Is Downloading And Converting A YouTube Video To An MP3 Infringement?

from the interesting-legal-questions dept

There are a variety of different tools out there that let you "record" a YouTube video and turn it into an MP3, just as there are a variety of tools out there for converting Pandora streams to MP3s or converting internet radio to MP3s. Technically it's no different than "recording" something you hear off the radio, which is generally considered legal under the Audio Home Recording Act (which had plenty of bad things in it, but also included protections for people recording at home for personal use).

We may get a test of whether or not that applies to the online world, with the news that former Gnutella P2P client MP3Rocket has changed strategies and ditched its P2P offering to switch to an app that simply records YouTube videos and turns them into MP3s. The company seems to be relying on the Supreme Court's Betamax ruling, by claiming that since all it's really doing is "time shifting" the ability to listen to music streamed via YouTube, it's no different than the ruling that said it was okay to record television shows via video cassettes.

Of course, RIAA supporters and the like will quickly counter by pointing to the various lawsuits over whether or not XM's recording device was legal. Most of those lawsuits ended in settlements, so I don't think there's as strong a precedent that says that turning digital streams is infringement. However, you'd have to imagine that there's going to be one hell of a lawsuit either way.

The reality is that this is yet another case of the law not being able to keep up with technology. There simply is no intellectually honest rationale that says recording songs off the radio is legal, but recording songs off your computer is illegal. It's a weak attempt by an industry that doesn't want to deal with changing technology to put in place laws that prevent what the technology allows. Those never work.

It certainly would be nice to see the Supreme Court note that something like this really is no different than the Betamax ruling, but given the Supreme Court's various bad copyright rulings over the last few years, I have little faith that it will do so. Instead, it would likely just use a case like this to chip further away at the Betamax ruling, just as the Grokster decision did.

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  1. identicon
    John, 22 Sep 2012 @ 9:20pm

    downloading music from youtube

    Well, I've been fined $200 just because i downloaded music from youtube but luckily i found a method to get rid of that "FBI virus". I am not sure if it was a hacker, because i was reading a article about hackers charging people money for no exact reason so be careful guys

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