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GitHub restores youtube-dl project, sets up fund to defend developers against DMCA claims

Microsoft-owned code repository GitHub has restored youtube-dl — an open-source third party utility to download YouTube videos and associated metadata like subtitles — that it took down in September following a copyright claim from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The RIAA had argued that youtube-dl illegally circumvented protections against downloading of videos on YouTube. GitHub announced the restoration of the project on its blog.

  • Why did GitHub reverse its decision? The Electronic Frontier Foundation represented youtube-dl’s maintainers in a letter that essentially argued that YouTube’s protections weren’t stringent enough for youtube-dl to be considered an unlawful circumvention, and that copyrighted music contained in the repository as examples were being replaced. GitHub accepted these arguments.

“Although we did initially take the project down, we understand that just because code can be used to access copyrighted works doesn’t mean it can’t also be used to access works in non-infringing ways,” GitHub said in its blog post. “After we received new information that showed the youtube-dl project does not in fact violate the [Digital Millennium Copyright Act]‘s anticircumvention prohibitions, we concluded that the allegations did not establish a violation of the law.”

  • GitHub contributes US$1 million to defense fund for developers: GitHub added, “Developers who want to push back against unwarranted takedowns may face the risk of taking on personal liability and legal defense costs. To help them, GitHub will establish and donate $1M to a developer defense fund to help protect open source developers on GitHub from unwarranted DMCA Section 1201 takedown claims.” GitHub said it will scrutinise anticircumvention notices like the one it was sent by the RIAA more strictly before acting on them, and that they will retain experts to scrutinise such claims.

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