Before diving into this discussion and trying to answer some questions, I’d like to tell you about how YouTube’s business operates and how Google and content creators earn money.
How does YouTube work? — Revenue and copyright stuff
Today, you can find any sort of content on YouTube’s website and app–ranging from political debates and crazy stunts to cat videos and insane pranks. It’s completely legal to watch any free video on YouTube. With the help of Content ID, the company is able to track the copyrighted videos on its platform. The revenue from advertisements which are shown with the videos is split between YouTube and content owners.
Every week, YouTube ads get billions of views and the content owners are paid accordingly. Let’s suppose I create a YouTube channel and upload my original videos on the platform. YouTube will attach a unique Content ID to each video and track its performance and infringement. If someone uses my video without my permission, I’ll get notified of the same and I can ask YouTube to take appropriate actions.
In short, all the fuss is about money and hard work. Every time you watch a video that displays advertisements, YouTube and content owner is earning some money. This is where the legality of downloading YouTube videos or converting them to mp3 format comes into play.
Should I download YouTube videos? Is it legal?
Before answering the “should” part, let me tackle the “can” part. Yes, you “can” download YouTube videos via different means. We even have an article on the same topic. But, is it legal to download “any” video from YouTube?
You might boast: “I’ve a large collection of downloaded YouTube videos stored on my hard drive for personal use and I use tools to convert music videos to mp3 all the time.” Well, it might be a common practice among users and Google isn’t suing any user for doing the same, but it doesn’t mean that it’s legal to go on the download frenzy for every video on the platform.
It might seem pretty obvious that YouTube will try to stop users and websites from downloading the videos but the company hasn’t shown much interest in doing so in the past. In case, somehow, you end up inviting trouble, you would claim that your downloading comes under “fair use” in copyright terms. However, we’d advise you to stay away from trouble.
What does YouTube’s Terms of Service say?
YouTube’s terms specify that you are expected to access content for personal use as permitted under their Terms of Service. For the downloading part, YouTube specifically says:
As you can clearly read above, the company prohibits downloading videos in most cases (the exceptions will be discussed further in the article). You are only allowed to stream the content, which means real-time viewing of the video. In other words, you’re not allowed to use third-party services to “copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, etc.”
You can also consider the moral point of view and take the example of ad-blocking. By blocking ads, you are able to get rid of some annoying ads and stop the sites from tracking you. But, overall, you’re stopping the websites from earning money needed for their survival. It’s your own choice–nobody’s stopping you from using ad-blockers. Same goes for converting YouTube music videos to mp3 or downloading them. While chances of getting any notice from Google are slim, downloading on a mass scale takes a considerable amount of revenue away from the content owners.
Which type of content I CAN download from YouTube? How to download them?
There are some kinds of videos that you can download from YouTube website. As mentioned above, you can download a video if you see a “download” or similar link from YouTube. Let’s suppose, I’m watching a music video on my desktop, and the uploader has provided a download link in the description. In that case, I can grab the video.
In many cases, in smartphone apps, YouTube displays the download button just below the video. You can use this option for offline viewing and the video remains available inside Downloads section as long as your phone has an internet connection every 29 days. This method works for the majority of videos. Please note that these videos won’t be shown in your Gallery of Photos app on your device.
However, due to copyright and regional restrictions, for some videos, the download button will appear greyed-out. So, you can’t download such videos.
Then there are the videos with Creative Commons license which could be downloaded, edited, or reused by you. Let’s suppose I’m looking for some panda video clips on YouTube and I wish to use them in another video. To do so, I’ll have to perform a search and select the Creative Commons license from the filter menu. You can also see this attribution just below a video.
Please note that the option to mark a video as reusable is available to all uploaders. However, you should only use the Creative Commons tag if it’s your original content or the clips used in it fall in public domain.
It goes without saying that you’re also entitled to download your own original video that you’ve uploaded on YouTube. If you’re facing trouble downloading the same from your channel’s dashboard, it could be due to some copyrighted content in the video, pre-approved audio track, or if you’ve already downloaded video five times that day.
Alternatives to illegal YouTube downloading: YouTube Go and YouTube Red
Apart from regular YouTube app, there are some services that can satisfy your urge to download videos. You can also use YouTube Go app for downloading lots of videos and sharing them with others without the use of data.
I’d also recommend you to check out YouTube Red, which is an ad-free YouTube service that comes with other benefits as well. You can download any video on YouTube Red and listen to them when your phone’s screen is turned off. It works with YouTube Kids app as well.
YouTube Red also comes with free access to Google Play Music for high-quality music streaming and download. There are many original shows on YouTube Red as well.
In the nutshell, you might be crossing the illegal line without even knowing it. And because Google hasn’t targeted individual users in the past, you might be habitual of doing so. In this article, I’d simply tried to make you aware of the technicalities in simple terms and my advice would be to use legal means for watching and downloading content. It’s safe as well as ethical.