As we’ve discussed previously, the past several years have seen the major music industry players paint an entirely new anti-piracy target on the backs of stream-ripping sites. These sites, which allow users to plug in the address for a YouTube video and get an audio rip outputted, are quite often used to generate audio files of copyrighted materials. This, however, is most certainly not their only use. In fact, there are many legitimate uses for these sites. I, myself, often use them to convert publicly available lectures and educational material put out by everything from universities to technology manufacturers so that I can listen to them while on the go. In this way, the music industry is once again taking a tool that can be but is not always used for copyright infringement and attempting to carpet bomb them all to hell.
And now they appear to have found an ally in YouTube, which recently and rather silently began blocking access to the sites from known stream-ripping websites.
Several operators of YouTube-to-MP3 rippers have confirmed that the streaming service is actively blocking requests from their sites.
“All my servers are blocked with error ‘HTTP Error 429: Too Many Requests’,” the operator of Dlnowsoft.com informs TorrentFreak. As a result, the stream-ripping site currently displays a “service temporarily unavailable, we will come back soon” error message.
The site in question is not alone. Mp3-youtube.download, another stream-ripper, is facing a similar issue. According to its operator, something changed yesterday evening and users now see a ‘this URL does not exist’ error message when they try to convert a YouTube clip. The massively popular Onlinevideoconverter.com, which is among the top 200 most-visited sites on the Internet, appears to be affected as well.
On the one hand, this isn’t the most surprising development in human history. Like any service provider, there is a certain amount of instinct in wanting to retain control over one’s product. Stream-ripping sites route around the control YouTube would otherwise have.
That being said, it’s an odd move for a company that used to tout a mantra of “Don’t be evil.” After all, it wouldn’t take a lot of work or thought to argue convincingly that removing the ability for people to hear educational materials on the go, such as I do, is some level of bad, if not evil. On top of that, how about any artist or content creator who might actually enjoy the fact that their material can be made audibly available in this manner? Certainly the number of people that fit such a category is not zero. Google’s new policy surely is harming them, is it not?
All of this is made even more strange in that Google didn’t give any heads up about this new policy, isn’t talking about it now, and has to know that it isn’t going to work long-term.
None of the site operators we heard from was warned by YouTube in advance. We also reached out to the video streaming service for a comment and further details, but at the time of writing, we have yet to hear back.
While YouTube’s efforts, intentional or not, are effective, they will likely trigger a cat-and-mouse game. The operator of a popular stream-ripper, who prefers to remain anonymous, managed to get around the blockade by deploying several proxy servers.
I’ve seen this movie before and I know how it ends. And for what? To block sites that are sometimes used by users to infringe, but not always, and to appease a music industry that is never, ever, ever going to be on YouTube’s side? Come on.