Ever since YouTube launched people have used it to host music, which rights holders tended not to be happy with. Then sites appeared that let people rip that music without the accompanying video, which rights holders were furious about. They've been doing everything they can to shut them down, including team up with the US government - something digital rights group EFF aren't too happy about.
EFF has written to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) informing it that the RIAA (which represents the record industry) is trying to twist the law in its favour. It argues that by definition, not all stream ripping sites are facilitating copyright infringement.
"RIAA’s discussion of ‘stream-ripping’ websites misstates copyright law. Websites that simply allow users to extract the audio track from a user-selected online video are not ‘illegal sites’ and are not liable for copyright infringement, unless they engage in additional conduct that meets the definition of infringement."
It notes that while there are users that use the services to illegally obtain music, there are legitimate ways people can utilise such tools. Which sounds lot like the old arguments about the relationship between piracy and torrenting.
“There exists a vast and growing volume of online video that is licensed for free downloading and modification, or contains audio tracks that are not subject to copyright. Moreover, many audio extractions qualify as non-infringing fair uses under copyright. Providing a service that is capable of extracting audio tracks for these lawful purposes is itself lawful, even if some users infringe.”
The fact that the sites generate revenue from advertising is also another factor that doesn't break the law, according to the EFF. Directly distributing infringing content to third parties is a crime, but the organisation notes that many of the sites in the RIAA's hit list do nothing of the kind. And while many advertise themselves as YouTube converters, which Google isn't all that happy with, that still isn't breaking the law.
The main argument here is that the US government shouldn't rely on the RIAA's judgement to make its decisions, and each site should be judged independently based on US law - not what industry figures would like it to be. [EFF via TorrentFreak]