youtube-dl, and Avoiding Pointless Copyright Problems
youtube-dl, a popular command-line utility to download YouTube
videos, was taken down from GitHub.
And, near as I can tell, the justification of the takedown is over sample links,
where those links point to copyrighted material.
This seems flimsy, but I’ll leave it to the various attorneys to sort that
out. Regardless, for the time being at least,
hampered by this move.
And it seems so pointless. AFAICT, there is nothing about those links that
youtube-dl depended upon. They were samples, nothing more. The developers
youtube-dl could have used links to other materials and avoided some
Major copyright holders are “ratcheting up” enforcement actions, as this incident and Twitch’s takedown wave as examples from just the past few days. And way too many Android developers use copyrighted materials for samples, whether that material shows up in library documentation or in Play Store listings.
And that’s a shame, because there is so much stuff that you get get that you can use freely, particularly with Creative Commons licenses:
Need clip art? Try OpenClipArt!
Need photos? You probably have an Android device with a camera. Go take some!
Need audio or video content (or photos that you did not take yourself)? Search for Creative Commons-licensed material!
Need text? Try Zeynep Tufekci’s Twitter and Tear Gas, a book covering how network-centric protests have both pros and cons compared to classic forms of protest.
Need more text? You can download 4,041 pages of (older) material on Android app development, written by some balding guy. Have fun!
Need still more text? Will millions upon millions of Creative Commons-licensed questions and answers on computer programming work?
Need even more text? USE WIKIPEDIA!
I mean, seriously, you almost have to go completely out of your way to use stuff where you’re going to be at risk of a takedown. Yes, you like Olaf (because who doesn’t like snowmen?) and so you want to use screenshots from Frozen… but is it worth the risk of Disney coming after you?
Even big firms get this. Google can use copyrighted materials in a Play Store listing in part because they license this stuff. But a firm like Samsung – who can probably hire more attorneys than you can – uses placeholder data in their similar Play Store listing.
Now, it is entirely possible that even if
youtube-dl would have used sample links to
Creative Commons-licensed material that the RIAA would still have filed a takedown
notice. It would have made an already-flimsy argument that much more flimsy. And
if the point behind your app is to invite a takedown, as you intend to fight this
in court, more power to you, and be sure to let us know where to contribute to your
legal defense fund.
But, in general, you will have less risk if you use safer stuff for your sample content, rather than stuff whose copyrights are owned by people who like issuing takedowns. Unless the risk is the point, consider avoiding the risk.