Updated February 2017
The video-sharing website YouTube is the most popular site on the Internet, streaming a staggering four billion videos every day. That popularity, however, is not all wine and roses and piano-playing cats. Of those four billion YouTube videos viewed daily, many are copyrighted material provided by media businesses for people to view on YouTube. Record labels, television networks, and movie studios are not particularly happy about all this copyright violation among YouTube users. As a result, YouTube is stepping up their efforts to prevent copyright infringement – and their first target is a slew of websites that provide a YouTube to MP3 converter.
The first site YouTube took action against was clip.dj, a free YouTube to MP3 converter site that voluntarily shut itself down in late June. YouTube, owned by Google, also sent a cease-and-desist letter to one of the biggest MP3 conversion site, YouTube-MP3.org. According to Google’s own DoubleClick statistics, YouTube-MP3.org had been pulling in 1.3 million visitors each day – and YouTube felt most were making illegal MP3 rips of copyrighted music videos.
That said, if you want to convert YouTube video to MP3 files, you can do so provided that the material is not copyrighted and you are only using the MP3 file for your own personal use.
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YOUTUBE-MP3.ORG STOPS CONVERTING VIDEO TO MP3 FILES
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When YouTube served a cease-and-desist order to YouTube-MP3.org the site was given seven days to comply and in the meantime YouTube blocked YouTube-MP3.org’s servers from being able to access the site. Currently, YouTube-MP3.org is not converting any video to MP3s. Any attempt to create an MP3 file on the site generates an error message reading “Google Inc. doesn’t want you to convert this video. Please sign a petition to change their mind.” The error message is followed by a link to a Change.org petition, which currently has over a million signatures.
This is not an isolated incident. Just days later, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) asked the popular site Download.com to remove all downloads for video to MP3 software. The RIAA released a statement complaining that, “Download.com continues to ignore our requests,” and that “Download.com is profiting from this infringement through advertisements and other ways it derives revenue when people use the site to download these applications.” Download.com has not heeded the request, arguing that many of their users are utilizing these software products for legal and non-infringing purposes.
Coincidentally, Download.com is owned by CNET, which is owned by CBS. Copyright pirates could theoretically steal copyrighted CBS television shows on the company’s YouTube channel using tools they downloaded from a CBS-owned property.
It’s important to remember that many uses of copyrighted material are considered legal under the fair use doctrine to U.S. copyright law. The fair use doctrine makes exceptions for non-infringing purposes like news reporting, research, education — or just for laughs. Consider YouTube’s first big legal copyright challenge, a 2007 video of a baby dancing to the Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy”. Universal Music Group, the copyright holder of that hit song, sued the baby’s mom for copyright violation. A judge ruled in favor of the mom and the baby, citing fair use, and the video’s view counter went from just 28 views to more than a million.
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