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Hypothetical: I am learning a language at the moment and have found certain playlists very useful. I want to have them on the go and have written an application to download and manage downloaded videos, strictly for personal use.

Could I get in any kind of legal trouble doing this?

  • Also read law.stackexchange.com/questions/19681/… – BlueDogRanch Sep 12 '18 at 13:32
  • Can you not just make a YouTube playlist? – bdb484 Sep 12 '18 at 13:57
  • I could, but they are for offline use – nagrom97 Sep 12 '18 at 14:04
  • Is offline accessibility somehow necessary for the use you're imagining, or is it more for convenience? – bdb484 Sep 12 '18 at 14:10
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It's almost certainly going to be a violation of the YouTube Terms of Service, paragraph 5(B):

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, 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.

Although it's a violation of the ToS, that doesn't necessarily tell you whether it's illegal. The answer to that will depend on your jurisdiction, and even with your jurisdiction, it may be hard to answer the question. My understanding is that in the United States, there's still an open question as to whether simply violating the ToS would constitute a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or any of the various state laws involved.

There have been some good cases suggesting that it is not, but the Supreme Court is currently deciding whether to review one of them.

Beyond that, it may also be a copyright violation. It's not entirely clear whether this would constitute fair use as a copy for "personal use," as you don't already own a copy of the video. Nor does it seem to be "time-shifting," as YouTube videos are already available on demand.

I can see a good argument being made either way, but unless having them offline is truly necessary for the use you're envisioning, I'd probably bet against fair use and expect this to be considered a copyright violation.

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    Why would it not be time shifting? The purpose of downloading a video is to watch it while the YouTube service is not available, i.e. offline. – Brandin Sep 12 '18 at 20:47
  • You can reasonably argue it either way, but if I were YouTube, I'd probably argue that YouTube is always available and there's therefore no need to time-shift. If you want to watch at 3, you can log on and watch at 3. If you want to watch at 9, you can log on and watch at 9. The time that YouTube users are offline but nonetheless able to watch digital videos nonetheless is probably pretty close to zero, so I wouldn't expect courts to be very eager to carve out an exception for this. – bdb484 Sep 13 '18 at 3:29

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