Microsoft has angered Open Source advocates after GitHub, purchased by Microsoft in 2018, responded to a DMCA takedown request by the RIAA by removing the code for YouTube-DL, an open-source internet video download command-line application.
The request is not based on the fact that the tool violates copyright itself, but that it is a circumvention tool illegal under section 1201 of the US copyright law.
According to Public Knowledge Legal Director John Bergmayeh, the tool violates copyright law, because it’s clearly meant to “circumvent the technological protection measures used by authorized streaming services such as YouTube” and to “reproduce and distribute music videos and sound recordings owned by [RIAA’s] member companies without authorization for such use.”
YouTube-DL fans, however, argue that the tool has fair use purposes, including downloading your own content from YouTube or backing up videos which may be removed for other reasons.
As anyone who has used youtube-dl knows, it is an extremely powerful and useful tool for format-shifting. It's super popular among archivists and has incredibly broad fair use applications. The RIAA stance here is pretty aggressive and out there.
— Parker Higgins (@xor) October 23, 2020
Youtube-dl is a legitimate tool with a world of a lawful uses. Demanding its removal from Github is a disappointing and counterproductive move by the RIAA. https://t.co/VUbTokd4cP
— EFF (@EFF) October 23, 2020
The action harkens back thee days in the 1990’s when the RIAA was fighting a losing battle to keep DeCSS, the decrypt code for the DVD codec, off the internet, which ended being sold printed on T-shirts.
The action may by the RIAA may already have had the unintended opposite effect, however, with numerous open-source advocates now hosting the code on their own websites.
Microsoft has not made any official comment, except to say that the maintainers of the code have the right to file a counterclaim and if successful would have their code restored.