Lawyers from Google/YouTube have been sending cease-and-desist letters to sites that serve their visitors by ‘ripping’ MP3s from YouTube videos. The letters, of which a sample is published on the TorrentFreak blog, threaten legal action if a site doesn’t comply. One of the sites in question, YouTube-MP3.org also claims their servers are now being blocked by YouTube so the conversion service has stopped working.
Google’s stats show YouTube-MP3.org has about 1.3 million visitors a day. The site uses YouTube’s Application Programming Interface (API) to do its work of loading the video and extracting the sound and converting it to MP3 to allow its visitors to download the MP3. Google says that this practice is violating the API terms of service, hence they have said that YouTube-MP3 conversion sites must be stopped. YouTube has, over time, managed to get major record labels like Warner and Universal to allow their videos to be shown on the site. It acts as a kind of promotional tool, sometimes there are actually links to online MP3 stores like iTunes and Amazon MP3 on the same page. When the YouTube URL is fed into a YouTube-MP3 conversion site all that promotional mechanism is bypassed.
Conversion sites like YouTube-MP3.org and Music-Clips.net have existed for quite a while and it is a possibility that Google has been pushed by content creation companies to crack down at this time. There are lots of these kinds of sites around the net so it is going to be a tricky task, similar to the task of closing down torrent sites. Standalone programs also exist for the same purpose and then there are tools to grab YouTube videos from the browser cache which can be converted by lots of other tools to music files further down the line. However hitting these very convenient conversion websites is a way to address a most popular and prolific conversion route.
Philip at YouTube-MP3.org has written an open letter to users asking for help. The letter asks for a dialogue with YouTube representatives, but they have been ignored so far. Also the letter points to Google’s double standards in its content scraping methods for Google News and Google Books. Also YouTube used to have a lot harder time from publishers for the content uploaded there before agreements were forged.
The YouTube-MP3.org website does still seem to be functioning ‘correctly’ at the time of writing. The interface is very simple and it actually works very quickly. There was a YouTube URL already filled in on the homepage, it’s some kind of dance music set to Steve Ballmer continuously repeating the word ‘developers’. Not my choice of music.