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I would like to study the audio patterns of certain recordings on YouTube for scientific purposes, but don't want to violate their terms of service or any laws. Can I:

  1. play a youtube track,
  2. record it through my computer microphone (aka analog hole),
  3. save it as an audio file, and
  4. conduct analysis of the track?

I would not share the recordings with anyone, except perhaps for the results of the analysis in a scientific journal.

Below are the YouTube terms of service, for reference.

Content is provided to you AS IS. You may access Content for your information and personal use solely as intended through the provided functionality of the Service and as permitted under these Terms of Service. You shall not download any Content unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that Content. You shall not copy, reproduce, make available online or electronically transmit, publish, adapt, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content. YouTube and its licensors reserve all rights not expressly granted in and to the Service and the Content.

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    Legality aside, have you considered contacting YouTube directly and just asking if you could have a select set of videos in like a ZIP file under some sort of agreement, explaining what research you want to do. Scientific research papers generally have some sort of ethics section for how the research was conducted, and recording audio out of videos with your microphone doesn't speak much to that section. (Plus, I'm sure there are programs that could bulk extract audio from a folder filled with videos, which would be more efficient.) – animuson Mar 31 '18 at 15:23
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The TOS is pretty clear: it says "Don't do that", even if it doesn't mention the specific method. Whether or not you use a mic or the internal-copy method, you are making a copy, and it says "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 or the respective licensors of the Content".

We don't know what all of their concerns are, but here are some. 1: copyright violation (copying without permission is against the law). 2: Their covenant with uploaders (they make material available subject to certain promises, such as "others aren't allowed copy"). 3: Their business interest (you're supposed to go to Youtube to get their content, and they don't want people usurping their business by copying and redistributing their material).

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