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Summary:

Google has been cracking down on sites and services that make it possible to convert videos into MP3 files, but now some of its users are firing back with a petition. Their logic: YouTube is a broadcast site, so it should also allow recording.

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If YouTube wants to be the future of broadcast, then it also has to support the DVR of tomorrow. That’s the main argument of a new online petition urging Google to allow third-party tools and services that record content from YouTube, which has attracted more than 170,000 signatures in just three days.

The petition was launched in reaction to reports that Google has been sending cease-and-desist letters to YouTube-MP3.org, Music-Clips.net and other sites, demanding to take down offerings that allow users to download the audio tracks of YouTube videos. In the letter, a YouTube lawyer referred to the site’s Terms of Service, which don’t allow the downloading of content that isn’t made available for download by YouTube itself.

The petition, on the other hand, argues that downloading MP3 files from YouTube is simply an act of recording media, comparable to the DVR or even the cassette recorder. From the petition:

“For decades people were allowed to take a private copy of a public broadcast. You could record the radio program with a cassette recorder or make a copy of your favorite movie by using a video recorder. All these techniques have been opposed heavily in its early years by the big media companies who didn’t want the public to have such technology… Several years later history is about to repeat: Google has teamed up with the RIAA to make the same claims against all sorts of online recording tools for their 21th century broadcasting service: YouTube (“Broadcast yourself”).”

Contacted for this story, a YouTube spokesperson sent me a brief statement reiterating the Terms of Service argument:

“We have always taken violations of our Terms of Service seriously, and will continue to enforce these Terms of Service against sites that violate them.”

Video conversion and downloading tools for YouTube aren’t exactly new; numerous sites and apps have made use of the site’s MP4 streams to offer high-quality audio and video downloads in the past. Some of those also have gotten cease-and-desist letters before, but this recent wave seems to have received a bit more attention in part because the folks are the center of it are more media-savvy. The petition was started Friday by Philip Matesanz, who happens to also be the founding admin of YouTube-MP3.org as well, and his site now also features a prominent link to the petition.

However, there’s also an underlying trend here that makes this more of a pressing matter for YouTube – and it’s not necessarily any pressure from the record industry, as the petition alleges. As YouTube is stepping up its efforts to monetize content on the site, it has to make sure that its video views are actually counted, and that ads are displayed when people play any of its clips. Both isn’t possible when users download YouTube clips through third-party services.

  1. Stephen Simpson Monday, July 2, 2012

    If YouTube doesn’t want people downloading videos, the first thing they need to do is SCRAP the awful, anti-user Content-ID system. Why is Google kissing the RIAA/MPAA’s butts by going above and beyond what the DMCA requires? Hollywood hates Google anyway, so why pander?

    If it weren’t for Content-ID, I would almost never need to download videos, because I could be reasonably assured that users could upload my favorite videos faster than Hollywood fat cats could take them down with just the DMCA.

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  2. Davin Peterson Monday, July 2, 2012

    Other video sites such as Daily Motion allow you to download the video from the website. So, why doesn’t YouTube?

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  3. What Come Around... Tuesday, July 3, 2012

    Geeze, it sucks when someone steals your content and uses it without your permission. What a revelation.

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    1. Yea, well maybe there can be a filter that prevents two of the same file posted at one time by different users. Don’t have to use this method to prevent such a petty thing like that. It’s like using an RPG to kill a fly.

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  4. Typo, last paragraph, last sentence. Should be “both aren’t” instead of “both isn’t”

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  5. Damien Filiatrault Tuesday, July 3, 2012

    Allowing people to record videos from YouTube would be a mixed bag. Sure, piracy would happen, but people would also be able to recombine and remix videos which could lead to an exciting increase in creativity.

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  6. Silas Jenkins Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    as the article says, up until some time ago, no one had any problem using video or casette recorders to make copies for themselves. the thing is that now it all happens at a whole different level, everyone does it and industries lose a lot of money. as far as I can see it, they can’t stop it, not without making a huge mess and taking out people in the street. anywho, you may call me cheap, I don’t really care, I will go on recording my music when my pockets are empty (and in case anyone else is wondering how, here you go: http://audials.com/en/how_to_record_stream_capture_music_videos_movies_from/youtube.html).

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  7. no point in taking down these ‘recording sites’. a windows user can simply set up a recorder on their PC and set the input to the wave output and record whatever is playing on youtube… or if they’re a bit more tech-savvy they can download the .flv from youtube and convert it to mp3 on their computer.

    they keep referencing their terms of services, but you have to register to oficially agree to them. theres no official agreement between the ‘recording sites’ and youtube.

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  8. youtube is for the site and their copyright material blah blah.. BUT people making scripts on their OWN servers for entertainment for what ever reason all the service is doing is using the youtube url address ( which is not breaking no law) youtube as shown videos of rape – beatings – abuse – etc not porn though.. some of the videos on youtube are horrific isnt some of these works breaking laws from other states? google and youtube need to stop kissing the RIAA and the MPAA’s arses all the time.. content on other peoples servers are NOTHING to do with youtube ! they are NOT de facing other peoples works … YOUTUBE – GOOGLE – EVEN FACEBOOK – are forgetting they are offering a service for internet users.. They are internet giants that are playing manoploly….. other words they want power and money…if anything is placed on the internet then the copyright laws go out of the window.. example… facebook how many pictures funny or status are someone elses work out there on the web ??? videos on youtube… how many have you seen that many people claim to be the owner off… the whole thing is a farce,,,,,,..

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  9. Aren’t the youtube video files (flv files) stored in the temporary internet files directory by most operating systems? So it should be reasonably possible to thwart most efforts by websites to deny downloadable content. One solution they do in China is to break the online video up into many contiguous pieces to make it harder to reconstruct, but not impossible.

    A problem is that most licenses claim that they content is their, but they are also not responsible for anything. Youtube/Google is no exception.

    Another thought. Perhaps google should rename youtube to mytube (and make the guys at mytube.com thousandaires in the process) or googletube. It is part of google’s plan to not be evil.

    The ultimate solution is to not directly use google, block their ads with adblock plugin, and deleting their pirated browser they rebranded “chrome”, and just use firefox instead. There are apparently other search websites (that use google) like duckduckgo dot com or startpage dot com, that might provide a temporary solution until a true “non-evil” search website is born.

    My vision is that this search device will be in the spirit of open source or free documents. It could be use the millions of disgruntled and former google users’ computers, networked together. They could use bots that crawl the web searching and cataloging useful and relevant content. And it can’t be taken down with a court order or a threat by big brother, or the US government.

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