If you’ve scrolled through the list of boot options offered on any PC’s BIOS, it reads like a history of storage technology. Up top we have the options to boot from disk, often a solid-state drive, then USB disk, optical drive, removable media, and down the bottom there’s usually an option to boot from the network. Practically no BIOS, however, has an option to boot a PC from a vinyl record — at least until now.
Clearly a project from the “Because why not?” school of hacking, [Jozef Bogin] came up with the twist to the normal booting process for an IBM-PC. As in the IBM-PC — a model 5150, with the putty-colored case, dual 5-1/4″ floppies, and one of those amazing monochrome displays with the green slow-decay phosphors. To pull off the trick, [Jozef] leverages the rarely used and little known cassette tape interface that PCs had back in the early days. This required building a new bootloader and burning it to ROM to make the PC listen to audio signals with its 8255 programmable peripheral interface chip.
Once the PC had the right bootloader, a 64k FreeDOS bootable disk image was recorded on vinyl. [Jozef] provides infuriatingly little detail about the process other than to mention that the audio was sent directly to the vinyl lathe; we’d have loved to learn more about that. Nonetheless, the resulting 10″ record, played back at 45 RPM with some equalization tweaks to adapt for the RIAA equalization curve of the preamp, boots the PC into FreeDOS just fine, probably in no more time than it would have taken to boot from floppy.
Last month, the GitHub repository for the popular program youtube-dl was taken down in response to a DMCA takedown notice filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The crux of the RIAA complaint was that the tool could be used to download local copies of music streamed from various platforms, a claim they said was supported by the fact that several copyrighted music files were listed as unit tests in the repository.
While many believed this to be an egregious misrepresentation of what the powerful Python program was really used for, the RIAA’s argument was not completely without merit. As such, GitHub was forced to comply with the DMCA takedown until the situation could be clarified. Today we’re happy to report that has happened, and the youtube-dl repository has officially been reinstated.
Represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the current maintainers of youtube-dl made their case to GitHub’s DMCA agent in a letter this afternoon which explained how the tool worked and directly addressed the issue of copyrighted videos being used as test cases in the source code. They maintain that their program does not circumvent any DRM, and that the exchange between the client and server is the same as it would be if the user had viewed the resource with a web browser. Further, they believe that downloading a few seconds worth of copyrighted material for the purpose of testing the software’s functionality is covered under fair use. Even still, they’ve decided to remove all references to the songs in question to avoid any hint at impropriety.
Having worked closely with the youtube-dl developers during this period, GitHub released their own statement to coincide with the EFF letter. They explained that the nature of the RIAA’s original complaint forced their hand, but that they never believed taking down the repository was the right decision. Specifically, they point out the myriad of legitimate reasons that users might want to maintain local copies of streamed media. While GitHub says they are glad that this situation was resolved quickly, they’ll be making several changes to their internal review process to help prevent further frivolous takedowns. Specifically the company says they will work with technical and legal experts to review the source code in question before escalating any further, and that if there’s any ambiguity as to the validity of the claim, they’ll side with the developers.
The Internet was quick to defend youtube-dl after the takedown, and we’re happy to see that GitHub made good on their promises to work with the developers to quickly get the repository back online. While the nature of open source code meant that the community was never in any real danger of losing this important tool, it’s in everyone’s best interest that development of the project can continue in the open.
At this point, you’ve likely heard that the GitHub repository for youtube-dl was recently removed in response to a DMCA takedown notice filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). As the name implies, this popular Python program allowed users to produce local copies of audio and video that had been uploaded to YouTube and other content hosting sites. It’s a critical tool for digital archivists, people with slow or unreliable Internet connections, and more than a few Hackaday writers.
It will probably come as no surprise to hear that the DMCA takedown and subsequent removal of the youtube-dl repository has utterly failed to contain the spread of the program. In fact, you could easily argue that it’s done the opposite. The developers could never have afforded the amount of publicity the project is currently enjoying, and as the code is licensed as public domain, users are free to share it however they see fit. This is one genie that absolutely won’t be going back into its bottle.
In true hacker spirit, we’ve started to see some rather inventive ways of spreading the outlawed tool. A Twitter user by the name of [GalacticFurball] came up with a way to convert the program into a pair of densely packed rainbow images that can be shared online. After downloading the PNG files, a command-line ImageMagick incantation turns the images into a compressed tarball of the source code. A similar trick was one of the ways used to distribute the DeCSS DVD decryption code back in 2000; though unfortunately, we doubt anyone is going to get the ~14,000 lines of Python code that makes up youtube-dl printed up on any t-shirts.
It’s worth noting that GitHub has officially distanced themselves from the RIAA’s position. The company was forced to remove the repo when they received the DMCA takedown notice, but CEO Nat Friedman dropped into the project’s IRC channel with a promise that efforts were being made to rectify the situation as quickly as possible. In a recent interview with TorrentFreak, Friedman said the removal of youtube-dl from GitHub was at odds with the company’s own internal archival efforts and financial support for the Internet Archive.
But as it turns out, some changes will be necessary before the repository can be brought back online. While there’s certainly some debate to be had about the overall validity of the RIAA’s claim, it isn’t completely without merit. As pointed out in the DMCA notice, the project made use of several automated tests that ran the code against copyrighted works from artists such as Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake. While these were admittedly very poor choices to use as official test cases, the RIAA’s assertion that the entire project exists solely to download copyrighted music has no basis in reality.
This is a significant setback for industry lawyers who often use illegal discovery techniques and have been criticized for using overly-litigious legal strategies to force defendants to settle. Sadly though, the payout only covers [Andersen]’s legal fees and doesn’t offer any compensation for damages, but a counter-suit filed in Portland, Oregon seeks exactly that. Here’s hoping her lawyers [Lory Lybeck] and [Ben Justus] continue to set favorable legal precedents for defendants of these lawsuits.
As far as the technical side of the discovery methods go, there are many ways to keep the RIAA off your back. The simplest is to disable your P2P client’s available file listing or turning off outbound traffic altogether. Other ways are to use encryption (although this is usually to get around ISP blocks) or download to an offsite machine. Hopefully, though, this judgment and eventual payout will make the recording companies reconsider the amount of lawsuits they file and to use less aggressive legal tactics.