Download tool: Music industry is suing the host provider of Youtube DL

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The years-long dispute over the open source project Youtube-DL has shifted to a new level. The German branches of the three major international labels Universal Music, Warner Music Group and Sony Entertainment have sued the Mainz-based provider Uberspace because it hosts the website https://youtube-dl.org. This actually only serves as a kind of business card for the program library and refers to the project page on GitHub.

Youtube-DL is a software library that provides various functions for other programs, but can also be used directly via the command line. This allows videos or their audio tracks to be downloaded from YouTube or other video portals. Journalists and activists also use software or websites built on top of YouTube DL to archive newsworthy videos in order to forestall possible takedown requests from governments, law enforcement agencies and rights holders.

The law firm Rasch Rechtsanwälte is therefore suing Pasche on behalf of the clients Mia, Wincent Weiss and Robin Schulz for “complicity, liability for accomplices and liability for troublemakers”. The record companies of the three artists throw Uberspace boss Jonas Pasche according to one Report by Netzpolitik.org before giving users access to Youtube-DL. The defendant thus contributes significantly to the fact that users can download content that is not intended for download. “Effective technical protective measures” would also be bypassed for the download. Uberspace also accepts payments for the open source project.

Office boss Clemens Rasch, who has already worked many times for the music industry, initially had Pasche in September 2020 Warning sent, after which he should submit a cease-and-desist declaration under penalty of prosecution. The entrepreneur immediately rejected this through his lawyer as completely unjustified. He emphasized that the download of YouTube content – ​​also in the opinion of the Federal Ministry of Justice – is generally permissible as long as no copy protection has to be circumvented and the video is not obviously illegally produced.

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YouTube does not implement any technical measures intended to prevent downloading of copyrighted content reply refer to. The clients also do not rely on any technical protection via digital rights control management (DRM). From the point of view of a reasonable YouTube user, this should sound like a friendly invitation to make a private copy. This option will be compensated by corresponding fees from the collecting society Gema. The download links on youtube-dl.org also only “redirected to the actual download source” on GitHub.

Despite these counter-arguments, according to the report, the complaint largely resembles the warning. Pasche’s lawyer suspects that “the lawsuit is intended to achieve a kind of fundamental judgment”. If the industry gets away with it, host providers could also be obliged to act if the alleged illegality of the content complained about is legally disputed. In principle, the liability privileges from the E-Commerce Directive apply to providers. Accordingly, hosters are only responsible if they are made aware of illegal content. There is no general monitoring obligation.

Whether YouTube DL facilitates copyright infringement has been the subject of heated debate for years. The Association of the US Music Industry (RIAA) had the Python library initially blocked on GitHub in autumn 2020 on the basis of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). After loud protests, the platform operated by Microsoft restored the directory a little later. She justified this by saying that the software did not violate the DMCA according to the assessment of her own lawyers.

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Uberspace now apparently wants to fight the matter through. The value in dispute is 100,000 euros, which does not make the procedure cheap. The Youtube DL developers write on the controversial website: The hoster has already “spent thousands of euros on his legal defense”.


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