YouTube is without doubt one of the greatest sites ever to grace the Internet. In its library it has countless videos, many accompanied by music, and for millions of web users its a site to visit every single day.
But for all its brilliance, YouTube isn’t perfect. YouTube requires an Internet connection to function and even once material has buffered in a user’s browser, once that window is closed that data is lost forever. If the user wants to view a video again or listen to a piece of music, they simply must be connected to the site.
This shortcoming has been noted by various companies around the world who have created tools and services to get around the issue. So-called ‘YouTube Downloaders’ allow users to keep the music and videos on local devices, meaning that no net connection is required to view them again.
One such site, TubeFire, has been in operation since 2007 but now it appears the world’s largest recording labels – including Universal, EMI, Sony, Warner and more than 25 others – have had enough.
On August 19th, the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) filed a lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court against MusicGate, the Japanese owners of TubeFire. The plaintiffs in the case claim that by copying and converting YouTube videos and then distributing the resulting files to its userbase, TubeFire is in breach of copyright law.
According to their own studies, the labels believe that 10,000 music videos were transferred from the TubeFire service to users between May and June this year. Using this data the recording industry group says it is seeking total damages of around $3 million – the amount they say the labels would’ve earned if TubeFire had obtained official licenses.
“So far, we have given our best attention so as not to infringe copyright,” says a notice on the TubeFire website. “However, a complaint submitted to the Tokyo District Court accuses TubeFire of violating copyright.”
TubeFire say they have not yet received the full details of the complaint but as a precaution they have terminated their service, at least temporarily.
“In order to completely prevent the spread of the problem, from 23 August 2011 we decided to stop TubeFire and related services. We apologize for the inconvenience, thank you for your understanding.”
There are dozens of similar YouTube downloading services and tools which achieve the same end result so shutting down one isn’t going to make a huge difference to the labels.
Services such as Tubidy, which enable cellphone users to download free MP3s from music culled from YouTube, are also growing in popularity.
In late 2010, the MP3Rocket software abandoned its P2P roots and became a service which acquires its media from YouTube and other similar sites. Its operators now insist that all “downloads must be for time-shifting, personal, private, non-commercial use only” in order to comply with relevant laws.