Recently I was looking for a very particular music track. It is a song from the 2017 anime adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell” with Scarlett Johansson. More precisely: the official trailer music1, which was not included in the sound score and therefore cannot be found in any of the mainstream music stores. That’s the downside of a few keeping an entire industry under technological and legal control. The coveted piece of music is the cyberpunk cover version of the 80s song “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode, reinterpreted by Joel Burleson2 aka Ki:Theory3.
Is downloading a piece of music from the internet legal? Yes, when certain conditions are met. The lawyer Christian Solmecke examined this question from a legal point of view a long time ago and recently also provided a judicial update on the subject4. The essential lever is called the “right to private copying” and is opposed to the rights of use usually granted against purchase. The conditions in detail:
- only private use by physical individuals
- no obviously illegal sources
- no circumvention of digital copy protection measures (DRM)
Fortunately, there are free interfaces and proxies like Invidious5 that facilitate a direct download of content from Youtube using MP4 or WebM formats. In principle, I recommend hosting such proxies for major internet platforms yourself as I have shown in the blog on Nitter6 or as a live session7 on Libreddit.
In my case, I chose the manual way via an anonymous Invidious instance. However, the free command line tool youtube-dl - part of almost every Linux distribution8 - would also have sufficed. The only thing needed for downloading is the youtube identifier, the string “l3cEWRdCI8w” from the video uploaded by Joel Burleson himself9. The output falls out after a few seconds as an MP4 file, which then becomes an MP3 using the converter ffmpeg10 - a one-liner that could be automated wonderfully by script.
If a technological feat is possible, man will do it. Almost as if it’s wired into the core of our being.
And that’s how this cyberpunk cover version of the modern film adaptation of Masanori Ota’s11 “Ghost in the Shell” with a stunning lead actress as Motoko ended up in my own music library.