Deezer Tries to Remove ‘Pirate’ Downloading Tool, But Under What Law?
While Spotify grabs most of the headlines when it comes to premium streaming services, French firm Deezer is a smaller but serious competitor in the space.
With tens of millions of tracks on offer for a reasonable monthly subscription, Deezer has in excess of 12 million users, the majority of whom pay for a premium account. What Deezer also has is an interesting loophole.
Using third-party tools, users are able to download songs from the service and archive them on their own machines, something which has proven attractive to large numbers of subscribers but completely unpalatable to Deezer.
Over the past couple of years, Deezer has been fighting a somewhat losing battle against the creators of various tools including several connected with the Deezloader, Deezloader Reborn, and Deezloader Remix apps.
Previously the company has filed what loosely appear to be DMCA-style complaints with platforms including Github and Gitlab, complaining that these third-party tools infringe their rights. Just this week, Deezer targeted the Deezloader Remix repo on NotABug, demanding that the site take the software down. (Excerpt from notice below)
Amongst other things, security is set so as to prohibit any other use than those stipulated in our Terms and Conditions (http://www.deezer.com/legal/cgu). Is prohibited notably the unauthorised download of music tracks. The following link makes available an application which uses illegal methods to bypass Deezer's security measures to unlawfully download its music catalogue, in total violation of our rights and those of our music licensors (phonographic producers, performing artists, songwriters and composers): https://notabug.org/RemixDevs/DeezloaderRemix I therefore ask that you immediately take down the application made available via the URL above.
Similar notices were previously sent to Github and Gitlab who immediately disabled access to tools with the same functionality under the DMCA. However, NotaBug doesn’t appear so willing to take the project down without additional clarification.
After receiving the takedown notice from Deezer, NotABug admin Hein-Pieter van Braam-Stewart wrote to the developer of Deezloader Remix in an attempt to discover which laws the software might breach.
“I have received [an email] from Deezer, it would be helpful if someone from the project could respond to me on the details of the program,” he wrote on the Deezloader Remix repo.
“A cursory look at the sources reveals no Deezer owned materials nor any way in which the application defeats any type of encryption or any such things.
“I have responded with a request on what laws Deezer believes this repository breaks but it would be helpful if someone could give me a little background on the application.”
That Deezer should write such a lengthy and detailed takedown notice to the site without citing any specific legislation is quite interesting in itself but by not citing the DMCA, for example, there doesn’t appear to be any official process to follow in case the developer wants to object.
That being said, he does have some thoughts of his own.
“This project uses a publicly available API from Deezer to get Tracks information and create a download link to their official servers,” he wrote in response.
“The tracks on their servers are encrypted by ‘extremely high level encryption’ that has been cracked many years ago and they don’t bother fixing.
“The only thing that could be seen as copyrighted material in this project could be the encryption key, as no tracks and no Deezer Code is directly inside this project,” he added.
It seems unlikely that an encryption key in itself could be copyrighted since it’s not the classic definition of a creative work. However, circumventing Deezer’s DRM (which protects access to copyrighted content) opens up a different can of worms on the circumvention of technological measures front.
TorrentFreak contacted NotABug to find out whether Deezer had elaborated on which legislation the streaming service feels should apply to Deezloader Remix but at the time of writing, we were yet to hear back. A request to Deezer’s international PR department also went unanswered.
What doesn’t seem to be in doubt is that using Deezer’s API for downloading tracks to a user’s machine is against Deezer’s Terms of Service. Any developer using the company’s API must agree not to do certain things, including;
- [N]ot use the Services in any way or on any website that is associated or promotes in whatever manner the illegal or unauthorized use, streaming, download, or sharing of music and associated elements content, including but not limited to the Content provided by DEEZER
- [B]ypass, by any means, these measures, for the purpose of downloading the Content, or more broadly using the Content in violation of the present Terms.
In this respect, the developer of Deezloader Remix does indeed appear to be in breach of Deezer’s Terms of Service but it remains unclear why the company hasn’t taken steps to prevent his software from grabbing music from its service. After all, the takedown notice itself claims they are able to do this.
While sending a takedown notice might be considerably easier than a technical fix, it seems fairly clear that the loophole being exploited today is the same one that’s been exploited on Deezer for years.
Maybe there’s some reason why it cannot be patched but until then, additional vague and apparently ineffective notices seem to be the only solution to the persistent ‘Deezer downloading’ problem.
All that being said, Deezloader Remix will soon be put into retirement. The developer says he’s had enough of maintaining the project so there will be no more updates, a decision that was reportedly taken before the complaint from Deezer was received, not in response to it.