This past weekend, I took a road trip to Cape Cod with my best friend – who happens to have a killer taste in music – and as we jammed out on the highway, I found myself taking note of some of the new mixes blasting through the speakers. After a great day at the beach, I was excited to get home and “YouTube” some of the songs I had become obsessed with on our four hour, round-trip drive.
As I entered the URL for “Rolling in the Levels” (an Avicii and Adele mash up unavailable on iTunes) into the youtube-to-mp3 converter, I couldn’t help but feel caught off guard when instead of receiving an mp3 file download option, I was offered the chance to sign a petition defending youtube-mp3.org. My first reaction was anger at the fact that I wouldn’t have new music to keep me going at the gym, but then I turned to some research on the matter.
Philip Matesanz, a 21-year-old German student created youtube-mp3.org in order to convert YouTube videos into downloadable mp3 files. I was shocked to find so much hype surrounding the controversy, unaware that the site is used by nearly one million people each day. An article by Mashable, “770,000 Users Demand YouTube-to-MP3 Conversion,” caught my eye.
The core of the dispute involves youtube-mp3.org’s method of creating mp3 files. Google’s cease-and-desist letter sent to the site claims that it, “Violates the terms of service of YouTube’s API, which prohibits using the API for downloading content as opposed to streaming it.” In defense, Matesanz says that his site doesn’t use the YouTube API, but gets data through other undisclosed means. He also defends youtube-mp3.org by comparing it to recording a radio program with a cassette recorder – I know that sounds old school, but it helps to prove a point – or making a copy of a movie with a video recorder. This, along with the fact that those finding the videos on YouTube do in fact have to see paid advertisements initially, is what sets this controversy apart from those involving illegally downloading music using peer-to-peer sharing applications.
Initially, I wasn’t sure which side of the argument I was on, but then I came across another article on Mashable, “YouTube for Android Lets You Watch Videos Mostly Offline [UPDATED],” that talks about the new Android app that allows songs to be streamed from YouTube outside of your mobile coverage zone (or without paying for costly video downloads over 3G). “YouTube will start downloading videos it thinks you might want to watch, whenever you’re plugged in and on Wi-Fi.” This may be good news to Android users, but it completely contradicts Google’s argument against what youtube-mp3.org does.
Personally, I only use youtube-mp3.org for downloads of songs I’m unable to find on iTunes. As a former music major, I agree with the argument against file sharing and the unfairness of illegal downloading, but, is it right to deny access to those wanting to listen to their mixes only available on YouTube without having to download the video each time? And, for those using the site to convert speeches or lectures into an mp3 file for a school project, should they be punished?
I know where I stand on the matter, but how about you? Should Google and YouTube allow all users to download content for offline viewing?