Is it wrong to download YouTube videos? I guess that depends completely on who you ask. I'm sure YouTube would tell you that it is. In fact, they do. Their terms of service says the following, in Section 5: Your Use of Content on the Site
B.) You may access User Submissions for your information and personal use solely as intended through the provided functionality of the YouTube Website. You shall not copy or download any User Submission unless you see a "download" or similar link displayed by YouTube on the YouTube Website for that User Submission…
…E.) You agree to not engage in the use, copying, or distribution of any of the Content other than expressly permitted herein, including any use, copying, or distribution of User Submissions of third parties obtained through the Website for any commercial purposes.”
Is It OK To Download YouTube Videos?
So YouTube is pretty clearly against it. And we all know that you've never broken the Terms of Service agreement for an online service before, right?
Since you're such a straight-laced individual, you're probably not aware of some of the web-based tools and options out there for downloading YouTube videos. I've taken some of the most popular YouTube downloaders for a brief spin in order to better advise you of your options should you need to download your own videos, which is OK to do.
Tools for Downloading Videos from YouTube
Vixy (http://vixy.net/) is the oldest of the lot—I can remember a coworker showing it to me nearly three years ago. It's hit or miss. All the tests I ran for this article went smoothly, but I have had a lot of trouble in the past getting the conversions to complete. However–today's test, which downloaded fine and plays video fine, actually came without audio. I tried several times, and got the same result, no matter what video I used. That's probably less than ideal for most of you. Audio is typically a crucial portion of a video presentation.
Downloader 9 (http://downloader9.com/) was blocked by my Trend Micro Internet Filter for being a threatening page. Yikes. I hear great things about it, and I know it's popular, but I can't personally make any kind of comment about it because I have this strange aversion to unwittingly placing Trojans on my computer. I had a similar experience trying to visit DownloadYouTubeVideos.com, so I can't speak to that one either.
Easy YouTube Video Downloader (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/10137) is a Firefox extension. You'll forgive me if recent news of Firefox extensions containing malicious code kept me from actually installing and using this one.
Oooh, YouTube Downloader 1.1 (http://www.chromeextensions.org/music-videos-photos/youtube-downloader/) is a Chrome Extension, which I find all kinds of funny
VideoGetting.com is an interesting, though somewhat annoying choice. It's filled with ads and has a baffling layout. However, it appeared to work just fine once you get past all the pop-ups. Added bonus: the audio works. (You will need to rename the file extension to ".flv" once the video is downloaded).
KeepVid (http://keepvid.com/) is another interesting choice, in a world where "interesting" actually means "completely useless." It takes forever to convert the video file–in fact, in my testing… it never completed the conversion or offered me a download. Used to be a great service, though. Maybe it'll start working again.
My favorite YouTube Downloader ever was the one put up by TechCrunch of all people. YouTube killed it after a while, which is too bad because it was dead simple and worked perfectly. They're apparently still hoping to get it going again some day.
There are a ton of software options—downloadable programs you can install on your computer. I'm not as keen on just installing random software on my machine as I am on using web-based services, so I have not tested any of the software applications for YouTube downloads.
When it is OK to Download YouTube Videos (Hint-Don't Steal)
Now that you know a few ways you can download YouTube videos, I'd like to talk for a moment about some of the reasons why downloading a YouTube video makes perfect sense.
What if I'm the original YouTube uploader, but I've had a catastrophic hard drive crash and have lost all my native files? Is it acceptable then to essentially borrow that video back from YouTube to replace my lost file? I own the video, after all, right?
There are other circumstances where downloading videos seems harmless. For instance, I travel a lot for speaking purposes. I teach classes all over Tennessee (my home base) on everything from online video to Internet marketing to small business SEO. And I use a lot of video in presentations, both as object lessons and for levity (Drumming Gorilla FTW).
But an awful lot of the locations to which I'm invited to speak aren't exactly Internet-ready. Sometimes this is due to poor planning on the part of the organizers—they secured a room in the hotel, but failed to request WiFi service, for instance. Other times, the venue is the banquet room of a downtown restaurant—not exactly an Internet-ready locale. I've even taught classes on college campuses, in rooms that are Internet-connected, but where I was still not permitted to use the Internet to show a video because YouTube was blocked or otherwise filtered.
In circumstances like this, having a downloaded version of my favorite YouTube video object lessons is more than handy… it's downright vital. There's no intent to profit from the downloaded videos, or alter them… or in any way infringe on the copyright holder whatsoever. In these instances, the downloads are little more than a poor-man's embed—and in every case I would imagine the uploader would be more than happy to give permission for the video to be used.
After all, the very nature of YouTube is about sharing, is it not? Letting others see the video you uploaded is the point of using the portal—at least in 99% of the cases it is. These videos can be embedded anywhere, but not downloaded. I suppose the logic is that once someone downloads the video, they could repurpose it in some way that earns them a profit or something, or infringes on copyright. But I can film my computer screen and "steal" YouTube videos just as easily that way, though, granted, the quality would be greatly diminished.
Every time the nightly news goes to report about the latest "girl fights" scandal or "ghost-riding-the-whip" trend, they show stills and even video footage from YouTube videos without the uploader's permission (at least, I assume they don't procure permission). That's generally a recorded news story… in a way, an illegal copy of a YouTube video. If I can't download it, why can the news crew film the computer screen and then replay the video to their heart's content?
At the end of the day, it comes down to intent. If your intent is malicious—you want to personally profit somehow from the video you're downloading from YouTube—then it's pretty obviously wrong. If you are simply trying to help share the video with an audience that otherwise wouldn't have seen it… I would think that's a much more forgivable offense. I would hope so, at least.
Of course, YouTube can't tell what your intent is, so they have to make the rules to cover everyone. Can't blame them, really. But I wish there was a way to alter the rules for some of the circumstances above where downloading a video is relatively harmless.
For the record: Neither ReelSEO nor the author are encouraging you to download YouTube videos. You do so at your own risk, including the risk of losing your YouTube account. This article was an attempt to summarize some of the ways people are using to download videos, and talk a bit about the possible reasons they might have for doing so.