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GitHub reinstates youtube-dl and announces how it will handle DMCA requests

The popular youtube-dl project has been reinstated on GitHub following its removal in October.

As you might recall, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) issued a takedown notice claiming the project was illegal. To hammer its point home, RIAA cited comments in the youtube-dl source code which appeared to show 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”.

So how has GitHub managed to get youtube-dl back online?

Initially a fork of the project was reinstated, but only because the fork owner made changes in responses to RIAA’s takedown notice.

“Then, after we received new information that showed the youtube-dl project does not in fact violate the DMCA‘s anticircumvention prohibitions, we concluded that the allegations did not establish a violation of the law. In addition, the maintainer submitted a patch to the project addressing the allegations of infringement based on unit tests referencing copyrighted videos. Based on all of this, we reinstated the youtube-dl project and will be providing options for reinstatement to all of its forks,” GitHub wrote in a blog.

That new information may be a reference to a letter submitted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

In that letter, senior staff attorney for the EFF, Mitchell Stoltz explains why youtube-dl doesn’t violate the DMCA not is it circumventing protections.

“First, youtube-dl does not infringe or encourage the infringement of any copyrighted works, and its references to copyrighted songs in its unit tests are a fair use. Nevertheless, youtube-dl’s maintainers are replacing these references. Second, youtube-dl does not violate Section 1201 of the DMCA because it does not ‘circumvent’ any technical protection measures on YouTube videos. Similarly, the ‘signature’ or ‘rolling cipher’ mechanism employed by YouTube does not prevent copying of videos,” Stoltz wrote.

You read how Stoltz picked apart RIAA’s claims here and we highly recommend giving it a few minutes of your time.

But events such as this need to be planned for, just in case the likes of UMG or Sony come knocking in future.

Moving forward all credible 1201 takedown claims will be reviewed by technical experts. Should the claim be ambiguous, GitHub will err on the side of the developer and the repository will be left up.

In cases where the claim is legal, complete and technically legitimate the repository owner will be contacted and given a chance to respond to the claim.

“If they don’t respond, we will attempt to contact the repository owner again before taking any further steps,” GitHub wrote.

Even if a repository is taken down GitHub will continue to try making contact with the owner in a bid to address the claim and restore the repository.

The good news is that youtube-dl is back and you can browse the repo here.

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