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Stream-ripping site sues the labels, argues it is simply offering a time shift service

By | Published on Tuesday 27 October 2020

Yout

Stream-ripping site Yout.com has sued the Recording Industry Association Of America claiming that the record label trade group misrepresented its service when trying to get the website de-listed by the Google search engine.

Stream-ripping services – websites that let you grab permanent downloads of temporary streams – have been the music industry’s top piracy gripe for some time now, of course. As a result, various stream-ripping sites have been the targets of legal action from the music industry, most quietly going offline once facing the threat of litigation.

Though some put up a fight. Yout.com was last seen fighting efforts in Denmark by anti-piracy group the Rights Alliance to have the stream-ripping service blocked by the country’s ISPs. The site and its founder John Nader argued that Yout.com itself doesn’t actually host or copy any content, it simply allows its users to do those things. Therefore, it was argued, Yout.com is not liable for copyright infringement and shouldn’t be blocked on copyright grounds.

A court rejected those arguments, on the basis that by facilitating the copying of audio, Yout.com was communicating and making available that content without licence, and therefore was liable for copyright infringement.

In its battle with the RIAA, Yout.com presents similar though slightly different arguments. In particular, it argues that what it basically provides is a time-shifting service. So, it is basically the digital equivalent of a video recorder taping a TV programme for later viewing, which was generally allowed under copyright rules. Of course the difference here is that the original content is already available on-demand at any time, albeit assuming a user has an internet connection.

According to Yout.com’s lawsuit, in its complaint to Google, the RIAA claimed that the stream-ripping site specifically violates rules in the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act that “prohibit circumventing a technological protection measure put in place by a copyright owner to control access to a copyrighted work”.

That’s as a result of the stream-ripping site allegedly circumventing “YouTube’s rolling cipher, a technical protection measure, that protects our members’ works on YouTube from unauthorised copying [and] downloading”.

Not so, argues Yout.com. “Contrary to defendants’ allegations, Yout’s software platform is not designed to descramble, decrypt, avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair the YouTube rolling cypher technology. In fact, any digital mechanism in place designed as anti-circumvention technology stops Yout users from recording and saving that protected work, thereby demonstrating Yout’s compliance with any anti-circumvention protections in place”.

It then argues: “Yout simply allows its users to record publicly available media content already on the internet for their own personal, time-shifted viewing and listening. Such time-shifting purposes, absent specific circumvention of technological copyright protections, cannot be the basis for an alleged violation of [the Digital Millennium Copyright Act]”.

“The defendants’ DMCA Notices cause third parties to believe Yout engaged and continues to engage in illegal and unlawful conduct”, it adds. “Yout does not engage in illegal and unlawful conduct”.

They are interesting arguments and, certainly, there are plenty of other people who argue that offering a stream-ripping service does not in itself infringe copyright. Although when tested in court in certain countries, generally judges have not concurred with that argument. It will be interesting to see how the courts in Connecticut – where this lawsuit has been filed – respond to the Yout.com position.



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