Last month one of the web’s largest YouTube conversion sites was hit with threats from Google. YouTube-MP3, a site with more than 1.3 million daily visitors, was threatened with legal action over its service that converts YouTube videos into audio downloads.
Soon it became apparent that many YouTube tools had also received similar threats. It is assumed that, after ignoring these services for years, Google has now started to crack down on them because the music industry is worried that these might be used to “pirate” music.
And indeed, two days after the news broke the RIAA asked CNET to remove YouTube ripping software from Download.com for this very reason. While CNET reportedly refused to remove any software, something appears to have changed behind the scenes at the major download portals.
This week TorrentFreak was contacted by Stuart who spent months developing RipTunes, a brand new and multi-functional YouTube ripper. RipTunes allows people to search for music videos on YouTube, convert these into MP3s, and import these tracks into iTunes if they wish.
To promote his free software, Stuart decided to submit RipTunes to some of the largest download portals on the Internet including Download.com, Brothersoft and Softpedia. However, this was easier said than done, as it turns out that YouTube rippers are no longer welcome at these sites.
Softpedia was perhaps the most honest in their rejection. A response from the support team informed Stuart that his application had been rejected because of its ability to download YouTube videos. While there are still plenty of YouTube downloaders available on Softpedia, new applications are no longer welcome.
According to the email seen by TorrentFreak, these applications “infringe on Google’s copyright.” The fact that RipTunes is specifically targeted at music downloads doesn’t seem to play a role in the rejection.
“Unfortunately, your application encourages users to download YouTube videos to their computers, which is an infringement of Google’s copyright over those clips. This type of behavior is not allowed for applications listed on Softpedia, therefore we cannot list RipTunes – YouTube to MP3 Converter on our website.”
Stuart’s next attempt was to submit his application to CNET’s Download.com. Here, the RipTunes developer hit a brick wall. Download.com rejected the YouTube ripper, but instead of giving an explanation they simply deleted the developer’s profile. Not once, not twice, but several times.
At Softonic, Tucows, Snapfiles and Fileforum, Stuart got a similar treatment. No explanation was given as to why the application had been rejected by any of these sites.
The most interesting response came from Brothersoft. Initially it appeared that YouTube ripping software is a no go there as well.
“For now, we can’t approve the software which is YouTube related. I am sorry for that.”
However, a day later Brothersoft’s employee came back to Stuart with some good news. Apparently, Brothersoft does allow YouTube ripping software but only if the developers commit cash and sign up for a Pay Per Download (PPD) campaign.
“After the discussion with my management, I would like to tell you what I can do for you.
I can only ask the editors here to approve your software once we confirm your charge for your PPD campaign :) Otherwise, we can’t persuade the editors here and manager to give an exclusive approval to your product. Thanks for your understanding.”
Stuart was baffled by this offer but appreciated the honesty.
“I’ve found their email to be quite refreshing in their honesty, it’s not every day that you receive a point-blank bribe request in your inbox. But personal amusement aside; their action is still infuriating since I published my application free of charge and not only will I not make a single dime off it. I actually ended up paying a lot of money to develop it,” he told TorrentFreak.
The end result is, however, that Stuart has no option to promote his application on any of the major download portals.
It wouldn’t be a surprise that the rejections are the result of either pressure from the music labels or Google, to stop the distribution of these tools. According to Stuart, Google’s stance makes little sense. If Google really wanted to prevent people from downloading and ripping videos, they shouldn’t make it so easy in the first place.
“It is common knowledge on how to download videos directly from YouTube. For HTML5 videos the video source is directly linked on the video page, all the videos themselves are being cached on the browser and they are directly accessible through the end-user file system. There are countless free tools available for downloading YouTube videos,” he says.
“More importantly, if Google really wanted to stop users from downloading their videos they could simply move to a secure streaming server such as RTMP, which is commonly used by many online video sites such as Hulu, that prevent the direct access / download of their streams,” Stuart adds.
For the music labels on the other hand, it is no surprise that they are wary of YouTube rippers. The major labels make millions of dollars each month from advertisements on YouTube videos. When people download and convert the videos, this revenue goes away.
Whether the RIAA and Google will be succesful in their quest against YouTube converters remains to be seen. For now all the major download portals are still littered with them. And RipTunes? Until the RIAA or Google knocks on its doors it can still be downloaded through its own website.
Update: Brothersoft sent us the following statement.
“Because of Google’s policy,Brothersoft can’t approve software related to Youtube. And Brothersoft is still following this policy. Owing to negligence of Brothersoft,there exist some softwares which are youtube-related.However,Brothersoft has already removed thoes softwares last week.And we promise the same situation won’t happen again.”