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Summary:

In a move that suggests Google is coming to see itself as a content owner, the company is threatening legal action against sites that let users strip audio from YouTube videos and play them as stand-alone audio clips.

Smother, fire extinguisher
photo: VladimirB

In a move that suggests Google is coming to see itself as a content owner, the company is threatening legal action against a site that lets users strip audio from YouTube videos and play them as stand-alone clips.

According to TorrentFreak, Google is blocking YouTube-MP3.org from accessing YouTube and warning that it is forbidden to modify YouTube clips or store external copies of them.

The site is reportedly very popular with young people who use it to load up their phones with songs they find on YouTube. Here is a shot from the site’s homepage that shows how users can just plug in a YouTube URL and receive the audio portion (the site shows a shoe video but one suspects music videos are more typical) :

I confess that I hadn’t heard of YouTube-MP3 but my colleague Robert Andrews says there are several plugins for the Firefox and Chrome browsers which do the same job. The sites rely on a tool offered by Google that permits web developers to embed and access part of YouTube’s backend.

In an echo of the Napster debates of a decade ago, the owner of YouTube-MP3 told TorrentFreak that Google is wrong to criminalize the 200 million people who it says use the service.

Google’s aggressive action against YouTube-MP3 is intriguing because the company is taking on the role of copyright cop, a role it usually leaves to third party content providers (Google is invoking a breach of YouTube’s terms of service, rather than copyright infringement, but the end result is the same).

The company’s move against YouTube-Mp3 comes at the same time that it is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on partnerships to create new YouTube channels that will offer original programming. Google may thus be seeking to protect its investment and reassure its partners that it can control the new distribution environment. Or the dispute may signal a more permanent shift in which Google begins to adopt the outlook of a copyright owner.

[Image by VladimirB via Shutterstock]

  1. Shame on Google.

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  2. Hamlet Siljkovic Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    Communism is so Cool; Google Rules.
    “he red coats are coming, the red coats are coming”.Oops my bad their here already.

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  3. Hamlet Siljkovic Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    Communism is so Cool; Google Rules.
    “The red coats are coming, the red coats are coming”.Oops my bad their here already.

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  4. Revolution Video Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    There are free sites where users can buy music or attain music legally. Hopefully more sites like those will pop up and that will lessen illegal downloads; though, Google seems to be taking matters into their own hands.

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  5. (Google is invoking a breach of YouTube’s terms of service, rather than copyright infringement, but the end result is the same)

    Thank you for clarifying this.
    I appreciate the presentation of the details as well as a personal interpertation.

    Thanks for the article Sir!

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    1. And back at you th3ophilos! Thanks for the kind words and for taking the time to comment!

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  6. icesnakefrostfyre Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    “Do no evil?” Ahem.
    Freemake Video Converter will download the whole video to many formats, including MP3. Might be hard to stop that.

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    1. ssshhhh

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  7. Tara Richards Wednesday, June 20, 2012

    Why doesnt Google finally stop Socialcam.com from taking its videos off its site and claiming them as their own?

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  8. I find it very very funny, both on the part of Google and the sorry guys and girls going through these motions. The sound quality must be apalling. Their ears must have been shattered already if they cannot appreciate a good original any longer.

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  9. That’s not a shoe video. It’s a shoe ad — you enter the link of the video you want to rip in the box above it. No video ever plays on the site.

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  10. Could the interpretation be different? Maybe Google/YouTube is simply protecting their clients — the users who produce content. These content-producing users (bedroom singers and record labels both, to be clear) are YouTube’s bread and butter. Rev share from ads on these videos keeps YouTube running.

    Seems to me, YouTube is simply looking to protect their sources of content, not acting like a content owner.

    Full disclosure, I was employed by YouTube/Google from 2007-2009. I have no vested interest in the company, but do have insight into the thinking that goes on behind closed doors.

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    1. Thanks for the insider’s insight, Tim. I wonder, though, whether “protecting sources of content” and “acting like a content owner” are that different. And is Google’s thinking being shaped not only by the revenue share from ads, but also by the hundreds of millions it is investing in new content channels?

      In the past, Google/YouTube sought a more passive role based on staying DMCA-compliant. It feels like there’s a shift afoot (but again, that’s just speculation on my part).

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