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GitHub revamps copyright takedown policy after restoring YouTube-dl

Igor Bonifacic
·Contributing Writer
·2-min read

The source code for YouTube-dl, a tool you can use to download videos from YouTube, is back up on GitHub after the code repository took it down in October following a DMCA complaint from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Citing a letter from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (the EFF), GitHub says it ultimately found that the RIAA’s complaint didn’t have any merit.

The RIAA argued the tool ran afoul of section 1201 of the US copyright law by giving people the means to circumvent YouTube’s DRM. It also claimed the software’s documentation invited people to pirate several popular songs. In its letter, the EFF dissects the RIAA’s claims, highlighting where the organization had either misinterpreted the law or how the code of YouTube-dl works. “Importantly, YouTube-dl does not decrypt video streams that are encrypted with commercial DRM technologies, such as Widevine, that are used by subscription videos sites, such as Netflix,” the organization points out when it comes to the RIAA’s primary claim.

If there’s a silver lining to the episode, it’s that GitHub is implementing new policies to avoid a repeat of a repeat situation moving forward. First, it says a team of both technical and legal experts will manually evaluate every single section 1201 claim. In instances where there’s any ambiguity to a claim, the company says it will err on the side of developers and leave their repository online. If the company’s technical and legal teams ultimately find any issues with a project, GitHub will give its owners the chance to address those problems before it takes down their work. Following a takedown, it will continue to give people the chance to recover their data — provided it doesn’t include any offending code.

GitHub is also establishing a $1 million defense fund to provide legal aid to developers against suspect section 1201 claims, as well as doubling down on its lobbying work to amend the DMCA and other similar copyright laws across the world.