Everyone does it. But is it right? Perhaps not. With all of the free download apps and online sites, it must be legal. Um, no. Not so much so.
Downloading videos from the Internet is almost as common as ripping copies of CDs used to be. If you are doing it for personal use, it might be legal. But probably not. If you are doing it to share those videos with friends, post them on websites or even selling them, then it is clearly illegal.
The Law Is Not On Downloaders’ Side
Downloading music and/or videos is fraught with legal danger. The New Media Rights Center reports that media companies have launched a slew of against individual downloaders in a way that has never been seen before. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) had been suing individual illegal downloaders of music, forcing them to pay a settlement for each individual song downloaded (usually $750 each). The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America which represents such studios as Warner Bros., The Walt Disney Company, and Sony Pictures ) has also sued individual downloaders.
So what happened to the fair use doctrine, you ask? Through a series of lawsuits, its application has been narrowed. A good guideline is that no permission is necessary from the content creator, which means if you are citing to a blog post, creating a parody video, broadcasting a podcast, or any other new piece of content,your work can make use of a pre-existing work. However, the courts will look to see whether you are using it for a noncommercial purpose, that you are superceding the work and the market for that work has not been controverted. If you plan to use anyone’s original content — including downloading a video from a website — be sure to brush up on Fair Use law.
YouTube Prohibits Downloads….Unless You Pay For Premium
In terms of video downloads, it all boils down to the purpose for which the video is on the Web and the terms set by site hosting those videos. For example, YouTube strongly discourages downloading its videos. It’s terms of service couldn’t be much clearer:
The terms are just as specific about not using video downloading services. It’s not surprising, as YouTube (owned by Google) makes money selling ads on its YouTube website. It invites you to view the videos as a way to sell advertising. Plus, many of the companies/people who post those videos count on that ad revenue to pay for the costs involved in making that video. (It’s not cheap!)
For those customers who simply can’t stand ads (which means most of us), YouTube offers a paid subscription service that used to be called “Red” but as of 2018 is called “Premium”. It includes the option to download videos onto mobile devices — but not desktops — and you are spared any ads. Is it worth $12 per month? Perhaps not; although for an additional $8 per month, you can share your subscription with up to 6 other family members and perhaps spread the cost among those users.
Vimeo Allows Downloads In Some Cases
Don’t have $12 a month to spend on downloading videos. You might consider checking out Vimeo. Some of the videos posted on that site permit downloads. If a video includes that option, there will be a button located under the video description that says Download. Simply click this button and a pop-up window will give you different formats and resolution options (such as SD or HD) to choose from.
Facebook May Also Allow Downloads
You see a personal video posted on Facebook that you want to share with your friends, say who are on WhatsApp or Instagram. Is it legal? Only if it is a public video — meaning the URL looks something like this:…). The key is if it reads: “video.php”. Also, if you see the earth logo under the video uploader, then it is a public Facebook video. Otherwise, it is a private Facebook video and shouldn’t be downloaded unless the poster of that video has given you permission.
Sites That Permit Downloading Content
1. The Internet Archive: The Internet Archive host 100’s of public domain and out-of-copyright films and clips for you to search, download and use.
2. US National Archives: You can use Google Video search to find works made by the Federal government which are almost all public domain and freely reusable. Use this search to find clips from NASA including lots of old newsreel footage.
3. Pixabay: Boasts over 1.5 million royalty-free stock photos and videos
4. Flickr.com Creative Commons: Check out Flickr’s advanced search options in order to you find creative commons videos and photos.
5. VJVault.com: VJ clip libraries are great places to find very short, often impressionistic, clips to use.