Intellectual property rights, copyright law and everything to do with music distribution are complicated. What you can and can’t do, legally, is anything but clear, and it’s not always as simple as buying a CD in a store these days.
Even uploading music to YouTube itself isn’t always allowed, as music producers can decide not to allow people to use their material – YouTube even has a filter to prevent such uploads. Despite this, it is always legal to watch content on YouTube. You can’t commit piracy or violate copyright just by streaming something on the site. Thanks to legal agreements and simple permission from the creators, watching, for example, a new Ariana Grande music video is just fine. Downloading one is another matter entirely.
The use of converters
YouTube’s terms of service forbid the capturing of streams. This means that it’s against YouTube’s rules to convert or download videos, or even to record them via screen capture – that doesn’t necessarily make it illegal though.
Converter sites obviously violate the terms of service, yet YouTube doesn’t normally prosecute sites that provide this type of service – they are allowed to continue. At most, they are excluded from Google’s ad network, which means the owners can’t monetise them that way.
All of this doesn’t actually cover whether or not it is legal for John Doe to download a video from YouTube though. The simple fact of it is that, yes, it is illegal. YouTube is covered by US copyright law, which means that no matter where you watch from, that’s the law it falls under.
As per US law, any sort of conversion or download of copyrighted material, whether it’s as MP3, MP4 or something else entirely – is illegal. The keyword here is copyrighted though. Not all material on YouTube is. While in the case of professionally released music and videos it always is, copyright- or royalty-free material does exist.
Videos that meet that criterium can be downloaded legally – however they still violate the terms of service. Complicated? Sadly yes. Below is a chart that simplifies it a little.
|Converting/Downloading||Copyrighted Videos||Non-copyrighted Videos|
|Against the terms of service||X||X|
|Against the law||X||O|
|Streaming||Copyrighted Videos||Non-copyrighted Videos|
|Against the terms of service||O||O|
|Against the law||O||O|
Whether you want to ignore the legal restrictions or not, there are services that allow you to do so. We strongly recommend that you never download anything in violation of copyright law. If you want to convert videos, only do so to ones that are copyright-free.
You’re probably better off not risking it at all, but if you want to, there are some relatively safe and easy to use conversion services out there. There is a short list below.
Tip: Be aware that not all conversion services are reliable and safe to use. Some may try to hide malware in the files you download, so be sure to only use services you know and trust.
One of the most well-known conversion services, this one doesn’t require any sort of registration, supports all common browsers and audio formats, but it is restricted to YouTube. While some other services also support Dailymotion or Vimeo, this one doesn’t. You can even upload your file directly to Dropbox or Google Drive if you want.
Another popular choice, Converto offers simple, no-frills conversion to MP3 format. There aren’t any ads clogging up the screen, and no registration is necessary. The resulting file has a unique download link that remains valid only for 24 hours, so you’ll have to grab your file fairly quickly.
Unlike the other two entries on the list, this one isn’t an online service per se – it requires a download first. This service offers considerably more functions than some of the others – it allows you to queue multiple files in batches, supports a huge variety of formats of both audio and video, and it has some pretty amazing speed stats as well. You can even convert entire channels in one go if you want to!