GitHub reinstates YouTube-DL after EFF intervention and is changing its DMCA review process
Last month, GitHub took down multiple repositories containing YouTube-DL code after a DMCA takedown notice was filed by the Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. (RIAA). Today, GitHub has announced that the repos of YouTube-DL have been reinstated.
In a blog post on Monday, GitHub explained why it complied with the DMCA takedown notice in the first place, how it was able to reverse that decision, and how it’s changing its DMCA review process going forward.
GitHub revealed that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an international non-profit digital rights group, got involved once the takedown was instituted. With their help, it was proven that YouTube-DL wasn’t in violation of DMCA based on new information that showed the project was not for the explicit purpose of circumventing a technical protection measure (TPM). The repositories of YouTube-DL thus never actually contained copyright-infringing code, so no rules were broken.
GitHub said that DMCA takedown claims based on circumvention are an “industry-wide issue” for developers, which is why organizations like the EFF are so important.
Most takedown notices we receive allege copyright infringement—that someone used their copyrighted work (often software code) in a way that infringes their rights. But as many people noticed, the youtube-dl takedown notice fell into a more unusual category: anticircumvention—an allegation that the code was designed to circumvent technical measures that control access or copying of copyrighted material, in violation of Section 1201 of the DMCA.
Section 1201 dates back to the late 1990s and did not anticipate the various implications it has for software use today. As a result, Section 1201 makes it illegal to use or distribute technology (including source code) that bypasses technical measures that control access or copying of copyrighted works, even if that technology can be used in a way that would not be copyright infringement. Circumvention was the core claim in the youtube-dl takedown.
GitHub CEO Nat Friedman said the reinstatement of YouTube-DL on its platform is a big win for developers. “Developers should have the freedom to tinker,” Friedman said on Twitter.
We are taking a stand for developers and have reinstated the youtube-dl repo. Section 1201 of the DMCA is broken and needs to be fixed. Developers should have the freedom to tinker. That’s how you get great tools like youtube-dl. https://t.co/k0sbsNN30u
— Nat Friedman (@natfriedman) November 16, 2020
GitHub also revealed how it will handle DMCA claims in the future, including requiring technical and legal experts to review all “credible 1201 takedown” claims. If a claim is ambiguous, GitHub said it will take the side of the developer. If a claim is found to be legitimate, GitHub will notify the repository owner and give them an opportunity to make changes to the repo to avoid a takedown.
To fight situations like this in the future, GitHub also announced it’s creating a $1 million developers defense fund, which will protect developers against unwarranted DMCA Section 1201 takedown claims. Finally, GitHub said it will take every effort to advocate for reforming the DMCA, particularly when it comes to anti-circumvention.