June 14, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Service lets people rip videos from YouTube, other sites

Two services run by two people in Australia are giving people new ways to access and use video content from sites like YouTube and Google Video, and copyright holders may well find themselves up in arms about it.

Known as Peekvid and Keepvid, the sister services are designed, respectively, to aggregate and index copyrighted YouTube content, and allow users to rip content from YouTube, Google Video and other services to their hard drives.

Thus, though YouTube prohibits anyone except legitimate rights holders--such as NBC Universal, EMI Records and many others--from uploading copyrighted content to its site, such content does get posted illegally, and these sister services make it possible to easily view, and download, a wide variety of such content. A recent survey turned up clips including World Cup highlights, Beatles and 2Pac Shakur music videos, episodes of "Seinfeld," an episode of "Lost" and dozens of other TV shows and music videos.

"None of the videos on Peekvid are hosted by us," Joshua, one of two people in western Australia who run the service and sister site Keepvid, said in an instant message interview. "We do not condone uploading of copyright(ed) material by illegitimate copyright holders. Peekvid is simply a more organized index of some of YouTube's videos."

Yet, Joshua, who wouldn't give his last name, also argued that without unauthorized copyrighted content, YouTube would not be a household name.

"If YouTube had no copyright(ed) content whatsoever," he said, "I cannot really see it being the big player in video hosting that it is."

And he suggested that by indexing YouTube content and therefore making it easy to track down specific TV shows or music videos, Peekvid is actually giving rights holders a way to fight back against unauthorized copying of their content.

"All of our content is user-submitted, and if the copyright holders wish to have their content removed, they can contact YouTube directly," Joshua said. "We are just one site, out of many sites, that index YouTube content...It is also easier for copyright holders to track down any of their content that appears on YouTube."

Just pointing the way
For its part, YouTube sees Peekvid as an annoyance, but not as a service that is directly breaking any rules. And that's because the site is not hosting content itself, but rather just providing pointers to content that is hosted on YouTube.

And in fact, YouTube implied that it may well use Peekvid to do just what Joshua had suggested: pinpoint copyrighted content and flag it for removal.

"Peekvid is streaming content by embedding the videos, which they have the right to do," said Julie Supan, YouTube's senior director of marketing. "We're going to review the site to ensure that the videos that they are pointing to that are being streamed are in fact from legitimate rights holders...A lot of these links are going to be dead soon, that's for sure."

Surprisingly, though, Supan did not charge Peekvid with breaking the law. In fact, she volunteered that YouTube bears some of the responsibility for stopping what is made possible by Peekvid and sites like it.

"The way they're streaming the video into their site is not a violation of our terms of service," Supan said. "I think...the onus is on us to continue to educate the users as to what is copyrighted content."

When we built our service, we specifically chose streaming as our delivery mechanism. We are doing everything we can to prevent downloads of video files from the site.
--Steve Chen, CTO and co-founder, YouTube

Still, an intellectual-property lawyer familiar with Peekvid thinks the site may well be violating the law.

"It took me about two minutes of looking at Peekvid to determine that what's going on is clearly a violation of (the rights of) the copyright owners of those videos," said Marc Mayer, an intellectual-property partner at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. "It looks to me like what's going on at that Web site is a catalog and index, really a road map, to infringing content...What is going on is plainly copyright infringement."

Meanwhile, Peekvid's sister site, Keepvid, has another mission altogether. Its purpose, according to Joshua, is to be "a tool which people can use to download videos from streaming Web sites."

Indeed, the service allows users to rip video content directly onto their hard drives from a wide variety of video services, including YouTube, Google Video, iFilm and many others.

And while videos ripped using Keepvid cannot be played back directly--it requires the downloading and installation of a devoted video player--a quick test by CNET News.com revealed that it's not at all difficult to download and play back copyrighted content found on YouTube and Google Video.

And while Google Video allows its users to download content, YouTube does not.

"When we built our service, we specifically chose streaming as our delivery mechanism," Steve Chen, YouTube CTO and co-founder, said in an e-mail statement to CNET News.com. "We are doing everything we can to prevent downloads of video files from the site. However, with digital media, there's always the chance that a technical person can circumvent the system on occasion. Even the most widely adopted security systems like Windows DRM (digital rights management) can be hacked."

As far as Joshua is concerned, Keepvid isn't doing anything that freely available scripts and other Web sites, like Video Downloader, haven't already made possible.

"There are many other sites which do exactly the same thing as us," said Joshua. "So I do believe that if YouTube were to do anything (in response to Keepvid and such sites), it would be to change the way things work on their site...to enable downloading from their site."

But that's not likely anytime soon. In fact, YouTube seems committed to its streaming model, and among many other ways that it's addressed the unauthorized content situation, the site has limited the lengths of newly uploaded content to 10 minutes or less.

That "prevents people from posting full-length programming," Chen said in his statement. "We are continually evaluating the latest DRM technologies and will continue to monitor the situation."

Supan also said that rights holders themselves may upload content longer than 10 minutes. And she said YouTube will soon be announcing major partnerships with rights holders, including some that have previously demanded that the site take down unauthorized content.

But she acknowledged that copyrighted content that was illegally uploaded prior to the adoption of the 10 minute limit may still be in the system.

And that's what likely explains the fact that it's easy to find full episodes of NBC's "Seinfeld," HBO's "Da Ali G Show," ABC's "Sports Night" and many other shows on Peekvid. And by extension, it's also possible, until those shows are removed from YouTube, to rip them using Keepvid.

In any case, Joshua doesn't sound worried that YouTube and rights holders may well take down the bulk of the copyrighted content that gives Peekvid its usefulness.

"Peekvid would simply move on to other video content," he said, "or alternatively, copyright content holders can work with us to promote their material (on) a very simple and easy to use site."

See more CNET content tagged:
YouTube, holder, Google Video, Time Warner Inc., Australia

11 comments

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Why do...
...all of the MBAs think that streaming video is going to "protect" us from "stealing" it?
Posted by lewissalem (167 comments )
Reply Link Flag
For the same reason that
all of the BSs (Bachelor of Science) think that it makes sense to rip horrible quality video off of youtube and google video.

(this coming from someone who has a BS in Computer Science)
Posted by ebrandel (102 comments )
Link Flag
Legitimate copyright holders?
I think the author of the article missed an
important point in that groups like NBC
Universal and EMI are the minority stake holders
with respect to the copyright of videos on
YouTube.

All of the regular user-contributed video is
copyright by the creator (who is frequently the
submitter). NBC Universal and EMI frequently
broadcast things they don't have copyright to,
or for which rights are still in question -- but
a video that you or I make at home is without a
question copyrighted by us. It's exactly that
type of content which predominates on YouTube.

So, why should the majority care about low-grade
rips of commercial content when the majority of
infringement is of non-commercial copyrighted
works that tend to be more closely
representative of their original quality?
Clearly the latter case is more prolific and
more serious...

Oh yeah, I forgot, the suits are hysterical and
the general public is more sensible. Silly me.

Also, kudos to the person that pointed out how
stupid it is to believe streaming video is any
more difficult to download than the
non-streaming kind (save for the fact it can be
slower than a straight download).
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Link Flag
Just get the firefox extension
subject says it, lets you download right off the page
Posted by lbjazz (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Napster Effect
Technology will always overcome, whatever demand society has on the internet. I suggest the media companies at least follow suite on what ABC did with there streaming online beta.

Neal Saferstein
Posted by nealsaferstein (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Quicktime...
does this as well. for free.
Posted by bwanac-20838752356067768479670 (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Almost free
It only bugs you constantly to pay for the full version, changes all your file type associations, makes you change it back to the quicktime program if you change a file type association by showing a dialog box everytime the program loads at a time when almost all users just hit enter, refers to itself as I in dialog boxes (because it is an apple product and thus the product is smarter and more important than the user) and acts like realplayer. apart from that, yes it is free.
Posted by willpenington (16 comments )
Link Flag
You guys are Narcs, Tattletales, Etc.
You guys remind me of little children telling on the other kids to their parents. This is a case of, "Ooh! Look what you're doing! I'm telling on you!" and it's really annoying. I really don't think that posting up videos submitted in by normal people is quite harmful to any one else. Fact is, people just complain too much. Selfish of you guys to write a report like this. Now YouTube has deleted most of it's media...all thanks to you guys writing a damn article about fan submitted material, such as the anime I watch. These are fan submitted material on YouTube and YouTube allows people to view this material, send this material, and most of all SHARE this material with others. So one person shares it to another, and that person shares it to another, and so on and so forth. Isn't that practically the same thing as posting it up on a different site, direct linking to YouTube and giving the credit to YouTube? I say all you guys are pathetic whiners and complainers and just need to cool it. Because the way I see it, you are all just bunch of geeks working together to make sure those they can't hurt are annoyed. Stop complaining and grow up!
Posted by KageShinigami (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
YouTube is purging Peekview clips
Just as they said they would....

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.turnherefilmmakers.com/2006/06/youtube-purges-copyrighted-clips-after.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.turnherefilmmakers.com/2006/06/youtube-purges-copyrighted-clips-after.html</a>
Posted by turnherematt (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Any lawsuit would be frivolous
Any case brought forward by copyright holders against Keepvid or its kind would be frivolous and malicious for one simple reason.

Any FLV files from any site, be it YouTube or not, are all downloaded and saved in the browser cache. All Keepvid and other sites do is skip the middle man step of copying the FLV file out of your cache.

This is how the technology works. They cannot say that applications like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari (or any browser that supports the Flash plug-in) are allowed to download FLV files to the user's hard drive but Keepvid can't. The only difference is that Keepvid lets you choose the location on your hard drive to store the FLV, while browsers choose for you. The FLV is still there, sitting on your hard drive, easily found and moved somewhere else.

Case closed.
Posted by ultimante (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
i use http://onchannel.net as mocie sharing websoite alternative since 1channel.ch is down.
Posted by onchannelmovies (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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