The service is called YouTube MP3, and as the name indicates, it allows end-users to make a private recording of videos publicly broadcasted by YouTube. The description already screams copyright infringement, but the author behind the tool, 21-year-old applied computer science student Philip Matesanz, compares it to taping music from the radio using a cassette.
As reported back in June, Google started going after services that allowed users to record and/or download YouTube videos, some of which rips the audio tracks into a separate file. In this case, Google sent a cease and desist letter to Matesanz saying that the use of YouTube's API -- which provides web developers with access to certain YouTube features -- to download video is against Google's Terms of Service.
"The API Terms of Service prohibit applications that 'separate, isolate, or modify the audio or video components of any YouTube audiovisual content made available through the YouTube API,' as well as applications that 'store copies of YouTube audiovisual content.' Continuing to violate these restrictions may result in legal consequences for you and/or your company," Google said in its letter (PDF).
YouTube-mp3 was given seven days to comply.
According to a press release distributed on Thursday, Matesanz has refused to close the service, and is currently considering his options. Matesanz said he has tried several times to enter into a dialogue with Google, but so far without success, as an attempt to speak with the General Counsel of Google Germany was denied.
"To defend himself he has publicly released legal case studies in an attempt to prove that the claims Google has made so far are wrong," Matesanz's company PMD Technologies reports. "He has also started a public petition on Change.org which has been signed by more than 300.000 people so far. Despite this Google continue to be unwilling to enter into a dialogue with Philip."
In a situation update posted on Wednesday, Matesanz said this was a "David and Goliath" situation, calling himself "just an IT guy with no experience whatsoever" when it comes to brushing up against a Google-like entity. However he presents his legal case with the help of two "highly reputable" lawyers in homeland Germany. They reportedly agree that there are no copyrights of a third party violated by providing this service, and it has to be considered legal.
"They also agree that all claims Google has brought up so far are not justified: There is no TOS violation," he reports. "They even question if Google can take action against so called "YouTube Converters/Recorders" since they seem to be protected by federal law. Google would have to make massive changes to their public broadcasting service to demand that such services shut down e.g. no more embedded videos, restrict access to registered users who have agreed to the TOS."
He said that according to federal law, users have the unquestionable right to create a private copy of certain media including YouTube. Google's attempt to abrogate the rights of the public in their TOS has to be considered as illegal and is in a strong contrast to their public self-representation.
The two reports backing up the legality of the YouTube tool can be accessed in PDF format here (10 MB) and here (1 MB). Matesanz also points out that Google just updated the YouTube app for Android which essentially does the same thing: download and store videos onto the device.