With over a billion users YouTube is the largest video portal on the Internet.
The service opens the door to a wealth of information and entertainment, including the latest and greatest music which can be streamed for free.
Through YouTube, the music industry generated billions of dollars in advertising revenue. While this sounds great, YouTube also presents an indirect threat, as third-party tools allow people to rip and download music to enjoy outside of the streaming service.
Over the past several years, major music labels have taken legal action against several stream-ripping services. YouTube-MP3 was shut down after a legal battle and 2Conv and FLVto may suffer the same fate. In addition, rightsholders are actively trying to remove these sites from Google’s search results.
YouTube isn’t sitting still either. The company prohibits third-party services from downloading YouTube content and is actively blocking the IP addresses of known offenders. While YouTube itself hasn’t taken any legal action, the company shut down a YouTube ripper through a WIPO domain name dispute a few months ago.
Most of the enforcement activity of YouTube and its parent Google takes place outside of the limelight. However, there’s plenty going on behind the scenes, as a recent issue at “Free Download Manager” (FDM) shows.
‘Free Download Manager’ Pulls YouTube Support
FDM is a multi-purpose download tool that has been around since 2004. The software can optimize browser downloads and has a built-in BitTorrent client. It was also one of the first tools to add support for YouTube downloads back in 2007, but this functionality was abruptly removed a few days ago.
There is no official announcement on FDM’s website but, after reports started to trickle in at the forums, developer Alex confirmed that YouTube support was pulled intentionally.
“We’re sorry to say, YouTube downloads are not available for now. We are in progress of discussing this issue with Google,” Alex writes, adding that FDM received a claim from Google and that the functionality has been “temporarily” removed until the issue is sorted.
The question remains whether YouTube downloads will ever return to the tool, as YouTube makes it very clear that this isn’t allowed anywhere in the world. While it’s technically possible, it seems doubtful that FDM will get the green light from Google.
YouTube References Disappear Too
Also, FDM hasn’t just removed the YouTube downloading functionality, it has also stripped the official site of YouTube references. This includes the 2007 blog post titled “FDM 2.3 BETA 6,” where YouTube support was officially announced.
The blog post itself remains online but the YouTube reference above is no longer present. And there is more. FDM’s dedicated Youtube page now returns a 404 error. As Ghacks notes, this page was working just fine earlier.
TorrentFreak reached out to FDM to find out more about the nature of Google’s demands. A spokesperson informed us that the issue persists but didn’t add any specifics regarding Google’s complaint, or whether FDM faces ‘potential’ legal consequences.
Warnings From YouTube’s Legal Team Are Not New
Over the years, YouTube’s legal team has regularly approached operators of stream-ripping services with cease and desist notices. These warnings typically don’t come with any concrete legal threats. Instead, they urge the recipients to comply with YouTube’s Terms of Services and Developer Policies, which prohibit unauthorized downloading.
The warnings come with an ultimatum requiring the operators to comply. This strategy can be quite effective, as smaller sites are easily threatened and swiftly throw in the towel, but others continue regardless.
We don’t know whether FDM received such a threat but it’s clear that, whatever the message was, it’s serious enough for the developers to remove the YouTube stream-ripping functionality. For now…