The latest version of MP3 Rocket (a media downloading app) now allows you to download YouTube videos as mp3s, so you can listen to that new Lady Gaga single whenever you want. MP3 Rocket claims this isn’t breaking any copyright laws, because their software is to be used only for “time-shifting, personal, private, non-commercial use”, which cites the same ruling that video tape and VCR manufacturers use to make home-recording of TV shows legal.
The first argument that should pop into everyone’s head is that YouTube videos don’t air only once, on Monday nights at 7pm Est / 6pm Central… YouTube already provides the convenience of “time-shifting” because you can ALREADY watch or listen to the video whenever you want, as many times as you want.
The idea that I need to “record” a YouTube video so that I can watch or listen to it later with the convenience of not typing in a URL is absurd.
Why Do I Even Care?
MP3 Rocket landed on my radar because I, and the two dozen artists signed to my label, DFTBA* Records (*Don’t Forget To Be Awesome), make our livelihood from YouTube. Every musician we work with is a super star on the video sharing site, where we rely on connecting with fans on a personal level through vlogs and music videos to drive sales of CDs, digital downloads and physical merchandise.
To a smaller extent, we also rely on our monthly AdSense checks, which come from being a YouTube Partner. YouTube Partners have special agreements which allow placements of ads on top of and next to our videos, earning the lion’s share of AdSense revenue on those ads. The more views we receive each month, the larger the AdSense check.
By downloading the content of a monetized YouTube video, and allowing users to play it over and over again outside of YouTube, MP3 Rocket deprives us of those views, and by result, the AdSense money we would have earned from those views.
But I’m Not Worried, Yet.
For as long as there has been a YouTube, there have been YouTube downloaders. They used to be browser-based, you’d go to some site hosted internationally (to escape any US federal copyright laws), you’d enter a YouTube URL, and then the site would extract a shitty .mov version of the video located at that YouTube URL. These were always so low quality though, that I don’t think anyone bothered trying to build a music collection this way. We all talk about the decline of music quality with the birth of the mp3, but seriously, NO ONE can listen to music at 96kbps.
The aspect that does cause me some concern though is the continued and …celebrated, even, disregard for copyright and artist’s intent. When I uploaded my latest music video, I did not intend for it to be downloaded and listened to in that format, the audio is tied to the visuals, and differs from the album version of the track available for sale.
It’s not all MP3 Rocket’s fault though. When music “fans” would rather listen to an inferior ripped mp3 from a YouTube video than pay less than a buck for a high-quality, intent-intact copy of the song, there’s something wrong with the way that artist is connecting with his or her fans. Luckily, my artists and I have the best fans in the world, and as I said above, I’m not worried. Yet.
Alan Lastufka is the President and co-founder of DFTBA Records. His label was named Best Online Music Label of the Year by Mashable in its first full year of operation.
DFTBA is an initialism for “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome”.