Bergmayer pointed out today on Twitter, RIAA isn't alleging the library infringed on its rights, but that the library is illegal in itself.

The assessment isn't incorrect, as the library is often used to build YouTube ripping services that allow internet users to download YouTube music videos as MP3 songs to load and listen on their phones without paying.

However, Freedom of the Press member Parker Higgins also pointed out, youtube-dl is also an essential tool for internet archivists, who often used it to download videos of violence or social injustice before videos are taken down from YouTube for breaking the site's rule against the portrayal of violence.

Before it was taken down, the youtube-dl project had more than 72,000 stars on GitHub, being one of the site's most popular repositories.