YouTube doesn’t have a download functionality but there are numerous ‘stream-ripping’ services available on the web that offer just that.
These tools have legal uses but they are also a thorn in the side of music industry outfits, who see them as a major piracy threat.
This concern was illustrated last year when an RIAA takedown notice wiped youtube-dl off GitHub, a decision that was eventually reversed. In addition, the music industry has taken legal action against several stream-ripping platforms, with some success.
Yout.com is one of the sites at the center of this battle. The site’s operator, Johnathan Nader, has appealed blocking requests with mixed results. At the same time, the developer sued the RIAA in a US federal court seeking a declaration that Yout does not violate the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.
Criminal Complaint in Brazil
The legal battle with the RIAA is still ongoing but there’s a more pressing concern too. This week, Nader learned that the Public Prosecutor’s Office of São Paulo, Brazil, has filed a criminal complaint against him. As a result, Yout.com is now blocked by Brazilian ISPs.
This isn’t the first time that Yout has been blocked in Brazil. The site was previously blocked last fall pending a criminal investigation. However, Yout’s lawyers managed to get the site unblocked in court as no official indictment was filed at the time.
While there is now a detailed criminal complaint, there is no conviction. This means that Yout is being preemptively blocked before the case is fully prosecuted. This “guilty until proven innocent” approach was confirmed by Nader’s legal team in Brazil after which he shared a new insight on Twitter.
Blocking or seizing sites that are targeted in a criminal investigation is not new. The same has happened in the US, where Megaupload and KickassTorrents were effectively shut down based on a criminal complaint.
Nader tells us that, as a result of the new measures, Brazilian traffic has tanked, again. In the span of a year, the site has lost a significant portion of its traffic due to the blocking efforts.
What’s perhaps more concerning is the looming criminal sentence. Nader obviously doesn’t believe that his site is illegal but if the Brazilian criminal court decides otherwise, criminal copyright infringement can result in a prison sentence of up to four years.
However, that means that the developer, who’s an American citizen, has to be extradited to Brazil which isn’t straightforward. Another option could be that both sides come to some form of agreement, under which the site remains unavailable in Brazil without a prison sentence.
In any case, history has shown that Nader is willing to stand up for Yout and he will most likely fight this latest blocking ‘order’ as well.
Yout’s legal team in Brazil assured the developer that there are good grounds to mount a defense. However, there are certainly no guarantees, and lawyers are generally not cheap either.