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Record industry welcomes ruling against youtube-dl in German courts

By | Published on Tuesday 4 April 2023


The record industry has welcomed a ruling in the German courts in relation to stream-ripping software youtube-dl. The Hamburg Regional Court has issued an injunction stopping the distribution of the software via a web-page hosted in Germany.

Stream-ripping tools and websites – which allow people to grab permanent downloads of temporary streams, most commonly YouTube streams – have been a top piracy gripe of the music industry for some time now. That has resulted in various efforts by music companies to get stream-ripping services blocked by internet service providers, as well as legal action, or the threat of legal action, against the operators of such services.

In terms of youtube-dl in particular, in 2020 the music industry tried to get the code for that software removed from developer platform Github. Those attempts were initially successful but, after a mini-controversy, Github restored the code to its platform.

Meanwhile, in Germany, work began to try to takedown the youtube-dl web page, which was hosted by German company Uberspace. That also proved controversial, with an organisation called Gesellschaft Für Freiheitsrechte – which loosely translates as the Society For Liberties – speaking out against the proposal that access to youtube-dl should be blocked, on the basis that stream-ripping tools have legitimate as well as illegitimate uses.

However, despite the controversy, the music industry’s efforts in Germany have seemingly been more successful. The International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry and German record industry trade group BVMI have confirmed that the Hamburg Regional Court has now issued an injunction against the youtube-dl web page.

Welcoming that court order, IFPI and BVMI said: “Stream-ripping is the illegal practice of creating a downloadable file from content that is legally available to stream online. It is the most prevalent form of online music copyright infringement”.

“Based on a survey carried out last year”, they went on, “27% of people globally used stream-ripping sites as a way to illegally download music. This figure increased to 40% amongst sixteen to 24 year olds. Legal actions targeting stream-ripping services have been successful against other sites in Germany as well as in various other jurisdictions, including in Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Ecuador, France, India, Italy, Spain, Malaysia, Peru and the UK”.

Commenting on the latest development, IFPI boss Frances Moore says: “Youtube-dl’s services were making it possible for users to rip streams and download copyright protected music without paying for it”.

“The decision from the Hamburg Regional Court builds on the precedent already set in Germany”, she goes on, “further indicating that hosting stream-ripping software of this nature is illegal. We continue to work around the world to tackle the issue of stream-ripping which diverts revenue away from those investing in and creating music”.

Meanwhile BVMI CEO Florian Drücke adds: “Illegal music use remains a major challenge for the industry worldwide. Globally, 30% of users report listening to or buying music through unlicensed or illegal means, with stream-ripping among the most popular methods”.

“This is unacceptable and harms all players in the industry as well as the music fans themselves”, he continues. “Against this background, the decision of the Hamburg Regional Court that the host provider must refrain from distributing the youtube-dl software is consistent and important for the industry”.