Being one of the biggest streaming sites, YouTube hosts millions upon millions of videos. Short films, lectures, video essays are all available on the universally-known site.
It’s hard not to get greedy with all the content it offers, especially with the existence of YouTube to MP4 converters. So if you thought about putting together a compilation video or do something similar, read on.
Armed with a link and a click of a button, you could have millions of hours of audio at your disposal. This naturally prompts an incredibly important question: YouTube to MP4 — is it legal?
Is Converting From Youtube to MP4 Legal?
It’s a topic that has garnered a lot of confusion for a reason: the answer is complicated.
YouTube is covered by US copyright law. According to this law, it’s illegal to make copies of copyrighted videos if you haven’t been granted permission by the video owner.
Since converting Youtube videos to MP4 is considered the same as copying, it can also be illegal.
Fair use, of course, is exempt from this rule.
Against YouTube’s Terms of Service
As a site, YouTube forbids the usage of YouTube to MP4 third-party sites. Article 4C from YouTube’s Terms of Service states:
“You agree not to 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 YouTube may designate.”
This sentiment is further emphasized by Article 5B, which dictates, “…..you shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube of the respective licensors of the Content.”
Finally, Article 14 from YouTube’s Terms of Service states:
“These Terms of Service shall be governed by the internal substantive laws of the State of California, without respect to its conflict of laws principles. Any claim or dispute between you and YouTube that arises in whole or in part from the Service shall be decided exclusively by a court of competent jurisdiction located in Santa Clara County, California. These Terms of Service, together with the Privacy Notice at www.youtube.com/t/privacy and any other legal notices published by YouTube on the Service, shall constitute the entire agreement between you and YouTube concerning the Service”
Are YouTube’s Terms of Service Applicable in Third-Party Sites?
Here’s the way these third-party Youtube-to-MP4 sites operate: you click on a video, you copy the video’s link, you paste into the third-party site, and you download.
There’s an important question floating around. If you only use the video’s link, and not the video itself, are the Terms of Service applicable in this case?
One would say no, especially since you’ve left YouTube for a converter side where the Terms of Service are no longer valid.
After all, the YouTube Terms of Service restrict the exploitation of services, not the exploitation of links. Technically, you aren’t using YouTube’s designated video player.
Nonetheless, YouTube explicitly states, “You agree not to 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 YouTube may designate.”
This could mean two things:
- If you’re using YouTube, then you can’t employ an extension to download content.
- If you’re not using the YouTube player, you can’t gain access to archived YouTube content.
If it means No. 1, then you’re in good luck: using YouTube URLs in third-party converter sites isn’t illegal.
However, if it means No. 2, then it’s illegal, since you’re gaining access to archived YouTube content with a third-party site instead of the player.
Are YouTube to MP4 Converter Sites Illegal?
YouTube-MP3.org was a site that let you convert YouTube videos to MP3 and download them. It granted you the ability to rip off hours of audio without paying one dime. And in 2017, it shut down.
The shut down came after an attack of lawsuits that labels launched. Sony Music, Warners Bros., and UMG all filed a copyright infringement claim against the third-party site.
Looking at the YouTube Terms of Service and the law, you can argue that the host (not the user!) is who breaks the law. It only makes sense: the ones who distribute the content, rather than those who rip off the MP4 videos, are responsible for the violation.
But what about the individual user? Are there any legal repercussions? In such cases, it’s up to the courts. They have to decide whether it’s legal or not.
It’s a grey area. As previously mentioned, Title 17 explicitly forbids copying original content without the owner’s written infringement. However, there’s a loophole: the law doesn’t speak on personal use.
Now, facing the wrath of a company and getting sued is extremely unlikely for you as an individual. Labels mostly ignore individuals and instead go after distributors.
Say you’ve ripped off a popular song. Is it illegal? Piracy is piracy. Nevertheless, the U.S. has yet to witness a copyright infringement case concerning the actual act of ripping, rather than the act of sharing ripped content.
However, if you’re a growing content creator, you should take the possibility of a lawsuit very seriously.
“YouTube’s Terms of Service Aren’t Law!”
Of course, this is true. Violating the Terms of Service could get you banned, but it can’t get you in court by itself.
Nonetheless, the Terms of Service are enforceable by law. Sure, it’s not enforceable via criminal court, but it’s enforceable via civil litigation.
- Are you criminally negligent if you violate the Terms of Service? The answer is no.
- Are you under a legal obligation to cease your violations of the Terms of Service? The answer is yes.
- Can legal action be brought against you if you don’t cease your violations of the Terms of Service? The answer is yes.
So: Youtube to MP4 — is it legal? It depends. It’s illegal to download copyrighted YouTube videos with the purposes of distributing, reproducing, or selling. Personal use, however, remains a grey area. One could argue that it’s not illegal, only unethical.