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US court dismisses Yout’s lawsuit against the record labels, though it can submit a new claim

By | Published on Wednesday 11 August 2021


A US court has dismissed the lawsuit being pursued against the record industry by stream-ripping site Yout, though the stream-ripper now has the opportunity to submit an amended legal claim.

Usually it’s the record labels that sue the operators of websites like Yout, with stream-ripping – ie services that allow people to grab permanent downloads of temporary streams – having been the music industry’s top piracy gripe for some time now.

However, the owner of Yout decided to sue the labels instead. This was after the Recording Industry Association Of America urged Google to de-list Yout from its search engine database.

That request was based on the allegation that Yout had violated the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act by circumventing “YouTube’s rolling cipher, a technical protection measure, that protects [the labels’] works on YouTube from unauthorised copying [and] downloading”.

Such circumvention, the record industry trade group claimed, breached a provision in the DMCA that “prohibits circumventing a technological protection measure put in place by a copyright owner to control access to a copyrighted work”.

For its part, Yout insisted that it does not in fact circumvent any technological protection measures in a way that breaches the DMCA. “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”, the stream ripping service argued.

“In fact”, it added, “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”.

With that in mind, Yout then argued in its lawsuit, it was actually the RIAA that had violated the DMCA, by misrepresenting the nature of its service in formal correspondence with Google. And that misrepresentation, it alleged, had caused Yout tangible harm, resulting in cancelled subscriptions and the closure of its Paypal account.

The subsequent back and forth between the RIAA and Yout centred mainly on what constitutes a ‘technological protection measure’ in the eyes of US copyright law, and whether Yout was actually circumventing any such measures when its technology interacts with the YouTube platform.

Along the way the RIAA sought to have Yout’s case dismissed with prejudice, which would prevent the stream-ripping site from re-filing any amended litigation related to this dispute, because – the record labels argued – any revised arguments would be “futile” anyway and therefore simply a waste of everyone’s time.

The court overseeing the case granted the RIAA’s motion to dismiss last week, but without prejudice, meaning Yout can now submit a revised legal claim to the court.

The “without prejudice” part of last week’s ruling is key – according to an attorney at digital rights lobbying group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been following the case – and means that the dismissal isn’t as a big a win for the RIAA as it might first seem.

Basically, the EFF argues, both Yout and the RIAA had introduced too much new information as the case had progressed, which strengthened the argument that the original lawsuit should be dismissed. But that doesn’t mean Yout can’t present a compelling case against the labels in its next filing.

EFF’s Mitch Stoltz told Torrentfreak: “The judge was highly engaged and appeared to be taking the time to understand the issue. A motion to dismiss is supposed to focus on the formal complaint without bringing in additional facts. Ultimately, because both Yout and RIAA brought up additional facts in their arguments about how YouTube works, the judge asked Yout to revise its complaint to add more detail. After that, there will likely be more briefing from both sides and another hearing”.