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youtube-dl is an open-source download manager for video and audio content from YouTube and other video hosting websites.[1] It is released under the Unlicense software license.[2]

As of October 2020, youtube-dl is one of the most starred projects on GitHub, with over 72,000 stars.[3] According to libraries.io, 84 other packages and 1.43k repositories depend on it.[4]

History

youtube-dl was created in 2006 by Ricardo Garcia.[5] Initially, only YouTube was supported, but as the project grew, it began supporting other video sharing websites.[6] Ricardo Garcia stepped down as maintainer in 2011 and was replaced with phihag, who later stepped down and was replaced with dstftw.[7]

RIAA takedown request

On October 23, 2020, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) issued a takedown notice to GitHub under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), requesting the removal of youtube-dl and 17 public forks of the project. The RIAA request argued that youtube-dl violates the Section 1201 anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, and provisions of German copyright law, since it circumvents a "rolling cipher" used by YouTube to generate the URL for the video file itself (which the RIAA has considered to be an effective technical protection measure, since it is "intended to inhibit direct access to the underlying YouTube video files, thereby preventing or inhibiting the downloading, copying, or distribution of the video files"),[8][9][10] and that its documentation expressly encouraged its use with copyrighted media by listing music videos by RIAA-represented artists as examples. GitHub complied with the request.[11][12][13]

Users criticized the takedown, noting the legitimate uses for the application, including downloading video content released under open licensing schemes or to create derivative works falling under fair use (such as for archival and news reporting purposes).[14][3][15] Public attention to the take-down resulted in Streisand effect reminiscent to that of DeCSS take-down. Users reposted the software's source code across the internet in multiple formats. Twitter users posted images on Twitter containing the whole youtube-dl source code encoded in different colors.[16] GitHub users also filed pull requests to GitHub's own repository of DMCA takedown notices that included youtube-dl source code.open licensing schemes or to create derivative works falling under fair use (such as for archival and news reporting purposes).[14][3][15] Public attention to the take-down resulted in Streisand effect reminiscent to that of DeCSS take-down. Users reposted the software's source code across the internet in multiple formats. Twitter users posted images on Twitter containing the whole youtube-dl source code encoded in different colors.[16] GitHub users also filed pull requests to GitHub's own repository of DMCA takedown notices that included youtube-dl source code.[16][17]

On November 16, 2020, GitHub publicly reinstated the repository, after the Electronic Frontier Foundation sent GitHub a document contesting the takedown notice, which clarified that the software was not capable of breaching commercial DRM systems. GitHub also announced that future takedown claims under Section 1201 would be manually scrutinized on a case-by-case basis by legal and technical experts.[18][19]

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