Is it Legal to Download Youtube Videos?

Founded in 2005, YouTube is headquartered in San Bruno, California and was created by three former PayPal employees. The website allows users to upload, view, rate, report, comment, and add videos to favorites as well as subscribe to other users. YouTube uses varies technology to display a wide variety of user-generated and corporate media videos including Adobe Flash Video, WebM, and H.264/MPEG-4 AVC.

Many people wonder whether or not it is legal to download YouTube videos onto a computer or other electronic device. As in many questions that have to do with the law—and this one would likely fall under intellectual property law—the answer is, it depends.

How was the Video Downloaded?

Specifically, it is against YouTube policy to download YouTube videos when you do so using a third-party program or interface. This is because YouTube’s terms of agreement are expressly stated on their website:

"You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content."

The reasoning behind these restrictions is that both YouTube itself as well as the content creators who post videos on the website make their money off of ads that run against the video content. Therefore, when someone downloads a YouTube video, and the ad content no longer runs on it, both the website and the video content creators are not benefiting from the audience watching the video. A download through a third-party program or interface is much like pirating a movie.

Prior Court Decisions

In fact, making a temporary copy of online material in your computer’s RAM is considered a “copy” under copyright law and, thus, can be considered an illegal infringement. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on which side you take, there is also legal precedent taking the exact opposite view.

It seems that the analysis to determine whether an infringement has occurred depends on the nature of how (and whether) the YouTube videos were transmitted and stored (even if, only temporarily) on an individual’s computer, whether there is a license, fair use, or other defense applicable to the viewing and/or downloading the content, and which court is deciding the issue.

YouTube Red Subscription

All is not lost, however, in the search for YouTube video downloading. There is a legal option: YouTube’s subscription service (YouTube Red) permits an individual to download videos for offline use with permission. Under this scenario, the content creator (and YouTube itself) gets paid through subscription fees. If you download videos using this subscription, your offline use will be 100% legal.

Downloading YouTube Videos may be Illegal

If you or someone you know has questions about downloading videos off of YouTube, or has any questions relating to intellectual property in general, contact a knowledgeable attorney right away. If you have questions regarding any other legal matter, particularly as it relates to physical injuries, contact the knowledgeable lawyers at Parry & Pfau. To speak with an attorney, call (702) 879- 9555 today.

(image courtesy of Markus Petritz)