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GitHub reinstates popular YouTube downloader project

(Image credit: Kevin Ku / Pexels)

GitHub has reinstated youtube-dl, a popular command-line program used by YouTube downloader tools and similar apps. The code was removed last month after the Recording Industry Association of America complained that it breached the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

After investigating the complaint further, GitHub has now determined that it is without merit given that the youtube-dl program has “many legitimate purposes.” These purposes include research, accessibility and integration with other applications.

GitHub stressed that its initial decision to remove the YouTube downloader project was driven out of a desire to comply with the fullness of the law. However, the company also has a commitment to putting developers first. As such, the firm has announced a number of changes to prevent similar issues involving future legal challenges from arising.

I fought the law

Firstly, all copyright claims will now be subject to a technical and legal review and projects will be left up if the findings are not decisive. GitHub is also setting up a $1 million defense fund to protect developers against bogus legal action. Finally, GitHub has announced it will work hard to lobby for legal changes where it believes the law impinges on developer rights.

“No matter what we do to protect developer rights, we still must work within the boundaries of the law,” Abby Vollmer, Director of Platform Policy and Counsel at GitHub, explained.

“And the DMCA’s current boundaries are hurting developers. One way to address the problems with the DMCA is to work to improve the law itself— and to prevent even worse laws from being enacted around the world. We were successful in a multi-year effort to stop the EU copyright directive from mandating upload filters for software development, and we’re taking lessons from that fight to the US as broader DMCA reform begins to be discussed.”

New digital technologies have long thrown up legal quandaries, with the law often struggling to keep pace with technological change. It seems like GitHub will now be better prepared for future contests in this area.