Is it Legal to Download YouTube Videos and Music?

Every time we talk about Spotify, Google Play Music, YouTube Premium, Apple Music, or Deezer, there is always one or more people who say that they save paying the monthly payment because they download free music from YouTube in MP3 that, later, they save in memory internal of your devices. The procedure is easy, simple, and free, and applications and websites are not lacking. The million-dollar question is, therefore, is it legal to download YouTube videos and music? Today we are going to shed some light on the matter.

YouTube videos and music

Stick with the following premise: just because you can get something for free doesn’t mean you should. Piracy is one of the great evils of the Internet. Although there are services such as Netflix or Spotify, which offer a huge catalog of content for a ridiculous price, there are people who are not willing to pay a measly 10 euros to reward artists for their work, in a nutshell. It is much easier to go to YouTube, search for the hot topic, copy the URL and download it – in questionable quality – through online services or apps.

As you may have already guessed from the tone of this article, downloading music from YouTube is not legal and is against the Platform’s Terms and Conditions of Use. In this regard, YouTube is crystal clear in point 9.2 of its TOS, where it addresses the “YouTube Content on the Website.” I quote verbatim:

“Said Content [referring to content that you have not uploaded] might not be downloaded, copied, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, or exploited for any other purpose without YouTube’s prior written consent, or YouTube’s licensors, if applicable. YouTube and its licensors reserve all rights not expressly granted concerning Your Content.”

By “you cannot download,” we mean “you cannot download.” in other words, except for the content that you have published, you cannot download any file from YouTube at all without the consent of the platform or the content creators themselves. Excuses like “it’s for personal use,” “I’m not going to share it with anyone,” or “it’s just a song” are not valid. It is not any, so it would not be legal to convert music from YouTube to MP3.

The only cases in which these conditions do not apply: fair use

In this clip, various videos of protected works create a new message for educational and critical purposes.

According to YouTube, “the legitimate use is a legal doctrine that allows reuse of copyrighted material by copyright under certain circumstances without the permission of the owner of such rights. “ This means that there are cases – particular and determined – in which you could download a YouTube video to reuse it. Be careful; that does not mean that you can download a video and extract the audio to listen to it on your mobile. They are very different things.

“Each country has its own intellectual property laws, so each country is in charge of deciding whether the principles of fair use govern the use of a material used without the permission of the owner.”

On YouTube, they expose the case of the United States, where the courts are governed based on four parameters to decide whether or not the use is legitimate. These are the following:

  • The purpose and nature of the use (even if it is commercial or for non-profit educational purposes): if you use a video to give another meaning to the original, it may be considered fair use. An example would be the video above.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work: It is not the same to use a fragment of a newscast to talk about the news event than to download a video of Rihanna to use her music in a Fortnite video for your channel.
  • The quantity and nature of the part used about the total of the copyrighted work: it is not the same to use small fragments of the video as the whole piece, although the use of a small fragment may be considered illegitimate in cases where those that constitute the central part of your new work.
  • The effect of such use on the value or potential market of the copyrighted work: if you take fragments of a film to make a montage full of spoilers, you will be affecting the production company of the film, which will stop making money due to which you have exposed the argument of his work, for example.

In this video, the presenter uses excerpts from a newscast to talk about his headlines. It is an example of fair use.

As you can see, the cases in which copyright can be ‘violated’ are very particular and are not universal. Be that as it may, in none, absolutely none of the cases, it is said that you can download a song to listen to it on your mobile. Also, citing the creator of the original video, writing a disclaimer, or making non-profit content does not make your use legitimate. In fact, these assumptions are described as “myths” by YouTube.

“You will see that all the pages of software companies to download YouTube videos refer to these myths to argue their legality when, in fact, they are myths.”

A very different issue is for someone to upload their own song or video to YouTube and offer, in a completely disinterested way, a download link for that file. In that case, you will download the song from the link but not from YouTube. And no, it is not worth publishing an Eminem song with a download link to MEGA because that and hacking a song are the same.

Remember: every time you download a copyrighted work for free, every time you download a movie, download a song from YouTube, pirate a video game, or download a free paid APK, you are robbing the author of said content.  Would you like your boss to stop paying you for your work? Would you like them to do it for you?  Possibly not. Why do you do It?

In fact, YouTube recommends asking for legal advice before doing so to save yourself from being upset.