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YouTube looks out for content owners, disables video ripping

February 19, 2009 |  3:39 pm

Youtubedownloadvideo When YouTube announced last week that select videos would be available to download, it meant little to the savvy YouTube surfer. After all, they've been able to do that for years thanks to Firefox scripts and tools provided by various websites.

Turns out they weren't more savvy than YouTube. The Google-owned site has been making changes to its code recently to lock out third-party download tools.

Is this an attempt by the big, scary corporation to shut down the little guys who are trying to do the world a favor by making permanent copies of streaming videos for the convenience of offline viewing? Not exactly.

YouTube's terms of service has long had a clause barring users from employing outside tools to rip videos from the server. It's probably no coincidence that TechCrunch's video download tool was rendered useless just one day after YouTube announced it would begin offering paid and free video downloads.

A YouTube spokesperson says it's a matter of content ownership. YouTube never offered the ability for a channel owner to ...

... sell or give away downloads before. But now that it does, people can use third-party ripping tools to get free copies of videos that content owners want to either sell or not make available for download. No, the timing of YouTube's download service probably wasn't a coincidence.

TechCrunch's tool, although the highest profile takedown, wasn't the only one to bite the dirt. Of the ones we tested, the following no longer work: KeepVid, SaveVideoDownload.com and the Download YouTube Video script for Firefox's Greasemonkey extension.

One website managed to skirt YouTube's claws until Wednesday. But even KickYouTube is now broken.

Many of these tools seem to be caught in a game of cat and mouse as they try to work around YouTube's back-end tweaks. We'll see who gets tired of the chase first.

-- Mark Milian

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