I want to download and modify YouTube videos (licensed under creative Commons) programmatically and further use it for commercial purpose on other sites. Is it legal to do so ? Please provide relevant reference also.

Refer following link for related FAQ: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2797468?hl=en&ref_topic=2778546

I am concerned with following lines mentioned in above link. "These videos are then accessible to YouTube users for use, even commercially, in their own videos via the YouTube Video Editor."


3 Answers 3


I am not a lawyer; I am especially not your lawyer; this is not legal advice; if you want legal advice, hire a lawyer.


But probably not.

The YouTube terms of service seem to prohibit this pretty clearly:

You agree not to distribute in any medium any part of the Service or the Content without YouTube's prior written authorization, unless YouTube makes available the means for such distribution through functionality offered by the Service (such as the Embeddable Player)...
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.

Now, were YouTube itself licensing the videos in question under the CC license, they might be prohibited from enforcing that term:

You may not offer or impose any additional or different terms or conditions on, or apply any Effective Technological Measures to, the Licensed Material if doing so restricts exercise of the Licensed Rights by any recipient of the Licensed Material.

though I'm not sure if the language in question would apply. However, it seems likely that in most cases, YouTube is using the material in question under the license to which users agreed when they created their accounts, and therefore is not bound by the term in question.

All that said, it's entirely possible that the clause in the YouTube ToS prohibiting downloading does not apply for whatever reason (unconscionable in a contract of adhesion, browsewrap agreement doesn't form a contract to begin with, it's superseded by either some other agreement (part of the API EULA, etc), it's contrary to some law in your jurisdiction, etc).

Just to be very clear, though, there is no COPYRIGHT CONCERN preventing uses like the one you mentioned.

  • I cannot find the "You agree not to access Content through any technology or means other than the video playback pages of the Service itself" clause on the current October 2020 ToS anymore:web.archive.org/web/20201021150219/https://www.youtube.com/… It was last present in the May 2018 one apparently: youtube.com/t/terms?archive=20180525 Do you see any equivalent terms on the new one? Interest resurged after: reddit.com/r/programming/comments/jgub36/… Oct 24, 2020 at 6:17
  • Ah, now it reads: "The following restrictions apply to your use of the Service. You are not allowed to: access, reproduce, download, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, alter, modify or otherwise use any part of the Service or any Content except: (a) as expressly authorized by the Service; or (b) with prior written permission from YouTube and, if applicable, the respective rights holders;". So it still seems to be against ToS. Nov 3, 2020 at 13:27

Yes. It's legal to download it.

Assuming the content is licensed under Creative Commons, then you're fine. The author has specifically given you the permission to do so under the license. However, what you may do may vary depending on the type of license - you may not be able to sell it, or make derivative works, or your derivative works may be subject to various clauses. Which license in particular is it?

  • 1
    But I was wondering, why YouTube doesn't provide any way to download video. (Currently, it forces us to use youtube player for viewing downloaded video ..Even for videos which have cc license).
    – Pankaj
    Mar 26, 2016 at 16:46
  • 1
    The default license is not CC: see 5. Your Use of Content in youtube.com/static?template=terms, esp "You shall not download any Content unless you see a “download” or similar link...". Here is a link to irony (note the license they use): youtube.com/watch?v=wHSxD4O_wYs
    – user6726
    May 25, 2016 at 19:00
  • @user6726 Interesting. I hadn't actually thought of giving the TOS a good look. (Also, I didn't say the default licence was every CC). This actually makes me wonder why YouTube even offers CC as a licensing option then.. Hmm
    – Zizouz212
    May 26, 2016 at 0:08
  • @Zizouz212 For use in their on-site video editor (you may remember my answer on opensource.stackexchange.com/questions/4218/… :)), which doesn't require a download, but does require permissions from the copyright holders of input videos. (Anyway, months later you probably already know this, but I'd thought close the loop here on "why CC but no download?")
    – apsillers
    Sep 23, 2016 at 12:46

Yes, it's legal, but only because the Creative Commons license allowed in Youtube is CC-BY according to Youtube help page. With this license you can do nearly anything you want with the video while properly attributing it to its author. Other Creative Commons licenses (that could be stated in video description) carry more restrictions.

Anyway, keep in mind that the video could include third part's content which could be used in it lawfully or not (the video could be a copyright infringement itself of could include some fair use material), and it's your responsibility to make sure that your use of this material is lawful.

And as Zizouz212 pointed, beware that most Youtube videos are not under any CC license, and you can't do anything with them except for viewing them.

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