A few years ago, the RIAA started targeting YouTube ripping sites by sending relatively rare takedown requests to Google.
Instead of the usual DMCA copyright notices, the music group asked the search engine to remove various URLs for alleged violations of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.
The delisting requests are supposed to make it harder for people to find ‘YouTube MP3 download’ sites in search results. However, the targeted sites have no intention of disappearing and actively fighting back, rotating to new URL structures.
While the RIAA kicked off the great purge, the music group has since received help from the British music group BPI. And more recently, the small French indie label Because Music also joined in on the action.
To the broader public, the label is relatively unknown, but owners of YouTube download sites are quite familiar with the outfit, as its takedown volume now exceeds that of the RIAA and BPI combined.
Music Company Targets Wikipedia Entry
Most of these takedown requests do indeed target YouTube downloaders. While the legality of these sites is subject to legal debate, YouTube owner Google generally accepts them as valid DMCA notices and removes the URLs.
Not all notices are flawless though. In the past, we have seen imposters abusing the takedown process to delist sites of competitors, for example. In addition, some notices appear to be quite broad, targeting sites that simply link to YouTube downloaders.
This week we spotted a notice, reportedly sent by Because Music, that falls into the latter category. In addition to streamripper URLs it also targets them indirectly, by going after a Wikipedia entry, for example.
The highlighted URL in the above notice lists Wikipedia’s “Comparison of YouTube downloaders” page. This overview links to sites that the music industry deems to be infringing, and Because Music asked Google to remove them from the search results.
Should Google ‘Censor’ Wikipedia?
At first glance, this may seem like an overbroad request. That said, music groups could make a case that this type of content shouldn’t be on Wikipedia at all. In that case, it might make more sense to complain to Wikipedia directly.
The same notice also links some other URLs that are at least one step removed from any potential DMCA violations.
There’s a link to a Facebook post, a page from traffic analytics company Similarweb, a Trustpilot review, and an uptime status checker. None of these sites host problematic content, but they mention or link to YouTube downloaders so should be delisted, according to the music company.
The same applies to sites that host apps. The takedown notice also lists a Chrome and Firefox addon, as well as a Softonic page that provides a list of Android and Windows-based YouTube downloaders.
Ironically, Because Music’s DMCA notice also lists a Soundcloud page that mentions Yt1s.com, likely because someone used the YouTube downloader to rip tracks that were then posted to the site.
While most of these links remain in Google’s search results, the links to Similarweb and Updownradar are no longer indexed. Whether this was done automatically or after a deliberate review is unknown. The Wikipedia page remains online.
The Big Delisting Battle Continues
Whether Google should or shouldn’t take action, is ultimately something a court would have the final say on. However, the above shows that the big delisting battle is slowly edging towards indirect takedowns.
We have to say, though, that it’s often hard to see which takedowns are real and which ones were sent by imposters. The one we highlight here was presumably sent by a French label Because Music but, according to Google, it was sent from Burundi, which seems odd.
By now, YouTube downloaders should be familiar with these delisting efforts. TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of a large number of sites, who prefers to stay anonymous. He has noticed a clear uptick in suspicious and broad requests but tries to get around them to remain in search results.
“I have quite a few sites, hundreds to be specific. It is my strategy to fight Google core updates and delistings,” the site owner explains.
“Sometimes it actually helps, when your competition disappears from Google, if even for a few hours. But these days ‘delisters’ instantly see your site coming up through ranks and delist it too,” he adds.
This doesn’t mean that the takedown notices and delistings have no effect at all. Dealing with this problem is slowly starting to take its toll. At least on some of the people that run these sites.
“I am honestly considering a different way of making money.. they are winning,” the operator says, half-jokingly.