Youtube-dl Site Goes Offline as Hosting Provider Enforces Court-Ordered Ban

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Hosting provider Uberspace has taken down the website of YouTube-ripping software, youtube-dl. The removal is the result of a German court order in a copyright infringement lawsuit, filed by Sony, Warner and Universal. While Uberspace didn't host the open source software, it was held responsible for the website linking to the software hosted on developer platform GitHub.

censortubeIn 2020, the RIAA infuriated many players in the open source community by targeting YouTube-ripping tool, youtube-dl.

The RIAA sent a takedown notice to GitHub, claiming that the software bypassed technological protection measures, in violation of the DMCA.

GitHub initially complied but later changed course. After consulting legal experts, including those at the EFF, it restored the youtube-dl repository and launched a million-dollar defense fund to assist developers in similar disputes.

Targeting youtube-dl’s Host

This episode was a massive setback for the music industry, which had been fighting stream-ripping tools for years. However, instead of laying down their arms, Sony, Warner and Universal went after Uberspace, youtube-dl’s website hosting company in Germany.

A German court previously ruled that stream-ripping software bypasses YouTube’s ‘rolling cipher’ download protection. This is seen as a circumvention of technical protection measures, a violation of intellectual property law in Europe.

Earlier this year this line of reasoning was also adopted by the district court of Hamburg. While the open source youtube-dl software is hosted on GitHub, Uberspace was held liable as the host of the website because it linked to the developer platform.

In its defense, Uberspace argued that the protection can be circumvented using any regular web browser and in any case, the youtube-dl software has plenty of legal uses. These arguments failed to sway the court.

The court recognized that YouTube’s rolling cipher protection is far from perfect but concluded that it’s good enough to signal to average users that downloading content from YouTube is not permitted.

“[T]he average user must recognize that YouTube content, unlike media content on other websites, cannot be downloaded with a simple right-click and must be aware that this is achieved using technology on YouTube and that youtube-dl ‘overrides’ this protection. It is therefore to be assumed that the average user acts in bad faith,” the Hamburg Court wrote.

Ban Enforced

The ruling was published in March but Uberspace wasn’t required to take action right away. The hosting company decided to appeal, which meant that the site remained online, unless the music companies posted a €20,000 bond.

Initially, it didn’t appear that the labels would enforce the order, but that changed a few days ago. The plaintiffs informed Uberspace that they had posted the security, leaving the company no other choice than to take the site offline.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Uberspace owner Jonas Pasche says that his hands are tied. Failure to comply with the order would either result in a massive fine, or worse, a prison sentence.

“I received that information from the plaintiff’s side on July 27, with proof that they did the security deposit at a bank. So I no longer have a choice but to follow the judgment. Otherwise, I would face a fine of €250,000 or jail time,” Pasche notes.


For several days, people who visited youtube-dl’s website saw a blocking notice instead, which is shown above. At the time of writing, the website doesn’t load at all.

Appeal ‘Censorship’ Order

Uberspace will continue the legal battle and is prepared to fight the order up to the highest court possible. If the appeal is successful, Pasche will gladly unblock the site.

“We are confident that a higher court will overturn the judgment of the Hamburg Regional Court, so we will be able to unblock the site as soon as this happens,” he says.

Uberspace is not the website’s domain registrar, so youtube-dl may yet decide to point its domain elsewhere. For now, that hasn’t happened. The software remains available on GitHub where it also has a dedicated website.

The hosting company previously told us that the Hamburg court’s ‘devastating’ order opens the door to privatized censorship, citing this threat as one of the main reasons to fight back.

“The consequences of this will be that hosting providers receiving complaints will most likely kick out their customers without a court ruling, for things that might be perfectly legal,” Pasche said at the time.

“This is a shameful day for the freedom of speech. It’s paving the way for privatized censorship. Do we as a society really want this? We strongly believe we’re on the right side of history here.”


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