In previous years, the primary means of obtaining copyrighted music illegally was peer to peer file sharing networks such as Gnutella, KaZaA, Napster, BearShare, WinMX and eDonkey. With the inception of the YouTube video sharing service, which is owned by Google, these peer to peer services have largely fallen into disuse in favor of Adobe Flash-based multimedia sharing services. YouTube gives its enormous user base the ability to upload any video or audio they wish. Though many uses of this technology are legitimate, others reproduce copyright holders' content without permission. This phenomenon has been observed by IT security professionals, record labels and technology journalists worldwide.
Legal authorities at Google have taken notice of a surge in sites that automate the process of stripping the audio content out of YouTube videos, thus resulting in a downloadable MP3 file of a potentially copyrighted song. Two of these sites, YouTube-MP3.org and Music-Clips.net have come under intense scrutiny by IT security professionals at Google. As a result, Google has issued notices to the owners and operators of these two sites requesting that their services be discontinued. However, this does not appear to be motivated by the obvious threat of copyright infringement. Rather, Google claims that these two sites exploit the YouTube API (Application Programming Interface) in a manner that is not permitted by the EULA (End User License Agreement) and Google's privacy policies. Google claims that the activities these sites perform violate the usage rights YouTube visitors agree to by utilizing the service.
There are two means by which sites like YouTube-MP3.org and Music-Clips.net can operate:
1. The site requests a URL (Uniform Resource Locator, also known as a "web address") from the user. Alternately, the site may request a song or artist name in order to look up relevant YouTube videos on its own. The site's server then downloads the FLV (Adobe Flash Video container format) and extracts the audio stream within. The MP3 file containing only the music content is then served to the user.