BOULDER, Colo. –
In the wake of Napster’s collapse in 2002, a seemingly endless parade of file-sharing programs have proceeded to gum up the works for the fledgling recording industry.
Programs such as Kazaa, Lime Wire, and BitTorrent continue to thrive as millions of users embrace them — in spite of knowing the potential legal threats from litigious record companies for using them.
As each new wave of free music innovation crashes against the eroding shores of the industry as we knew it, things will continue to change — and riding the crest of the next wave in the tide is none other than University of Colorado senior Justin Knag.
“Most students just can’t afford to purchase all of the songs that they want to hear on iTunes,” Knag said. “(My program) lets you put MP3s on your MP3 player without using Lime Wire or other peer-to-peer programs.”
The program is called youGANK — a title that serves to both glorify its creator (GANK, of course, is “Knag” spelled backwards) and succinctly describes how the program works: by downloading videos and/or songs directly from YouTube, and converting them into the desired MP3 format.
“‘Gank’ is a slang term that kind of means to rip someone off or steal something,” Knag said. “But it’s a lot more legit than person-to-person file sharing — no one has ever been prosecuted for using software like mine.”
A three-minute tutorial showcased on the home page of Knag’s Web site, youGANK.com, shows the program in action. After a one-time purchase of $19.99, the process starts with the initial download of youGANK onto your computer.
The rest is simple. Copy and paste the URL of the YouTube video you want into the youGANK window. Select whether you want to download the video and audio together, or single out one or the other. Tag the video or song with artist information so it reads properly on your MP3 player, and press OK.
More than one song in the video? That’s okay, youGANK also allows you to “crop” the MP3 before you download by telling it where to start and stop recording on the original YouTube video.
And, while YouTube may initially seem an unlikely place to go for finding music, Knag says the site actually has enormous potential.
“There’s a huge amount of media on YouTube,” Knag said. “I’ve already downloaded more than 300 songs to my iPod . . . you can even find artist premieres of new songs, as opposed to waiting to buy them on iTunes.”
In a world where free music innovations are pursued legally almost as fast as they are discovered, Knag also seems confident that users won’t run into many of the copyright and piracy risks associated with peer-to-peer programs.
While creating the program, Knag sought the counsel of his uncle, Paul Knag, who works as an attorney in Connecticut. And while Justin Knag acknowledged that the program technically violates YouTube’s membership terms, they are not legally binding under the penalty of law.
According to Paul Knag, however, we may have to wait and see.
“The Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits distribution of software designed to circumvent copy-protection measures, but does not explicitly prevent circumvention by individual users for Fair Use purposes,” Paul Knag wrote in an e-mail. “But if you own the original file and use the converted version solely for personal enjoyment, it’s hard to see how you’d be doing any harm to the copyright owner.
“However, if Justin sells the program, and people use it in violation of copyright laws, Justin might have liability.”
Without being able to mandate specifically how users will steer the program, potential liability issues remain unpredictable.
In the meantime, however, there are plenty of students who seemed to jump at the idea.
“One flat rate sounds a lot better than iTunes,” said sophomore Kristina Fuerst. “Plus, you can know exactly what you’re getting without worrying about viruses and other stuff that will mess up your computer from Lime Wire and Napster . . . I would for sure use that.”