Google moves to snuff sites that rip music from YouTube videos

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 (s goog) is blocking 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]