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  1. RIAA: Twitter Must License Music & Fight Piracy Without Charge The RIAA and NMPA are putting Twitter under pressure to do something about the platform's piracy problem. Slamming the company for allowing pre-release music to be distributed to the public, the industry groups say that Twitter is failing to meet its legal obligations when responding to takedown notices. Licensing is the answer, they suggest, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the years, a number of music industry players have taken on some of the largest content distribution platforms on the Internet over alleged copyright infringement, with varying success. Services such as Napster and LimeWire were effectively destroyed through litigation but more recent problems aren’t easily solvable in the same way. YouTube and Facebook, for example, have very deep pockets and an abundance of lawyers but perhaps more importantly, they also have the potential to become formidable long-term music distribution partners. A similar case can be made for Twitter but it is becoming increasingly clear that while the music industry would like to partner with the social platform, it’s currently disappointed with Twitter’s attitude towards copyright infringement. Last December, RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier said that while YouTube and Facebook had developed anti-piracy tools, Twitter had done nothing and things needed to change. It appears that a few months on, little has. RIAA and NMPA Chiefs Slam Twitter In an op-ed just published in Billboard, Mitch Glazier and National Music Publishers Association president David Israelite lay into Twitter again, stating that music creators and music fans deserve better from the social networking service. Noting that Twitter can be innovative when it wants to be, Glazier and Israelite say that when it comes to piracy, it’s a whole different game. “(i)n one important respect Twitter remains ‘old school’ and stubbornly refuses to use even the most basic tools when it comes to combating piracy or helping music creators prevent theft of their works on its platform. Unfortunately, the company’s efforts to innovate only seem to go so far,” they begin. With the basics out of the way, the pair swiftly turn to Twitter’s business model, implying that without music and music fans, Twitter wouldn’t be where it is today. The authors say that record companies and music publishers want the “partnership” with Twitter to work, even going as far as expressing pride in powering Twitter’s success. But unfortunately, that’s when the pleasantries end. “[T]he viral immediacy and global reach of the Twitter platform presents a double-edged sword – one that cuts especially deep for artists, songwriters, and music rightsholders who see their work leaked, copied, distributed, and monetized on the platform with almost no recourse,” they write, sounding the alarm. “Last year music creators sent more than 2 million notices to Twitter of unlicensed and infringing appearances of copyrighted music on the platform – more than 200,000 of which dealt with the especially harmful presence of not yet released stolen songs.” Twitter’s Response is “Totally Inadequate” While many platforms have been criticized by the music industry for not doing enough to combat piracy, in Twitter’s case there appears to be more under the hood. Complaining that Twitter can take “days or longer” to respond to a complaint, the industry leaders flat-out accuse Twitter of failing to meet its legal obligations – strong words when that could theoretically form the basis of a lawsuit. There is no clear suggestion of legal action at this stage but Glazier and Israelite imply that a compromise of sorts could be reached with Twitter. Interestingly the parameters being suggested seem to push Twitter much further than its legal obligations require. For example, in respect of pre-release music leaks, the music bosses want takedowns actioned almost immediately. “With pre-release leaks, takedowns must come in seconds or minutes, not days,” they write. Building upon the requirement for a real-time response, the RIAA and NMPA want Twitter to proactively find pirated music on its platform, without first having to be notified that infringement has taken place. “While Twitter’s response to takedown notices fails to meet its legal obligations, even worse is the company’s refusal to take affirmative steps to more effectively police its own platform and find unlicensed music before it is widely circulated and without waiting for a rightsholder to do the work and notice the infringement for them,” they note. “No one can see better than Twitter what happens on its system or has the access and technical capacity to address problems at the speed and scale of the network. There is much Twitter could do to address this problem.” So What Should Twitter Do? Given that the RIAA and NMPA strongly suggest they would like Twitter to be a partner, it will come as no surprise that they would like Twitter to buy its way out of its current predicament. “Most fundamentally, [Twitter] could license music and pay creators for the songs and recordings that it distributes. This is what many other services have done and it is the single most important thing the company could do to meet its obligations to artists and songwriters,” the RIAA and NMPA chiefs write. On the anti-piracy front, the industry bosses would like Twitter to be more like YouTube and Facebook by introducing automated tools and content protection technologies. These should be able to take down unlicensed copies of works before they even appear on Twitter, negating the need for “artists, songwriters, and their representatives to scour the five hundred million tweets that are posted to the platform every day.” An interesting element of the RIAA and NMPA criticism is that Twitter does have the ability to help right now but will only do so for a price. They accuse the platform of demanding “massive payments” from music creators in return for access to the company’s data flow and with that the ability to spot pirated content. “Twitter could easily provide an API with sufficient capacity and speed to allow for monitoring at scale, just as it provides to other users like researchers who it hopes will help publicize and vouch for the company’s operations and to third party vendors who sell Twitter analytics. Incredibly, despite many requests it has refused to provide it to music creators without charge,” the groups write. “Charging music creators for access to the data they need to find infringement of their own work is just another Silicon Valley shakedown – moving fast and breaking music.” In summary, the RIAA and NMPA are demanding “serious and immediate changes” to Twitter’s response to unlicensed music appearing on the platform. There are currently no indications of what might happen if those changes aren’t delivered as requested. RIAA: Twitter Must License Music & Fight Piracy Without Charge
  2. MPA and RIAA’s Megaupload Lawsuits Are Postponed Again A federal court in Virginia has granted Megaupload's request to keep the civil lawsuits filed by music and movie companies on hold until October. With no movement in the criminal case, this standstill could last for many years. Kim Dotcom and his colleagues are still fighting a US extradition request, a battle that started nearly a decade ago. In 2012, Google Glass was all the rage and Microsoft released its latest operating system, Windows 8. It was also the year where Internet blackouts took place in protest against the SOPA copyright law. And a few days later, Megaupload was raided and effectively shut down. Legal Battles Continue To many people, these events are little more distant memories. However, for the key players involved, it’s still a central part of their lives. That’s also true for the Megaupload defendants. The criminal case against Dotcom was billed as the largest copyright infringement case the U.S. Government had ever launched. It also turned into one of the longest criminal copyright battles in history. No Progress After nearly a decade, the Megaupload case has barely progressed. In New Zealand, lawyers have been very busy with the costly extradition proceedings against Dotcom, but it could be years before that battle ends. This means that the criminal lawsuit remains in limbo. The same is true for the civil cases the RIAA and MPA filed back in 2014. Since the civil cases may influence the criminal proceedings, Megaupload’s legal team previously managed to put these cases on hold, and a few days ago they requested another extension. RIAA and MPA Cases Remain On Hold In line with other recent requests, the RIAA and MPA didn’t object. As a result, District Court Judge O’Grady swiftly agreed to issue yet another extension, putting the cases on hold until October. Looking at the matter realistically, it will probably take many more years before these civil cases can finally get underway. First, the extradition process has to be concluded. This matter recently went back to the Court of Appeal in New Zealand and given the legal complications, it could take a while before a final conclusion is reached there. If the case eventually makes its way to the US criminal court system, that could take many years to resolve as well. If the RIAA and MPA cases have to wait that out, as is suggested now, October of this year seems a bit optimistic. In essence, these bi-yearly extensions are merely a formality. If anything, it’s a painful reminder of a legal battle that, thus far, only has losers. MPA and RIAA’s Megaupload Lawsuits Are Postponed Again
  3. RIAA Takedown Notices Target Spotify, Deezer, and Apple Music The RIAA is known to use DMCA notices to remove pirated content from the Internet. These takedown requests are generally aimed at pirate sites and stream-rippers, but in recent weeks the organization went after legitimate streaming services as well. Apparently, Spotify, Deezer, Amazon, Tidal and Apple Music host 'copyright infringing' content too. Despite the increased availability of legal options, millions of people still stream, rip, or download MP3s from unofficial sources. These sites are a thorn in the side of the RIAA, which combats this in part by sending DMCA notices. Since some sites are not responsive to these takedown requests, the music industry group also involves third-party services such as Google. In recent years, the RIAA has reported nearly 100 million ‘pirate’ links to the popular search engine, with no end in sight. RIAA Finds Infirnging Music on Legitimate Streaming Services The majority of these reported URLs relate to torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay or file-hosting platforms like Dbree. However, this week we spotted a new trend. In addition to classic pirate sites, the RIAA is reporting links on legal streaming services as well. This month alone, we have spotted multiple takedown notices on Lumen with URLs from Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon and Tidal. According to the RIAA’s notices, these services all host infringing content. While we initially assumed that the RIAA’s takedown filters were going haywire, there is more going on here. For example, a few days ago the RIAA sent a takedown request to Google asking it to remove 50 Spotify URLs. According to the notice, these URLs infringe the copyright of Boza’s track ‘Hecha Pa’ Mi.’ Remixes, Karaoke, and Copies? When we look at the URLs, these indeed all link to ‘Hecha Pa’ Mi’ tracks. Some are remixes or karaoke versions and others could have simply been copied. Interestingly, many of these are published by ‘verified‘ artists, including some with more than a million monthly listeners. We don’t know whether these tracks are licensed, but the RIAA clearly doesn’t think so. This is not the only problem as the RIAA has identified many other problematic Spotify links over the past month too. Some of the links point to podcasts, which have since been removed. However, there are plenty of other ‘infringing’ tracks as well. Deezer, Amazon, Tidal and Apple Music This issue isn’t limited to Spotify either. When we took a closer look at the RIAA’s recent takedown notices sent to Google, hundreds of links to legitimate streaming services popped up. There are notices linking to ‘infringing’ music on Deezer for example. And the same applies to Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon. The list goes on and on. We asked the RIAA to explain what the precise problem is with these URLs, but the organization did not respond to our request for comment. That leaves us no other option than to speculate. Since the reported links don’t identify the official artists and tracks, we assume that there is indeed a copyright issue. Interestingly, however, Google has decided not to take any action, keeping these URLs in its search engine. Why Ask Google to Take Action? Google likely believes that these music streaming platforms are better equipped to determine whether the content is infringing. That would make sense indeed and it’s strange that Google is being involved. After all, the RIAA’s members, which includes the major labels, should have pretty decent contacts at these streaming services. In fact, the labels are part owners of some of the streaming services. So why not reach out to these streaming platforms directly? Or perhaps the RIAA did both? When we tried to load the “infringing” URLs on the streaming services, most now point to removed content. Others still show the problematic tracks but can no longer be played. Whatever the RIAA’s motivation, it’s safe to say that copyright issues are not limited to pirate sites or platforms such as Google and Twitter. the RIAA is known to criticize the latter, but it looks like there are internal music industry challenges as well. RIAA Takedown Notices Target Spotify, Deezer, and Apple Music
  4. Yout v RIAA: Use of Technical Protection Measure Does Not Equal Abuse Last October the company behind YouTube-ripping platform 'Yout' sued the RIAA for sending "abusive" DMCA anti-circumvention notices to Google. The RIAA responded by insisting that YouTube's rolling cipher is indeed an "effective technological measure." Yout has now fired back, stating that mere 'use' of a protection measure cannot be extrapolated into a circumvention violation. In the wake of the RIAA’s effort to have ripping tool youtube-dl removed from Github, YouTube-ripping service Yout.com went on the offensive. In a complaint filed at a Connecticut court, Yout argued that previous actions by the RIAA against its service, including the delisting of its homepage from Google based on the allegation that Yout circumvented YouTube’s ‘rolling cipher’ technology, were wrongful and damaged its business. RIAA Fights Back As reported in January, the RIAA presented a robust response in a motion to dismiss, noting that just because Yout had “figured out” how to defeat the YouTube rolling cipher, that did not make the Technological Protection Measure (TPM) any less eligible for protection under section 1201 versus one that could not be defeated. “Plaintiff concedes that it ‘encounters’ the rolling cipher and then ‘reads and interprets the JavaScript program’ and ‘derives a signature value’ to access the file,” the RIAA wrote. “The only reasonable inference to draw from those vague allegations is that the Yout service enables users to avoid or bypass that technological measure—that is the very definition of circumventing a TPM under section 1201.” Furthermore, in response to Yout’s claims that the RIAA must’ve known that the service did not circumvent technical measures and therefore shouldn’t have filed DMCA notices against it, the RIAA pointed out that under 17 U.S.C. § 512(f), only misrepresentations regarding alleged copyright infringement are available, not misrepresentations regarding alleged circumvention. Yout’s Opposition to RIAA’s Motion to Dismiss In Yout’s latest response, the stream-ripping service reiterates that it does not decrypt, bypass or avoid any measures on YouTube as the necessary information to access streams is freely available to anyone who seeks it. Yout describes that as essentially a “copy/paste” scenario, as provided for by any online content stream. Yout’s Mere Use of the Signature Value Does Not Violate 17 USC §1201 The company says that the words “avoid” and “bypass” suggest ‘abuse’, countering that what its service actually does it ‘use’ a technological measure, which is an entirely different matter. Citing an earlier case involving DISH Network, Yout says that by utilizing the intended mechanism for decryption, no bypassing, avoidance or bypassing of a system took place. “Here, the methodology employed by Yout is analogous. Yout utilizes the same signature value freely distributed by any video-sharing website, such as YouTube. This is the exact same signature value that appears to any web browser,” Yout’s response reads. “Yout need not decrypt, bypass, or avoid anything as these signature values are freely given, and Yout uses the value, not in any cryptic way, but just as it is provided by any video-sharing website to anyone that requests it. “Anyone can access and use the signature value of any free streaming content’s [sic] using only a browser, without other software, youtube-dl, the Yout service, or any similar tool,” Yout writes. RIAA has not Identified any Copyrighted Works at Issue Running with the claim that Yout does not circumvent any effective technological protection measure, the company says that the requirement that circumvention takes place without the permission of the copyright holder is not reached. However, the fact remains that the RIAA has failed to identify any copyrighted works that have allegedly been infringed. “To prove a violation of § 1201, Defendant’s members must show not only circumvention but that the circumvention results in access to a copyrighted work. However, nothing in the RIAA’s notices references ownership of any specific copyrighted work purportedly protected by the rolling cipher,” Yout’s response reads. Yout acknowledges that case law potentially raises complications but reminds the Court that the RIAA’s notices clearly accuse Yout of facilitating copyright infringement, specifically contributory copyright infringement. This leads Yout to raise the issue of misrepresentations in the RIAA’s DMCA notices and the music group’s claim that under 17 U.S.C. § 512(f), penalties are only available for misrepresentations regarding alleged copyright infringement. Settlement Conference Has Been Scheduled After Yout asked the Court to reject the RIAA’s motion to dismiss, United States Magistrate Judge Robert A. Richardson reported that a video settlement conference had been arranged for May 5, 2021, with both parties ordered to attend. The Judge’s order requires Yout to have someone attend with full and final authority to dismiss the case with prejudice and to accept any settlement amount or offer. The RIAA must be represented by someone with the authority to commit to a settlement amount. “The purpose of this requirement is to have in attendance a person with both the authority and independence to settle the case during the settlement conference without consulting anyone not present,” the order reads. Not less than 14 days before the conference date, the parties are required to begin negotiating the terms of any settlement. Yout’s Response to RIAA’s Motion to Dismiss / Conference Order here and here (pdf) Yout v RIAA: Use of Technical Protection Measure Does Not Equal Abuse
  5. The RIAA recently caused outrage by filing a copyright complaint that took down YouTube-ripping tool youtube-dl from Github. In a pre-emptive move, YouTube-ripping platform Yout.com filed a lawsuit against the RIAA, demanding that its service be declared legal. In an amended complaint, Yout now appears to be using the youtube-dl case for additional leverage. During October, the RIAA ignited a fierce debate and significant outrage when it filed a complaint that took down the open source software youtube-dl from Github. The music industry group stated that the “clear purpose” of youtube-dl was to “circumvent the technological protection measures” used by YouTube to “reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings owned by our member companies without authorization for such use.” Pre-Emptive Strike By YouTube-Ripper Yout Just days later with public opinion swinging strongly in youtube-dl’s favor, YouTube-ripping platform Yout seized the opportunity to sue the RIAA. Yout had previously been targeted with similar allegations, including that Yout is an illegal tool that violates Section 1201 of the DMCA by circumventing YouTube’s “technical protection measures.” Dismissing the RIAA’s claims as baseless, Yout’s complaint outlined various actions taken by the label group that ended up damaging its business. For example, Google took the RIAA’s copyright complaints at face value and delisted Yout from its search results. On top, the public takedown notices also devalued Yout’s business by tarnishing its reputation, the company explained. Amended Complaint Highlights Additional Damage In an amended complaint filed in a Connecticut court this week, Yout repeated many of the allegations contained in its original complaint. However, a new piece of information suggests that the RIAA also used its powers to attack Yout’s ability to make and receive money. Yout says that in response to searches for its platform, Yout’s customers were informed by Google that due to copyright complaints received against Yout.com, results had been removed at the behest of the RIAA. This, the platform claims, ended up in Yout customers canceling their subscriptions. Furthermore, Yout claims that the RIAA also used its powers to limit its ability to receive process payments. “On information and belief, Defendants’ DMCA notices have caused PayPal to shut down Yout’s account, causing Yout further significant monetary and reputational damage,” the filing reads. “The Defendants acted with intent and actual malice when they engaged in the foregoing conduct because they intended to harm the Plaintiffs.” Enhanced Rejections of Anti-Circumvention Allegations In Yout’s original complaint the platform described itself as a time-shifting service that, in the absence of any specific circumvention of technological copyright protection, cannot be in violation of the anti-circumvention measures of the DMCA. Indeed, Yout flatly denied circumventing any of YouTube’s protection measures, including its so-called “rolling cipher”, the mechanism at the very heart of the RIAA’s complaint against youtube-dl. What is interesting in Yout’s amended complaint is that it now makes enhanced claims and denials, which show clear signs of benefiting from the EFF’s and Github’s legal stance in the youtube-dl matter. “[T]he rolling cipher mechanism employed by YouTube does not prevent copying of videos or other digital media,” Yout’s amended complaint reads. “Yout’s software platform works the same way as a browser when it encounters the signature mechanism: it reads and interprets the JavaScript program sent by YouTube, derives a signature value [referred to by RIAA as a ‘rolling cipher’], and sends that value back to YouTube to initiate the video stream “Yout’s software platform contains no password, key, or other secret knowledge that is required to access YouTube videos. It simply uses the same mechanism that YouTube presents to each and every user who views a video,” the company adds. In a nutshell, Yout says that it cannot circumvent the rolling cipher (as defined in the DMCA) because YouTube itself provides the means to access video streams to anyone who asks for them. “[O]ne cannot ‘circumvent’ an access control by using publicly available means,” the platform concludes. Targeting YouTube-DL Proves Counterproductive Whether the RIAA anticipated the backlash in response to its targeting of youtube-dl or not, it now faces a significantly more difficult struggle to suppress similar tools and services. With the EFF and Github now heavily involved, it’s no longer a simple case of sending takedown notices and watching tools disappear. And, as Yout’s lawsuit shows, there could be additional legal repercussions too, including a potential effect on long-running cases that the RIAA is already embroiled in. Yout’s amended complaint can be found here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  6. Facebook and YouTube detailed their anti-piracy measures during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property hearing yesterday. To the frustration of lawmakers, Twitter was noticeably absent. The RIAA had little positive to say about the social media platform either, accusing it of doing nothing to stop "industrial-scale" piracy on its network. At the same time, domain registrars were accused of protecting pirates. The US Senate’s Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property is looking for better ways to tackle the ever-present threat of online piracy. Specifically, it’s working with various stakeholders to see if the DMCA can be improved to better suit today’s online environment. During a hearing yesterday, Senators received input from various stakeholders on the role of voluntary agreements and existing anti-piracy technologies. YouTube, for example, explained its Content-ID system and Facebook showed how its Rights Manager tool helps copyright holders. Twitter Refused to Attend Twitter was also invited to testify but the company refused to attend. This frustrated lawmakers, including Senator Thom Tillis, who repeatedly asked Twitter to join the discussion. When that didn’t happen Tillis sent a series of written questions, but the “non-answers” the company sent back only appear to have made things worse. The lawmakers are not alone in their critique of Twitter. As expected, they were fully supported by the RIAA, which was present to represent the music industry. RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier specifically mentioned the social media platform in his opening statement. Glazier argued that the current takedown system is highly ineffective and he used Twitter as an example. Over the past year, the RIAA has tried to keep a single music track off Twitter, but despite thousands of notices, it kept reappearing. “As a result, over a 10-month period, RIAA had to send notices for nearly 9,000 infringements of that same track – let me repeat that. We had to send 9,000 notices over a 10-month period for the same exact track. Unfortunately, we must do this all the time for hundreds of tracks on many different services,” Glazier said. Hiding Behind the Safe Harbor The RIAA would like Twitter and other platforms to keep infringing files offline indefinitely. A so-called takedown and staydown policy. In addition, copyright holders should be allowed to effectively monitor and report infringements. However, companies such as Twitter prefer to do very little and hide behind their safe harbor protection, Glazier said. “They could solve the piracy problem voluntarily tomorrow if they had the will and incentive to do so. Unfortunately, the DMCA safe harbors have been interpreted to apply so broadly that platforms do not have the business incentive to participate in a balanced system.” RIAA CEO Mitch Glazier The Twitter-bashing continued during the questioning round. Senator Mazie Hirono stressed that Twitter hasn’t shown to be a “willing partner” for copyright holders and asked Glazier to elaborate. RIAA’s CEO gladly complied and said that the music industry has sent more than three million notices to Twitter over the past two years, identifying 20,000 works. That’s an average of 150 notices per track, and things aren’t improving. Industrial Scale Piracy “This is piracy on an industrial massive scale. This is not some small problem,” Glazier said. “Unlike Facebook and YouTube, they have done nothing to at least try to build tools, or to help prevent what is by its nature a viral system where piracy can spread literally in microseconds.” The takedown efforts are complicated because the RIAA and its members don’t have an effective system to search Twitter for copyright infringements. The social media platform is willing to offer this, but not for free. “They really don’t offer us the ability to search their universe for infringements. We have asked for it many many times and they want to charge us,” Glazier said. “And then when we send them notices it can take anywhere between four hours and four days to take one thing down while we’ve got millions of pieces spreading at the same time. It’s a huge problem,” he adds. Twitter was not the only company to be called out. Senator Mazie Hirono also asked RIAA’s CEO about the role of domain name registrars, which offer services to pirate sites. Again, Glazier said that this is a huge problem. Domain Registrars Protect Pirates “Domain name registrars and their role in allowing piracy to happen through their systems is a huge problem. Very few domain name registrars are doing very little. Both at the registrar and at the registry level.” Glazier notes that there are voluntary agreements with a select group of domain registrars. However, most simply do nothing. They simply keep pirate domains online. And when copyright holders ask them to help identify bad actors, they refuse to cooperate. “When we go to them and say: ‘help us to find the pirates’ so we can go against them directly, they won’t give the name of the pirate. They hide their identity and help them become anonymous and they say that it’s because of privacy laws. That they need to protect the criminals. Which is ridiculous.” “Privacy laws are meant to protect consumers, they are not meant to protect criminals,” Glazier adds. If Not Voluntary, Then… The RIAA would like the law to make it clear that intermediaries, including domain registrars and registries, have to do more. The same is true for services that host content. The current takedown process simply doesn’t cut it, it’s a sham. While the hearing was supposed to be about voluntary and private agreements to help fight piracy, the threat of stricter regulation may be needed. The RIAA applauded the work of Facebook and YouTube but, reading between the lines, Glazier suggests that Twitter and other companies may need a bigger push from lawmakers to come to the table. Source: TorrentFreak
  7. The RIAA and other music groups recently accused youtube-dl and related stream-ripping tools of circumventing YouTube's 'rolling cipher' protection. While that may sound complex, anyone can download full audio and video files from YouTube, using nothing more than a web browser. It's surprisingly easy and we failed to spot any ciphers. Downloading audio and video from YouTube is generally not allowed, as the video service clearly states in its terms of service. Despite this restriction, there are numerous ‘stream-ripping’ tools available on the web that do just that. These tools have legal uses but they are also a thorn in the side of music industry outfits, who see them as a major piracy threat. That was illustrated once again last week when an RIAA takedown notice wiped youtube-dl off GitHub. The Rolling cipher According to the RIAA, youtube-dl violates the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions because it bypasses YouTube’s ‘rolling cipher’ technical protection measure. That sounds rather complicated, but publicly little is known about how it works. To find out more we reached out to YouTube, which didn’t respond to our inquiry. However, we did find out more about the ‘rolling cipher’ in a judgment from a German court in Hamburg. This 2017 verdict was explicitly mentioned in the RIAA’s takedown request to GitHub. At the Hamburg court, copyright holders argued that YouTube’s ‘rolling cipher’ is an effective technological protection measure under EU law. It’s so complex that average users can’t decipher it. “In the case of the video at issue, the user would have to filter out the 22 encoded URLs from a total of 72,338 characters, then find the ‘S variable’ of each URL, decipher it – using the respectively valid, because changing key – and then the newly generated URL use to get the video,” their argument was. In the 2017 verdict, the court went along with this assessment ruling that encryption by the so-called “S variable” or “rolling cipher” is a technical measure within the meaning of Germany’s Copyright Act. DIY Downloading From YouTube At TorrentFreak, we have relatively little knowledge about encryption, so it would be impossible for us to bypass this ‘rolling cipher,’ one would think. However, after a few Google searches, we learned that pretty much every browser can do this by default. Once you know the trick it takes only 20 seconds or so to download the audio or video from any YouTube clip, using only a browser and no dedicated ripping tools. Our ‘deciphering’ quest started in Chrome but works in Firefox and other browsers as well. Because we don’t want any trouble, we used Dubioza Kolektiv’s Pirate Bay song as the test video. When that was loaded up, we opened Chrome’s devtools inspector, and navigated to the ‘network’ tab. The devtools inspector shows you what requests are made by a page. When we filter for the keyword ‘audio’, several URLs appear, all pointing to chopped up audio streams from the YouTube video. Without any encryption knowledge, we opened one of these streams in a separate browser tab. As expected, this didn’t immediately bring up the full audio with the Pirate Bay song. That requires the extra step of removing the last part of the URL, which starts with “range=”. When that’s done the audio clip shows up in full and it can be played just fine. In fact, Chrome even offers the option to download it. While we didn’t dare to go that far, we heard that it indeed saves just fine. And when the ‘weba’ extension is renamed to MP3, it will play offline too. Downloading From YouTube is Easy So there we have it. In just a few clicks and keystrokes we managed to bypass YouTube’s copyright protection using a browser. We didn’t see any rolling cipher in the process and anyone can do it. That brings us back to the RIAA’s takedown request and the cited court verdict, which said that “an average user is not able to access the video info file, let alone decipher it.” Either we are geniuses or the court’s statement is wrong, at least for the present situation. The above is the simple conclusion, but there’s more to it, which gets a bit technical. But Where’s the Encryption? After talking to several experts we learned that YouTube uses different ‘signatures’ for video URLs. Most have a fixed “sig” parameter, but there are also others that use an “s” parameter. In the latter cases, the player’s JavaScript is called with this “s” parameter which varies (or ‘rolls’). That parameter shuffling is likely what rightsholders refer to with a ‘rolling cipher.’ However, this doesn’t involve any real encryption and youtube-dl doesn’t use it, as it simply executes the JavaScript code with a JavaScript interpreter, much like a browser does. Over the past weeks, dozens of experts have chimed in about the legality or illegality of tools such as youtube-dl. We are not going to add to this, as these questions are ultimately up to a court to decide. Stream-Rippers are Not Needed What our little quest shows, however, is that there doesn’t appear to be any encryption to stop average users from downloading files in a browser. Anyone can download audio and video from YouTube without a dedicated stream-ripping tool. That leads us to the final question, which we will leave unanswered. Or perhaps it answers itself. If youtube-dl is violating the DMCA because it allows people to download audio from YouTube, should browsers such as Chrome be outlawed as well? Source: TorrentFreak
  8. The RIAA is ramping up the pressure on a wide range of platforms allegedly involved in music piracy. Two DMCA subpoenas obtained against Cloudflare and Namecheap require the companies to hand over all information they hold on more than 40 torrent sites, streaming portals and YouTube-ripping services. Also included in the mix are several file-hosting platforms. Even erring on the side of caution with conservative estimates, there are at least hundreds of piracy-related sites on the Internet today that the RIAA would like to shut down. To have any chance of doing that, however, early work has to be done to collect various pieces of information. This can include the owners of the platforms’ domains, the IP addresses of their servers and where that hardware is physically hosted, plus any other specifics that may help to build a case or back site operators into a corner. As reported on a number of occasions here on TorrentFreak, one of the tools in the box of the RIAA and other rightsholders is the DMCA subpoena. Easily obtained from US courts without any oversight needed from a judge, DMCA subpoenas can be served on various companies, requiring them to hand over information on their allegedly-infringing clients. RIAA Obtains DMCA Subpoenas Targeting More Than 40 Domains When it comes to gaining access to information on sites and their operators, DMCA subpoenas aimed at Cloudflare are a popular choice. The company not only has access to the customer information handed over as part of the account creation and maintenance process but in some instances can also identify the true server locations/IP address of ‘pirate’ site servers. The same can be said of domain registrar companies such as Namecheap. Information on who bought the domain, when and how, plus how it has been used since can yield valuable information for many anti-piracy investigations. The RIAA recently decided to take advantage of both possibilities. Following two separate applications at a California court, the music industry group obtained DMCA subpoenas requiring both Cloudflare and Namecheap to hand over information on a large number of their allegedly-infringing customers. The Cloudflare subpoena contains 35 domains and the Namecheap subpoena 15 domains. However, due to a considerable overlap, when combined they target 41 domains. Targeting YouTube-Rippers Including the Giant Y2Mate.com Since the RIAA appears to have slowly but surely declared war on YouTube-ripping platforms and tools, it will come as no surprise that the subpoenas partially continue along that theme. Y2Mate.com, an insanely popular YouTube-ripping platform with more than 113 million visits per month according to SimilarWeb, features in both subpoenas. A notable element here is that the RIAA went through this exact process with both Cloudflare and Namecheap last May but is now back for a second bite of the cherry. One of the irritants here is that despite RIAA pressure, Y2Mate appears to have almost doubled its traffic, from 62 million visits per month last year to the current extraordinary levels. Like YouTube-DL recently, Y2Mate was also accused by the RIAA of circumventing YouTube’s “rolling cipher”. Next up is Notube.net, which bills itself simply as a YouTube converter. Back in April the site was enjoying around 24 million visits per month, traffic that has now steadied to around 16 million according to SimilarWeb. YouTubeConverter.io, which claims to offer a similar service, has around three million visitors while Ontiva.com and ListentoYouTube.online are relative minnows with around 350K visits each. Torrent Indexes and File-Hosting Platforms While the RIAA and the music industry as a whole consider YouTube-ripping sites and tools to be the number one piracy threat, the DMCA subpoenas also include more traditional targets. Major torrent site 1337x.to makes an appearance in the Cloudflare application which puts the RIAA in good company. As recently reported, anti-piracy group ACE has just obtained a similar subpoena requiring the Tonic domain registry to hand over details relating to the torrent site. Both of the subpoenas obtained by the RIAA also list TorrentDownloads.me, another popular torrent site. In these instances, the site is accused of participating in the infringement of tracks released by Ed Sheeran, Drake, and One Direction. Since music files are relatively small and can be squirreled away on file-hosting platforms, it’s no surprise that these also make the list. Anonfiles.com, which currently enjoys more than 7.5 million visits per month, is accused of hosting tracks by The Killers and Beyoncé. Ddownload.com, a site with around five million visitors and most popular in Germany, also makes an appearance along with Hexupload.net and DoUploads.net An Interesting Addition – A Platform for Buying & Selling Leaked Music Thesource.to appears to be something of an outlier in the RIAA’s list of targets. While most other platforms clearly offer direct access to music in the form of a download or stream, this platform claims to act as a marketplace for people to buy and sell unreleased music. “On THE SOURCE legit sellers can sell real exclusive unreleased music and serious buyers can purchase them. Everything in a secure and verified environment. You are a serious seller and you are sick of having to be online 24/7 hours and doing everything manually? Then we can make your life easier,” its advertising reads. “You are a serious buyer and you are sick of having to wait for every seller or middleman for hours or even for days? Then we can also make your life easier. THE SOURCE has game-changing systems which both serve sellers and buyers, just for example the integrated automated Satoshi system.” The site is paid-entry, currently for the sum of $10, but according to the RIAA’s subpoena application, someone posted the track Warlords by Childish Gambino there. The listed URL tends to suggest that someone was only offering to sell their “vault” but nevertheless, the subpoena was granted. The full list of all domains targeted in both subpoenas can be viewed below. Any domain marked with an asterisk appears in both subpoenas. The subpoenas themselves are also available for download. Domains Targeted in Cloudflare Subpoena 1337x.to pluspremieres.to thesource.to ddownload.com hiphopde.com* ontiva.com* anonfiles.com audioz.download dirrtyremix.es discografiaspormega.com douploads.net ghanamotion.com hd24bit.com hexupload.net intmusic.net iplusfree.org listentoyoutube.online mp3global.org musiconworldoffmx.com muzobzor.ru naijaonpoint.com* newalbumreleases.net ngleakers.co* rlsbb.ru rnbxclusive.vip sanet.ws songslover.cam* torrentdownloads.me* xclusivejams.nl zoop.su notube.net alegemuzica.top topmusic.uno* y2mate.com* youtubeconverter.io* Domains Targeted in Namecheap Subpoena getrockmusic.net hiphopde.com* hiphoptrendsnow.com ontiva.com* songslover.com* stannova.com toryextra.com vevosongs.com ddownload.com torrentdownloads.me* ngleakers.co* naijaonpoint.com* topmusic.uno* y2mate.com* youtubeconverter.io* The DMCA subpoenas can be found here and here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  9. Internet provider RCN has submitted its answer to the piracy liability lawsuit filed by the major recording labels. The ISP denies most of the allegations and also strikes back. In a recent filing, it accuses the music companies, the RIAA, and piracy tracking company Rightscorp, of unfair and fraudulent practices that violate California's Business and Professions Code. Under US copyright law, Internet providers must terminate the accounts of repeat infringers “in appropriate circumstances.” In the past such drastic action was rare, but with the backing of legal pressure, ISPs are increasingly being held to this standard. ISPs Sued Over Repeat Infringers Several major music industry companies including Arista Records, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music, and Warner Records, have filed lawsuits against some of the largest U.S. Internet providers. The list of targets includes RCN, which was sued last year. The liability lawsuits are seen as a major threat to the ISP industry, as multiple companies face hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages. This is not just a hypothetical threat, as the $1 billion verdict against Cox made clear. The Cox verdict bolstered the confidence of the music companies to score big in cases against other ISPs as well. Before things get that far, however, they will have to overcome various counterclaims. Over the past several months ISPs including Charter and Bright House have countersued the rightsholders for sending deceptive anti-piracy notices. This week, RCN follows this trend. RCN Strikes Back The Internet provider filed its amended answers to the music companies’ complaint at a federal court in New Jersey, denying most copyright infringement allegations. At the same time, RCN countersued the music companies, the RIAA, and piracy tracking firm Rightscorp for unfair competition. “RCN’s counterclaims are based on Rightscorp’s, the RIAA’s, and the Record Labels’ unfair and fraudulent business practices in generating and sending millions of unsupported emails accusing RCN’s customers of BitTorrent-based copyright infringement, while intentionally destroying the evidence necessary to determine whether any of those accusations were true,” RCN begins. The ISP doesn’t deny that it received millions of notices from Rightscorp listing copyright infringements allegedly carried out by RCN’s customers. However, these claims are based on ‘flimsy’ evidence, much of which has been destroyed since. According to RCN, the record labels are trying to force ISPs into taking extreme measures without proper evidence. “Face The Wrath of the RIAA” “In a sane world, only actual, verifiable evidence of copyright infringement would provide a sufficient basis for an ISP to terminate the internet access of a customer. But that is not the world the Record Labels and the RIAA want to live in,” RCN writes. “Instead of actually policing their copyrights — and identifying and proving claims of direct copyright infringement — Counterclaim Defendants seek to create an environment in which ISPs, including RCN, have no choice but to indiscriminately terminate the internet access of every customer accused of copyright infringement, or face the wrath of the Record Labels and the RIAA.” RCN points out that it has a publicly published DMCA policy that describes the minimum requirements for a legitimate infringement notification. Among other things, this includes a PGP signature, to verify that the sender is legitimate, and a valid copyright registration number. Rightscorp’s notices lacked both. Rightscorp’s Shoddy Practices The ISP informed Rightscorp about these deficiencies and pointed the company to its DMCA policy, but that didn’t change anything. The notices simply kept coming in, and RCN could not verify whether they were accurate or not. “The RIAA and the Record Labels have known all of this for years. Nevertheless, they have allowed Rightscorp to continue sending suspect emails accusing RCN’s customers of copyright infringement while destroying all of the evidence on which those accusations are based. “Rightscorp’s process for detecting copyright infringement is a sham built on shoddy business practices, the willful destruction of evidence, and a cavalier approach to — if not outright disregard for — the truth.” Dubious Settlement Demands Verification of copyright infringement notices is crucial, RCN points out, also because Rightscorp included settlement demands. This is a controversial practice, even among copyright holders. RCN’s counterclaim cites emails where employees from Sony Record Labels discussed Rightscorp’s efforts “to milk consumers,” expressing concern that “[t]o the average user, it looks like us” and asking if there is “any way to block this activity if we don’t support and don’t benefit.” However, these same copyright notices are now being used as ammunition against ISPs, including RCN. According to the ISP, Rightscorp wasn’t picked as a partner because its evidence is great, but simply to gain leverage over ISPs and pressure them to disconnect subscribers. Accept the New Copyright Regime, or Else “The unspoken threat is RCN’s reality: accept the new copyright regime or face the cost and burden of defending against a protracted secondary copyright infringement lawsuit seeking vast sums of damages.” The counterclaim accuses the record labels, RIAA, and Rightscorp of unfair and fraudulent conduct amounting to unfair competition under California’s Business and Professions Code. Unlike counterclaims from other ISPs, there is no allegation of sending false notices under the DMCA. The end goal is the same, however. By casting doubt over the evidence at the basis of the lawsuit against it, RCN hopes to turn the tables and come out as the winner in this legal dispute. — A copy of RCN’s first amended answers and the counterclaim against the music companies, the RIAA, and Rightscorp, is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  10. Internet provider Bright House Networks has countersued several major record labels, alleging that they sent false and deceptive piracy notices to its subscribers. This week, the company asked the court for permission to add the RIAA and its anti-piracy partner MarkMonitor to the suit, as they are central to the wrongful conduct. Last year, a group of major music companies sued Internet provider Bright House Networks, a subsidiary of Charter Communications. The lawsuit claimed that the ISPs failed to terminate repeat infringers. By keeping pirates as customers it violated the DMCA, the music companies alleged. Such claims are not new. The same music companies have sued several ISPs in the past and booked a major victory when a jury ordered Cox to pay a billion dollars in damages for turning a blind eye to piracy on its network. Charter is determined to avoid ending up in a similar position. In March, it denied the copyright infringement allegations in court while striking back with some accusations against the record labels. According to Charter, the companies abused the DMCA by sending “false” and “deceptive” piracy notices. These counterclaims were filed against the same music companies that sued Bright House. However, in a new filing this week, the ISP informs the Florida Federal Court that it would like to add two new defendants to the suit. RIAA and MarkMonitor Played a Central Role Bright House explains that the music industry group RIAA and its anti-piracy partner MarkMonitor are also to blame. The RIAA was responsible for sending the piracy notices that were sent by and based on evidence provided by MarkMonitor. “The RIAA and MarkMonitor are central to Plaintiffs’ wrongful conduct,” Bright House informs the court. “Bright House received copyright infringement notices containing material misrepresentations from the RIAA, purporting to assert the rights of Plaintiffs but sent by MarkMonitor.” Normally, it wouldn’t be a problem for Bright House to add new defendants to its counterclaim. However, in this case, the officially scheduled deadline to do so has passed. This is why the company is requesting explicit permission to add the new parties. This delayed request is justified, the ISP argues, because the originally scheduled deadline passed before it had the chance to add the new parties. A copy of the proposed amended complaint, filed yesterday, shows that Bright House accuses the RIAA and MarkMonitor of committing the same offenses as the record labels that were sued. Violating the DMCA First, Bright House accuses all companies of violating the DMCA by knowingly sending inaccurate piracy notices. This includes sending notices for musical works that they allegedly don’t own or have the rights to. In addition, the notices themselves are sometimes based on unconfirmed evidence. “Upon information and belief, Plaintiffs, the RIAA, and MarkMonitor, routinely fail to confirm that the files identified by MarkMonitor as allegedly infringing are in fact copies of the works asserted before notices are sent to ISPs, like Bright House,” the complaint reads. Among other things, the ISP cites an academic study from Jennifer Urban and colleagues, which found that MarkMonitor occasionally makes mistakes. While that study was focused on web takedowns, not P2P infringements, the conclusions are not in favor of the RIAA’s anti-piracy partner. For example, MarkMonitor was found to send takedown notices to Google which flagged sites that had been dead for over a year. In addition, not all identified URLs matched with the allegedly pirated material. “The Urban Study also discussed specific instances in which notices sent by MarkMonitor were ‘clear mismatches’ between the allegedly infringed work and the online content that was allegedly infringing,” the complaint adds. Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices The second claim against the companies accuses them of violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Specifically, Bright House accuses them of “knowingly or recklessly sending, and causing to be sent, false, deceptive, and misleading copyright infringement notices” for works they didn’t own or have the rights to. Before the court reviews any of these claims against the RIAA and MarkMonitor, it first has to decide whether the counterclaim can be amended to include the new defendants. If it’s accepted, the RIAA and MarkMonitor will get the opportunity to have their say as well. — A copy of the proposed amended counterclaims to the amended complaint is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  11. Several RIAA labels have secured a major win in their court battle against the popular hip-hop mixtape service Spinrilla. A federal court in Atlanta has ruled that the company is liable for direct copyright infringement after it streamed thousands of infringing works. In addition, the mixtape service can't rely on the DMCA's safe harbor since it failed to register an official agent. Operating a mixtape site is not without risk. By definition, mixes include multiple sound recordings that are often protected by copyright. Popular hip-hop mixtape site and app Spinrilla, which has millions of users, is well aware of these risks. In 2017, the company was sued by several record labels, backed by the RIAA, that accused the company of massive copyright infringement. “Spinrilla specializes in ripping off music creators by offering thousands of unlicensed sound recordings for free,” the RIAA commented at the time. Spinrilla Fights Piracy Accusations The hip-hop site countered the allegations by pointing out that it installed an RIAA-approved anti-piracy filter and actively worked with major record labels to promote their tracks. In addition, Spinrilla stressed that the DMCA’s safe harbor protects the company. As the case progressed both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The music companies requested rulings to establish, before trial, that Spinrilla is liable for direct copyright infringement and that the DMCA safe harbor doesn’t apply. Spinrilla countered this with cross-motions, filed under seal, in which they argued the opposite. Court: Spinrilla is Liable This week, US District Court Judge Amy Totenberg ruled on the requests. The 47-page order is good news for the music companies, as the court agrees that Spinrilla is liable for direct copyright infringement. In her ruling, Judge Totenberg writes that Spinrilla admitted that 4,082 copyrighted sound recordings were streamed at least once through its website or app. The mixtape service failed, however, to offer a usable counterargument to this claim. Spinrilla’s legal team brought up several cases in the company’s defense, but these all deal with uploading and downloading of infringing content, not streaming. Also, the cited cases are not about infringements of the public performance right, contrary to the present lawsuit. Streaming vs. Downloading This is a problem because the record labels highlighted cases where courts held that streaming can be a direct infringement of exclusive performance rights, even when the streaming occurs at the request of the user. That’s what happened at Spinrilla. “Here, Plaintiffs do not rely solely on uploads and downloads of their music to and from Spinrilla. Defendants have created an interactive internet player that streams copyrighted content directly from its website and mobile app,” Judge Totenberg writes. As a result, Spinrilla is held liable for directly infringing the copyrights of the 4,082 sound recordings that were listed in the complaint. “Defendants have infringed Plaintiffs’ exclusive right ‘to perform’ their copyrighted sound recordings ‘publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.’ Therefore, Plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment on their claim of direct infringement of the 4,082 works in suit.” With the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per work, this opens the door to an astronomical award of more than $600 million dollars. And that’s not the end of the bad news for Spinrilla. Limited Safe Harbor The court also ruled that the mixtape service is not eligible for a DMCA safe harbor defense before July 2017. While the site and app have accepted takedown notices for many years, they didn’t register a DMCA agent with the Copyright Office, which is a requirement. Spinrilla first registered a DMCA agent in 2017, five months after the lawsuit started. In addition, it didn’t have a repeat infringer policy before July that year, another requirement for safe harbor protection. “Consequently, the undisputed facts demonstrate that Defendants did not satisfy all of the required elements to be eligible for safe harbor defense until July 29, 2017, which is when they first designated an agent with the U.S. Copyright Office and had adopted a repeat infringer policy,” Judge Totenberg writes. This means that Spinrilla can only invoke the safe harbor defense for infringement that occurred after that date. The record labels asked the court to go even further, arguing that Spinrilla’s repeat infringer policy wasn’t “reasonably implemented,” because not all repeat infringers were terminated. However, the court rejected this, as the 4,082 sound recordings didn’t include any tracks that were uploaded by known repeat infringers. Record Labels are Happy Overall, however, the record labels are very pleased with this significant win. With streaming becoming the norm today, this case is crucial. “We are gratified by the court’s decision, which sends a message that online streaming providers cannot hide behind the actions of their users to avoid their own liability for copyright infringement that occurs through their systems,” Kenneth Doroshow, RIAA Chief Legal Officer says. “The court got it exactly right on several key points of copyright law in the digital streaming context, and we hope that it serves as a lodestar for other courts and service providers alike.” The RIAA, which represents the major record labels, is also happy that the ruling confirms that mistakes can be just as infringing as posting full sound recordings. While the ruling is an early win for the music companies, the case isn’t over just yet. There are still matters that have to be decided at trial, including the scale of the damages, if these are awarded. Alternatively, the parties can try to resolve the matter through a mediation process. At the same time, Spinrilla is also involved in a legal battle with the RIAA directly. The mixtape site sued the industry group earlier this year, accusing it of sending false DMCA takedown notices. That case remains pending. — A copy of the order issued yesterday by US District Court Judge Amy Totenberg is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  12. This afternoon, one of the most well-known pieces of software for downloading YouTube videos, youtube-dl, was removed from GitHub following a takedown notice from the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA. Whether you’re looking to backup contents of your personal YouTube account or download some of your favorite YouTuber’s videos for offline use, many turn to youtube-dl as the most reliable and in-depth tool for downloading videos from YouTube — along with many, many other sites that have videos like Vimeo, CNN, etc. Beyond simple downloading features, youtube-dl is also able to convert your download into nearly any format, including creating an mp3 of just a video’s audio track. Like many things in life, there are legal and illegal ways of using youtube-dl, especially as YouTube has grown its paid music subscription service. On Friday afternoon, the RIAA issued a DMCA — Digital Millennium Copyright Act — takedown notice to GitHub requesting that the site remove the open source code of youtube-dl and all associated mirrors. One of the primary bases for the RIAA’s claim is that youtube-dl appears to be developed with the explicit intention of enabling the downloading of copyrighted works, with music videos from the likes of Icona Pop, Justin Timberlake, and Taylor Swift being used to test the tool’s functionality, a claim which we were able to independently verify. Indeed, the comments in the youtube-dl source code make clear 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, and to make unauthorized copies and distributions thereof: they identify our member’s works, they note that the works are VEVO videos (virtually all of which are owned by our member companies), they acknowledge those works are licensed to YouTube under the YouTube standard license, and they use those examples in the source code to describe how to obtain unauthorized access to copies of our members’ works. This takedown notice does not necessarily spell the permanent end of youtube-dl. GitHub always immediately takes down any source code project that receives a DMCA notice like this, but the project’s creators will have an opportunity to file a counterclaim in the hopes of restoring youtube-dl’s status on GitHub. We’ll be keeping an eye on the situation as it develops. In the meantime, those who still have youtube-dl on their device, or can obtain it from a mirror, are able to continue using it as normal. The larger issue is that youtube-dl will likely cease to receive updates for the time being, and therefore, any changes made by YouTube or other video services could potentially cause the tool to no longer function. As youtube-dl is a fairly well-known and powerful tool, with over 72,000 stars on GitHub, it’s likely there are many other tools that rely on it for their YouTube-related capabilities. Source
  13. A large number of Twitch users have had their videos deleted following a new round of mass DMCA notice processing. Twitch has also imposed an interesting 'deal' on those affected. In exchange for removing their ability to file a counternotice, Twitch won't be placing a copyright 'strike' against users' accounts. A fair 'amnesty' deal or a coach-and-horses through due process? During the summer there was uproar when Twitch users were suddenly bombarded with copyright notices for content uploaded between 2017 to 2019. Unsurprisingly, the claimant was listed as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), an organization well-known for its aggressive stance towards those who use its member labels’ content without obtaining an appropriate license. Aside from the notices themselves, the greater problem was Twitch’s “repeat infringer” policy, which states that if users receive several copyright complaints under the DMCA, they can be permanently banned from the platform. Twitch doesn’t say how many will trigger a ban but under normal conditions, it’s believed to be three. In common with similar platforms, Twitch adopted this stance to avoid becoming liable for its users’ infringements. However, the earlier advice for users to quickly delete everything on their accounts that may be infringing to avoid a ban didn’t sit well with the company’s customers. The Second Wave – AKA “DMCA Bloodbath” After the chaos in June, there was a general feeling that the worst may be behind the site’s users. Late yesterday, however, a fresh development indicated that was not the case. Gamer and esports consultant Rod Breslau (aka ‘Slasher’) took to Twitter to reveal that a second wave of DMCA notices had hit Twitch, with devastating consequences. “We are writing to inform you that your channel was subject to one or more of these DMCA takedown notifications, and that the content identified has been deleted,” a copy of a notice from Twitch reads. The first point of interest here is that Twitch didn’t tell anyone affected by these mass deletions what content was removed or what users did wrong. That deviates from the accepted standard practice of notifying users that “Content X infringed content company Y’s rights” and that’s why it was flagged. At least ordinarily, this information would provide users a platform from which to fight back, if the claim against their content was incorrect or at least contentious. However, Twitch effectively removed any opportunity to respond by imposing a new albeit temporary system for handling DMCA complaints. Twitch Trades Due Process For Not “Striking” User Accounts By not providing the information outlined above, Twitch clearly knew there would be problems among its userbase. So, what it appears to have done is sweeten the pill with a quid pro quo. “We recognize that by deleting this content, we are not giving you the option to file a counter-notification or seek a retraction from the rights holder. In consideration of this, we have processed these notifications and are issuing you a one-time warning to give you the chance to learn about copyright law and the tools available to manage the content on your channel,” the notices continues. Effectively, Twitch has denied any opportunity to contest DMCA notices on fair use grounds, for example, by imposing a “warning” instead. This warning does not appear to be a copyright strike, meaning that it won’t add to a user’s tally of strikes which accumulate and ultimately end in a ban. More controversial, however, is that there are claims that the Audible Magic recognition system used by Twitch isn’t working how it should. “Audible Magic is misidentifying music,” a Twitch user reported to the company on Twitter last night. “The proof in that pudding is my vods from last night that was muted with music that (the track and artist appeared in an onscreen ticker) was cleared for use on stream and is an original work. “An example based on the immediate past: You run Audible magic against highlights and clips. Those Highlights and Clips have music that is misidentified as DMCA applicable. By auto-deleting this content you remove our ability to correct that and keep the content,” he added. Can Twitch Delete Content and Deny Counternotices? While large volumes of users are currently distraught at the actions of Twitch and the deletion of their content without a fair hearing, a close look at the company’s terms of service reveals that, completely unsurprisingly, it can delete whatever content it likes, when it likes, and for any reason. It doesn’t even have to be infringing either, that’s just one of the options. “To the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, Twitch reserves the right to remove, screen, or edit any User Content posted or stored on the Twitch Services at any time and without notice, including where such User Content violates these Terms of Service or applicable law, and you are solely responsible for creating backup copies of and replacing any User Content you post or store on the Twitch Services at your sole cost and expense,” its ToS reads. Since Twitch can delete whatever content it likes at any time, that seems to negate any user ‘right’ to know anything about the claims against them, which in turn prevents them from filing a counternotice. And, since Twitch is essentially giving any actual infringers a free pass this time around (which in the case of multiple strikes could’ve meant an account ban), the company has not only covered its bases but also attempted to sweeten the deal. It didn’t have to, of course, but has wisely offered something. Nevertheless, that is no consolation to those users who have had their content deleted on dubious grounds and have no means to contest the action. Was the Second Wave ‘Bloodbath’ a Surprise? Not Really Back in 2014, Twitch announced that it was voluntarily taking measures to protect broadcasters and copyright owners. To this end, Twitch revealed it had partnered with content recognition/anti-piracy company Audible Magic, adding that by doing so it was assuming “no liability for the actions of its users.” Fast forward to June 2020, during the first wave of DMCA notice fallout, Twitch quite clearly said that its work with Audible Magic would be “extended” and all but confirmed that the deletions of this week were already expected several months ago. “First, we will begin the work to extend our use of Audible Magic to identify existing clips that may contain copyrighted music and delete them for you without penalty. Over the coming months, this will cover newly created clips as well,” Twitch said. So, the big question remains – what can users do faced with this scenario? If history is anything to go by, not very much. Twitch is Not Your Platform and Copyright Holders Come First The bottom line here is that while millions of Twitch users call the platform home, Twitch is not their site. While the site relies on streamers to make it a viable business concern, they are merely guests who agree to be bound by a strict set of rules that are entirely in the favor of the platform itself. Furthermore, like YouTube and even ISPs in the United States, Twitch faces the prospect of being subjected to aggressive legal action if it fails to deal with repeat infringers appropriately. Given that the RIAA is behind most of these liability lawsuits, protecting the record labels’ copyrights must be high on the Twitch agenda. It therefore seems probable (if not likely) that Audible Magic has effectively identified many thousands of repeat infringers on Twitch, so in preference to banning them all, Twitch has chosen to delete their content in a mass purge instead. Whether this was carried out with the stated or tacit support of the labels is unclear but the possibility of this being a ‘reset’ or catch-up move seems relatively high, particularly given that Twitch says it will revert to its regular DMCA process later this week. Source: TorrentFreak
  14. This week the MPA and RIAA reported the Tonic domain registry to the USTR as a notorious pirate market. As pressure mounts, two DMCA subpoenas obtained by the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment on behalf of the MPA and dozens of other companies now order the company to hand over all information it holds on more than two dozen 'pirate' sites. Every year the MPA and RIAA respond to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative to submit their recommendations for the annual “notorious markets” list. In many cases, the industry groups choose to nominate the world’s most popular pirate sites and services for a mention, including but not limited to The Pirate Bay, YTS, RarBG, 1337x, and Popcorn Time, for example. More recently, however, the MPA and RIAA have begun mentioning ancillary companies that in their judgment are not necessarily pirate services in themselves but due to their provision of systems and infrastructure, are in a position to act affirmatively to reduce the effectiveness of pirate sites. As reported this week, the MPA and RIAA has now chosen to nominate domain name companies and services including the Njalla privacy service associated with Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde and the Tonic domain registry that is often favored by pirate services. Pressure Has Been Building on Tonic Domain Registry In September, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), the global anti-piracy coalition made up of the major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and dozens of other companies, obtained a DMCA subpoena compelling Tonic to hand over information held on major pirate sites including The Pirate Bay, YTS, 1337x, EZTV, Seasonvar, Tamilrockers, Lordfilms, and many others. A month later, ACE was back in court again, this time obtaining a DMCA subpoena requiring Tonic to hand over information held on massive Germany-focused streaming site S.to. The dust had barely settled when ACE returned to court once again, obtaining another subpoena forcing Tonic to give up the identities of the people behind torrent giant 1337x.to (again), streaming site BS.to, Kimcartoon.to, Vumoo.to, Ololo.to, Seriesflix.to, Kinox.to, Movie4k.to plus many more. Back Once Again With Yet Another Demand For Information It’s unclear exactly how many pirate sites utilize .to domains for their operations but ACE clearly sees the registry’s involvement as part of their infrastructure as a problem when it comes to its enforcement actions. As a result, a DMCA subpoena ACE obtained in recent days from a California court lists two dozen problematic platforms for which it seeks additional information. The majority of the domains are focused on streaming movies and TV shows, with sites including Lordfilm, Ymovies, Pelis24, Series24, HDGo, HDSS, Flixtor, Soap2Day and Solarmovie all getting a prominent mention. Also present in the demand for information is a selection of popular torrent indexes such as TorrentGalaxy, Monova, and Glodls. These make an appearance alongside sites operating in different niches such as popular Germany-focused piracy forum Boerse and proxy-centric platform Unblocked. DDL-Warez is also featured in the subpoena but at the time of writing appears to be down. Sites Infringe Copyrights in Popular Movies and TV Shows Along with each site is a claim that they infringed rights in a specific movie or TV show. These include the movies Frozen II, Dolittle, Wonder Woman, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Beautiful Boy, Bird Box, Triple Frontier, and Scoob! In the cases of Series 24 and Flixtor, both stand accused of illegally offering the first episode in the TV series Watchmen. The application was filed by Jan van Voorn, Executive Vice President and Chief of Global Content Protection for the Motion Picture Association. “The ACE Members (via the Motion Picture Association, Inc.) are requesting issuance of the attached proposed subpoena that would order Tonic Domains Corporation to disclose the identities, including names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, payment information, account updates and account histories of the users operating the websites [listed below],” it reads. A letter to Tonic Domains attached to the subpoena repeats a similar message. At the same time, ACE also obtained a second DMCA subpoena claiming that the linking site Huho.to infringed its members’ copyrights in the movies Beauty and the Beast and It Chapter Two. The claim is that Huhu.to connects users of the popular ‘Watched‘ mobile application to cyberlockers containing infringing content so, as a result, its operator’s details should be handed over. The anti-piracy coalition lists a number of sites where the movies were hosted including Clipboard.cc, GoUnlimited.to, Mixdrop.to, Upstream.to, Vivo.sx, Vidlox.me, and Clipwatching.com, but these sites don’t appear to be direct targets in the subpoena. Documents supporting the DMCA subpoenas can be found here 1,2,3,4 (pdf) List of Domains and Main Use (Both Subpoenas) lordfilm.to – streaming ddl-warez.to – down boerse.to – piracy forum pepecine.to – streaming ymovies.to – streaming pelis24.to – streaming kinoz.to – streaming (kinox.to alternate) monova.to – torrents unblocked.to – proxy site glodls.to – torrents byte.to – DDL/streaming enstream.to – streaming series24.to – streaming hdgo.to – streaming ilgeniodellostreaming.to – streaming movie-blog.to – DDL index torrentgalaxy.to – torrents goojara.to – streaming supernova.to – streaming levidia.to – streaming flixtor.to – streaming hdss.to – streaming solarmovie.to – streaming soap2day.to – streaming huhu.to (subpoena 2) Source: TorrentFreak
  15. An RIAA takedown request, which removed the YouTube-DL repository from GitHub, has ticked off developers and GitHub's CEO. Numerous people responded by copying and republishing the contested code, including in some quite clever ways. Meanwhile, GitHub's CEO is "annoyed" as well, offering help to get the repo reinstated. The music industry has increased its enforcement actions against stream-ripping tools and services in recent years. The RIAA and other music groups have filed lawsuits, sent cease and desist orders, and issued numerous DMCA takedown notices. RIAA Takes Down Youtube-DL Until recently these efforts were hardly noticed by the public at large but late last week something changed. When the RIAA targeted the very popular open-source tool YouTube-DL, many people responded in anger. Last Friday the RIAA asked the developer platform GitHub to remove the YouTube-DL code and various forks because it allegedly violates the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions. By enabling the public to download content from YouTube, the tool allegedly bypasses YouTube ‘rolling cipher’ protection. Not just that, the code also included links to copyrighted works to illustrate its use. Cease and Desist Notices Following our initial coverage, we learned that the pressure against YouTube-DL had already started weeks earlier in Germany. Law firm Rasch, which works with several major music industry players, sent out cease and desist orders in the hope of taking YouTube-DL offline. Hosting service Uberspace was one of the recipients. The company hosts the official YouTube-DL site and still does so today. Instead of taking the website down, Uberspace replied to the notice through its own lawyer, who said that the hosting company hasn’t don’t anything wrong. When the cease and desist notice was filed, yt-dl.org wasn’t even hosting the tool, as all download links pointed to GitHub, the company informs us. “The software itself wasn’t hosted on our systems anyway so, to be honest, I felt it to be quite ridiculous to involve us in this issue anyway – a lawyer specializing in IT laws should know better,” Jonas from Uberspace says. Former Maintainer Tageted as Well The host wasn’t the only entity to be targeted. The German law firm also sent a cease and desist notice to developer Philipp Hagemeister who previously maintained the YouTube-DL repository. He also denies the accusations. “They did not understand that I was no longer a maintainer, basically alleged that youtube-dl was an illegal enterprise rather than a legit open-source project, and misunderstood a bunch of other technical stuff,” Hagemeister tells TorrentFreak. Both Uberspace and Hagemeister don’t want to go into too much detail as this is a pending legal issue. However, both defend their actions in relation to YouTube-DL. And they’re not the only ones who were ticked off by the enforcement actions, as we learned this weekend. Takedown Backfires as Copies are Everywhere Soon after the RIAA notice took YouTube-DL offline many developers spoke out in protest. They believe that the music industry group went too far and started to republish copies of the code everywhere. Over the past several days, we have seen hundreds of new forks and copies appear online. These were also posted to GitHub, where YouTube-DL forks remain easy to find and continue to be uploaded. The code was also posted in some places one wouldn’t expect. For example, there’s still a copy in GitHub’s DMCA notice repository, which some people find quite amusing. And the list of pull requests can be quite entertaining in themselves. One of the most creative responses we’ve seen was posted to Twitter by @GalacticFurball who encoded YouTube-DL into images that can be easily shared, encouraging others to share these as well. “I would also suggest that you save and repost the images, as one single source kind of defeats the point. Maybe start a hashtag trend or something. Make songs, and poetry. Get that data out there.” This triggered even more creativity, with people finding alternative means to share the code online, all to counter the RIAA’s takedown request. GitHub’s CEO Offers to Help YouTube-DL Meanwhile, GitHub’s CEO Nat Friedman wasn’t sitting still either. While the Microsoft-owned developer platform had to respond to the takedown notice, Friedman himself actively reached out to YouTube-DL’s developers to help them get their project reinstated. The CEO joined YouTube-DL’s IRC channel hoping to connect with the owner of the repository so he can help to get it unsuspended. “GitHub exists to help developers. We never want to interfere with their work. We want to help the youtube-dl maintainers defeat the DMCA claim so that we can restore the repo,” Friedman told TorrentFreak, explaining his actions. It’s clear that GitHub exists to help developers. That said, for the company’s CEO to jump in and personally help someone to respond to a DMCA claim, is quite unprecedented. As it turns out, the RIAA’s notice ticked off Friedman as well. “This one annoyed me,” Friedman says. “Perhaps because of the importance of tools like youtube-dl for archivists, and our related archive program and funding of the Internet Archive: We are thinking about how GitHub can proactively help developers in more DMCA cases going forward, and take a more active role in reforming/repealing 1201.” GitHub’s CEO suggested that YouTube-DL won’t be reinstated in its original form. But, the software may be able to return without the rolling cipher circumvention code and the examples of how to download copyrighted material. RIAA Efforts Backfire By now it is clear that the RIAA’s takedown notice backfired badly. With the ‘Streisand Effect’ in full swing, there are now probably more copies of YouTube-DL online than there ever were. However, there is more. Reading between the lines Friedman suggests that the current DMCA rules may be too strong in some cases. For example, tools like YouTube-DL have non-infringing uses, and there can be upsides to circumventing copy protections as well. To archive content, for example. This issue may eventually become a policy question. Every four years the US Copyright Office grants new exemptions to the DMCA section 1201 anti-circumvention rules, and it wouldn’t surprise if these tools are put on the agenda in the future. Instead of simply taking down YouTube-DL, the RIAA may have actually poked the bear and increased support for such tools. Not only from developers at home, but also from big players such as GitHub. Putting that cat back in the bag is not going to be easy. Source: TorrentFreak
  16. A company operating a YouTube-ripping platform has sued the RIAA for sending "abusive" DMCA anti-circumvention notices to Google. According to the complaint and contrary to the RIAA's claims, the Yout service does not "descramble, decrypt, avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair" YouTube's rolling cipher technology. Last Friday, the RIAA caused outraged on the Internet when it filed a complaint that took down the open source software YouTube-DL from Github. According to the RIAA, the “clear purpose” of YouTube-DL was to “circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube” and “reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings owned by our member companies without authorization for such use.” As the debate and controversy over the complaint rages on, a company based in the US that operates a YouTube-ripping platform has filed a lawsuit alleging that similar complaints, filed by the RIAA with Google, have caused its business great damage. Complaint States That YouTube-Ripping Platform “Time-Shifts” Filed by Yout LLC. in a Connecticut court, the complaint alleges that its service allows users to enter a link for a video on sites including YouTube. Its browser-based software then gives users the ability to record the audio of a streamed video and store it locally on their hard drives as an MP3. “By doing so, the user can thereby listen or view the locally stored content when not connected to the Internet and without the necessity of visiting the website on which the original content resides. In essence, Yout allows a user to time shift content,” the complaint reads. Yout LLC does not name its service directly in the complaint but the website Yout.com, which lists its address as being in South Windsor, a town in Hartford County, Connecticut, matches the description in the lawsuit. RIAA Sent “Abusive” DMCA Complaints to Google Noting that the Yout service never saves users’ time-shited content on its own servers, Yout claims that many users utilize the service for the purpose of recording their own videos. Content creators, on the other hand, encourage their fans to “record and play back their original content” using the platform. However, starting October 2019, the RIAA reportedly sent at least three notices to Google under 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3), claiming that the Yout platform breached the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. “To our knowledge, the URLs provide access to a service (and/or software) that circumvents YouTube’s rolling cipher, a technical protection measure, that protects our members’ works on YouTube from unauthorized copying/downloading”, the complaints read. According to the lawsuit, this caused Google to completely delist Yout’s software platform from its search results, rendering it undiscoverable for “many” Internet users. Yout says that the notices sent by the RIAA on behalf of its members allege circumvention violations, claims that are completely untrue. “Contrary to Defendants’ allegations, Yout’s software platform is not designed to descramble, decrypt, avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair the YouTube rolling cypher technology. “In fact, any digital mechanism in place designed as anti-circumvention technology stops Yout users from recording and saving that protected work, thereby demonstrating Yout’s compliance with any anti-circumvention protections in place,” the complaint adds. Yout Says That the RIAA’s Claims Damaged Its Reputation Yout’s lawsuit says that as a service designed to allow users to record publicly available media for personal use, at a time chosen by them and without breaching technical measures, it is entirely legal. “Such time-shifting purposes, absent specific circumvention of technological copyright protections, cannot be the basis for an alleged violation of 17 U.S.C. § 1201. Yout does not violate 17 U.S.C. § 1201.” By alleging otherwise, however, the RIAA’s notices caused third parties to believe that Yout is engaged in illegal conduct, something the company vehemently denies. Indeed, Yout states that the RIAA acted with “malice” when sending the notices since the industry group intended to harm the company. Yout Wants Its Business and Tool Declared Legal By The Court Reiterating that its platform does not act as an anti-circumvention tool, nor one that was primarily designed for the purposes of circumventing a technological measure effectively controlling a copyrighted work, Yout insists that it complies with “any and all” protections in place. “Based on the foregoing, Yout requests a judicial determination and declaration that Yout’s software platform does not violate 17 U.S.C. § 1201. Such a judicial determination and declaration is necessary to protect Yout from the Defendants’ DMCA Notices, which are causing Yout injury by, among other things, damaging its goodwill and disrupting its business,” the company adds. Yout Demands Compensation For Abuse of the DMCA Yout states that the RIAA’s complaints to Google were sent in bad faith, for one of two reasons. In scenario one, the RIAA simply failed to determine via testing whether the Yout platform actually does circumvent technical measures. In scenario two, the industry group knew that Yout did not circumvent technical measures and did not infringe its members’ rights, but sent the DMCA notices to Google anyway. In either event, the lawsuit alleges that Yout’s business was damaged due to the RIAA’s claims interfering with the relationships between Yout and its customers, partners, and potential users. As a result, compensation is due. “As the Defendants knowingly misrepresented circumvention of digital copyright mechanisms and infringement of the Defendants’ rights, the Defendants violated 17 U.S.C. § 512(f),” the lawsuit reads. In other words, Yout wants to be compensated for the losses caused when the RIAA reported Yout to Google as an infringing service that should be removed or delisted. “Yout Does Not Circumvent YouTube’s ‘Rolling Cipher'” In most if not all similar anti-circumvention notices sent by the RIAA to various platforms, the industry group states that “technological measures” can include YouTube’s “rolling cipher”. In Yout’s complaint, the company categorically denies that it circumvents any such measure. In fact, Yout says that by respecting the rolling cipher, it not only doesn’t infringe the labels’ rights but actually helps to protect them. “[B]y respecting anti-circumvention technology in place, Yout facilitates protection of the copyrights of the [RIAA member labels’],” the lawsuit reads. After repeating several times that Yout acts illegally under the DMCA, the RIAA has tarnished the reputation of Yout, the complaint adds. The industry group knew the notices would be published in public (on the Lumen Database) so as a result, the false statements constitute business disparagement. For this and general defamation, Yout also demands compensation, punitive damages, and a trial by jury. The complaint can be found here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  17. Two weeks ago the RIAA asked GitHub to remove the open-source stream-ripper software youtube-dl. This request wasn't well-received by developers, many of whom retaliated by posting copies of the code. Yesterday, things went from bad to worse when a user with the name 'F*** T** RIAA' uploaded three MP3s of the songs the RIAA mentioned in its takedown notice The RIAA and other music groups see people who download music from YouTube as a major piracy threat. To deal with this problem, they have increased their enforcement actions against stream-ripping tools and services. RIAA Takes Youtube-dl Off GitHub This has led to lawsuits and takedown notices, where it’s argued that stream-ripping sites and software violate the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions. That was also the case with the open-source software youtube-dl, which was pulled from Github last month. The RIAA informed GitHub of the alleged copyright violations and the developer platform swiftly complied, taking the software offline. We have seen similar requests in the past but this one struck a nerve, especially among developers. They believe that the RIAA went too far. As we highlighted earlier, hundreds of new copies of the youtube-dl code appeared online in response, also on GitHub. While GitHub’s CEO Nat Friedman was annoyed by RIAA takedown efforts, he stressed that the platform legally had to comply, which it did. More recently, the company even said that users who continue to republish the code risk being banned. Full MP3s Now Appear on GitHub Thus far this hasn’t stopped the problem. The youtube-dl code continues to be uploaded to GitHub multiple times a day. This obviously frustrated the RIAA, but the music group has a bigger problem too. Full MP3s are being shared on the site as well now. A few hours ago we spotted a new GitHub user named ‘FuckTheRIAA‘ who uploaded a copy of youtube-dl as well as a ‘FuckTheRIAA’ repository that includes three songs. These songs from Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, and Icona Pop, were not chosen randomly. The same tracks were mentioned in the RIAA’s original takedown request, as the YouTube videos were highlighted in the youtube-dl code. “We also note that the source code prominently includes as sample uses of the source code the downloading of copies of our members’ copyrighted sound recordings and music videos,” the RIAA wrote. How Will the RIAA Respond? This is yet another example that shows how the RIAA’s takedown request has actually made things worse for the music group, at least for now. After nearly a day the three MP3 files are still available on GitHub. TorrentFreak requested a comment from the RIAA on these unusual uploads but the group didn’t immediately reply. However, it seems likely that it will send another DMCA takedown request to remove the tracks from GitHub. Whether the RIAA will also file takedown notices to remove all of the new youtube-dl forks has yet to be seen. For now, its takedown efforts have only made things worse, so they may let things cool down for a while first while exploring other options. Lawful Uses? Over the past two weeks, a lot of people and organizations have criticized the RIAA’s enforcement efforts, including the EFF, which stressed that “youtube-dl is a legitimate tool with a world of lawful uses.” EFF believes that the circumvention restrictions in DMCA section 1201, which prevent people from bypassing technological restrictions, are too broad. “DMCA 1201 is incredibly broad, apparently allowing rightsholders to legally harass any ‘trafficker’ in code that lets users re-take control of their devices from DRM locks,” EFF wrote recently. That brings us to another issue we highlighted recently. How much circumvention is involved when anyone can bypass YouTube’s ‘restrictions’ in a regular web browser without extra tools? The RIAA, however, is convinced that it has the law on its side and thus far its takedown efforts have been successful. With all the controversy, it will be interesting to see how US courts interpret this issue. The legality of YouTube download services has never been properly litigated and the Flvto/2conv and Yout.com lawsuits could bring more clarity. That said, the GitHub user named FuckTheRIAA appears to have made up their mind already. Meanwhile, youtube-dl remains available via the official website. Source: TorrentFreak
  18. Last month, GitHub removed a popular tool that is used to download videos from websites like YouTube after it received a DMCA takedown notice from the Recording Industry Association of America. For a moment, it seemed that GitHub might throw developers under the bus in the same fashion that Twitch has recently treated its streamers. But on Monday, GitHub went on the offense by reinstating the offending tool and saying it would take a more aggressive line on protecting developers’ projects. Youtube-dl is a command-line program that could, hypothetically, be used to make unauthorized copies of copyrighted material. This potential for abuse prompted the RIAA to send GitHub a scary takedown notice because that’s what the RIAA does all day. The software development platform complied with the notice and unleashed a user outcry over the loss of one of the most popular repositories on the site. Many developers started re-uploading the code to GitHub in protest. After taking some time to review the case, GitHub now says that youtube-dl is all good. In a statement, GitHub’s Director of Platform Policy Abby Vollmer wrote that there are two reasons that it was able to reverse the decision. The first reason is that the RIAA cited one repo that used the youtube-dl source code and contained references to a few copyrighted songs on YouTube. This was only part of a unit test that the code performs. It listens to a few seconds of the song to verify that everything is working properly but it doesn’t download or distribute any material. Regardless, GitHub worked with the developer to patch out the references and stay on the safe side. As for the primary youtube-dl source code, lawyers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation decided to represent the developers and presented an argument that satisfied GitHub’s concerns that the code circumvents technical measures to protect copyrighted material in violation of Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The EFF explained that youtube-dl doesn’t decrypt anything or breakthrough any anti-copying measures. From a technical standpoint, it isn’t much different than a web browser receiving information as intended, and there are plenty of fair use applications for making a copy of materials. Among the “many legitimate purposes” for using youtube-dl, GitHub listed: “changing playback speeds for accessibility, preserving evidence in the fight for human rights, aiding journalists in fact-checking, and downloading Creative Commons-licensed or public domain videos.” The EFF cited some of the same practical uses and had a few unique additions to its list of benefits, saying that it could be used by “educators to save videos for classroom use, by YouTubers to save backup copies of their own uploaded videos, and by users worldwide to watch videos on hardware that can’t run a standard web browser, or to watch videos in their full resolution over slow or unreliable Internet connections.” It’s nice to see GitHub evaluating the argument and moving forward without waiting for a legal process to play out, but the company went further in announcing a new eight-step process for evaluating claims related to Section 1201 that will err on the side of developers. GitHub is also establishing a million-dollar legal fund to provide assistance to open source developers fighting off unwarranted takedown notices. Mea culpa, mea culpa! Finally, the company said that it would work to improve the law around DMCA notices and it will be “advocating specifically on the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA to promote developers’ freedom to build socially beneficial tools like youtube-dl.” Along with today’s announcement, GitHub CEO Nat Friedman tweeted, “Section 1201 of the DMCA is broken and needs to be fixed. Developers should have the freedom to tinker.” Source
  19. RIAA Targets 14 New Sites in Campaign Against YouTube-Rippers & Piracy The RIAA appears to be stepping up its campaign against sites offering features to rip content from YouTube. The music industry group has obtained permission from the court to force Cloudflare to unmask the operators of at least 14 new platforms, a handful of which appear to be straightforward pirate sites. For some time, the world’s leading record labels have complained that YouTube doesn’t pay the going rate for musical content streamed to its users. However, when consumers use so-called YouTube-ripping sites to obtain content, it’s claimed that the position worsens. By obtaining music in this fashion, users are able to keep local libraries which further deplete YouTube hits and by extension, revenue generated by the labels. To plug this hole, the RIAA is working to identify the operators of leading YouTube-ripping platforms. Via DMCA subpoenas, the industry group has been forcing CDN service Cloudflare and domain registries such as NameCheap to hand over the personal details of the people behind these tools. Two new DMCA subpoenas, obtained by the RIAA in recent days, reveal an apparent escalation in this activity. Mainly targeting Cloudflare but in one instance also NameCheap, the RIAA demands private information relating to several sites. 10Convert.com With around two million visitors per month (SimilarWeb stats), this platform has a prime focus on YouTube-ripping. The majority of its traffic comes from Brazil (69%), with the United States accounting for a little over 2% of its users. Amoyshare.com Enjoying around 4.6m visits per month with most of its visitors coming from the United States (15%), this platform’s focus is offering downloadable tools that enable users to grab videos and music from a wide range of platforms. However, Amoyshare also offers “AnyUTube”, an online converter which is the element the RIAA is complaining about. Anything2MP3.cc This site, which enjoys a relatively low 300,000 visits per month, appears to be dual-use. While it is possible to download content from YouTube, Anything2MP3 also offers users the ability to convert their own audio files in the browser. IMP3Juices.com With around six million visits per month, this platform is one of the more popular ones targeted by the RIAA. Around 12.5% of the site’s traffic comes from Italy, with the US following behind with just under 10%. The site functions like a ‘pirate’ download portal, with users able to search for artists and download tracks. However, the RIAA provides a URL which reveals that the site also has a YouTube to MP4 conversion feature. Indeed, it seems possible that much of the site’s content is obtained from YouTube. BigConverter.com Down at the time of writing, possibly as a result of the subpoena, this site offered downloading functionality for a range of sites, from YouTube and Facebook through to Twitter, Vimeo, Vevo, Instagram, Dailymotion, Metacafe, VK, AOL, GoogleDrive and Soundcloud. YouTubeMP4.to Enjoying around 7.7 million visits per month, YouTubeMP4.to is a straightforward YouTube video downloader. Almost 23% of its traffic comes from the United States with the UK just behind at close to 11%. QDownloader.net This platform has perhaps the most comprehensive offering of those targeted. It claims to be able to download content from 800 sites, of which YouTube is just one. With more than 12 million visits per month, it’s not difficult to see why QDownloader has made it onto the RIAA’s hit list. GenYouTube.net Another big one, this multi-site downloader platform attracts around seven million visits per month. The majority of its traffic comes from India (14%), with the United States following behind with around 12%. Break.TV For reasons that aren’t immediately clear, YouTube and SoundCloud downloader Break.TV has lost a lot of its monthly traffic since late 2018. From a high edging towards three million visits per month, it now enjoys just over 1.6 million. Interestingly the site says it must only be used to obtain Creative Commons licensed material. MP3XD.com In common with IMP3Juices.com, MP3XD.com appears to be focused on offering pirate MP3 downloads rather than straightforward ripping services. However, its content does appear to have been culled from YouTube. Given that it defaults to Spanish, it seems to target Latin America. Indeed, with close to 10 million visits per month, almost a third hail from Mexico, with Venezuela and Argentina following behind. DL-YouTube-MP3.net This platform is a straightforward YouTube-ripping site, offering downloads of both video and audio content. It is one of the lower-trafficked sites on the list, with around 870,000 visits per month with most of its traffic (38%) coming from France. ConvertBox.net With around 150,000 visits, ConvertBox is the smallest platform targeted by the RIAA in this batch. It offers conversion features for YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and SoundCloud via its website and mobile apps. Around a fifth of its traffic comes from France. Downloaders.io Another multi-downloader, Downloaders.io offers tools to rip content from a number of platforms, YouTube included. It’s traffic has been up and down since the start of the year but has averaged around 200K visits per month. Close to 30% of traffic hails from the United States. Hexupload.net A relative newcomer, this site doesn’t appear to fit into the ripping or general pirate site niche. Down at the time of writing, this 270,000 visit per month platform appears to have acted as a file upload site, from which users could generate revenue per download. Cloudflare and NameCheap will now be required to hand over the personal details they have on the users behind all of these sites. As usual, that will include names, addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, and more. It isn’t clear what the RIAA has planned for these platforms but since the request was made by the group’s Vice-President Online Piracy, it doesn’t take much imagination to come up with a few ideas. This latest move by the RIAA follows similar action against several other sites detailed in our earlier reports (1,2,3). The RIAA’s letters to Cloudflare and NameCheap can be found here and here. Source
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