If you want to download videos from YouTube, there are very few legal ways to do that. It’s tempting to download videos from YouTube to either watch later or to use as a part of your own video projects, but doing so does introduce some legal issues you need to consider. If you want to download YouTube videos legally to watch later, using YouTube Red is the best way to go.

Downloading other people’s content from YouTube can be a pretty hairy situation both ethically and legally. Today, let’s talk about the situations in which you can legally download videos from YouTube.

Well, first of all, let’s go to YouTube’s terms of service. And there’s two parts in there that say this.

Section 4C

You agree to not access content through any technology or means other than the video playback pages of the service itself, the embeddable player or other explicitly authorized means that YouTube may designate.

Section 5b

And then downscrolling to section 5b. Content is provided to you as is. You may access content for your information and personal use solely as intended through the provided functionality of the service and as permitted under these terms of service. You shall not download any content unless you see a download or similar link displayed by YouTube on the service for that content.

The Answer:

No, according to YouTube’s terms of service, you may not download any other content from the platform really for any use whatsoever. Now doing so though, doesn’t make it illegal, it just means that Google has the right to terminate your account if they catch you doing it and feel like that’s necessary to do. However, it is illegal for reasons bigger than Google really.

It’s because you are downloading someone else’s copyrighted content without a license to use that content in an explicit way. The creator owns that content and gives a license to YouTube to host and distribute that content. But that does not mean that the creator has given you a license to do the same.

Now in the U.S. there are situations that are clearly fair use, usage of other people’s content, and under those situations, that might be an exception. You can have and use in that content without the original creator’ permission. But generally speaking if that’s not the case, then you are stealing the content. We’re not going to get into internet piracy here in this video.

But I think we can all generally agree as creators, that it hurts creators and the platform as a whole when people do this. There is one situation where any of us though, can absolutely legally download videos and watch them offline.


Say for example, you’re on the bus and you don’t want to use all your data. You don’t want to burn through all that and pay for your mobile device or maybe you’re going to be out of cell phone service, maybe on the subway, the city or going for an airplane ride. You want to catch up on all your subscriptions and you don’t want to pay the really high Wi-fi fee on that airplane to do that.

Exception: YouTube Red

Well, if you are a subscriber of YouTube Red, then yes, you can download all those videos you want inside the YouTube app. You push the download button that the terms of service talks about, and you can watch all of those videos off your mobile device. And it’s great because when you do reconnect the Wi-fi, all your watch time, all your views would sync to YouTube server. And the creators count, their channel, they get credit for you watching their video still. As a subscriber to YouTube Red myself, I love that feature inside the app. There’s a whole bunch of other features that come with YouTube Red, also, if you’re not already a subscriber.

I’m not sponsored, affiliated, in any way, I just really love the service. Not seeing any ads on YouTube whatsoever, having full access to Google, Music Play, which is basically Music Play Music, which is basically their Spotify music library. It’s just awesome. I love it.

And I also love that as a YouTube Red subscriber, when I watch other people’s videos on YouTube, those creators are earning more money from me as a YouTube Red subscriber, than they would be earning just from passive, ad-supported viewers. So YouTube Red is great all the way around. It wasn’t supposed to be a commercial about anything, but that’s how you can legally download videos and not have any problems with the post. Posts are super easy and built in to the app.


Now I am not a lawyer, but these are the general principles that I found to make sense to me. So I’d love to hear what you guys think in the comments below about downloading videos.

  • When do you do it?
  • When do you not do it?
  • And what would you recommend about YouTube Red as a whole?


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