Is it permissible you Download Video Clips from YouTube?

YouTube! Need more be said? Being one of the largest internet portals for videos on demand, users upload and so publish their videos online - to registered and non-registered users. This portal is being technically run by "streaming" a continual transmission of data between your computer and YouTube's server to a browser plugin like RealPlayer or WinAmp.


For some time, there has been a software that can read this stream and save it to a hard disk. When doing so only the audio part of the stream can be saved which is especially important for video clips. This will be discussed further below.

Are audio tracks subject to copyright?

§2 II no. 2 UrhG protects works of music. Protected are not only hits of famous artists but also anybody's piece of music as soon it is not only trivial (so-called "protection of the small coin [Schutz der kleinen Münze]"). Therefore the artistic relevance does not count when dealing with protection. When saving the audio track to the hard disk you are creating a copy which is generally subject to copyright. Generally making copy is subject to the artist‘s permission (§§15, 16 UrhG). However, it might be that you are privileged therefore you are acting legally.

Can you save YouTube Videos and convert them to MP3?

The question is whether or not these copies are justified by copyright law. Such privilege can be seen in the so-called "private copy" (§53 UrhG). What is required for such right of a private copy?

Private Person

The person making the copy must be a physical and not a juristic person like a corporation.

Private Use

This private person must be using the download exclusively for private and neither indirectly nor directly for business or professional reasons. Copies for the family or friends is still considered as private. The BGH (judgment of June 24, 1993, re I ZR 148/91) also determined that you have left the private sphere, when you use the pictures for your job. The assumption will generally suffice to raise problems. So when you download music to be able to hear it also offline then everything is square and fair.

No Evidently Illegal Constructed or Illegally Published File

Further this copy may not be evidently illegally made or published. This requirement is one of the most debated provisions. The lawmaker generally assumes that this cannot be determined from uploaded files. The user is not to be emburdened with unfulfillable duties of determining the legality of the copy - so the will of parliament.

Can YouTube videos be illegal? That is hard to tell. When you were to track that down then you would be spending more time reading license agreements than listening to your music. Many artists use YouTube as a platform for advertisement. The legal question here is did the copyright holder permit publishing? When not, then the copy is illegal. Removal of illegal videos is only YouTube's worry - you may generally rely on the legality of a published file. Something else applies when the your favorite group's music clip has been uploaded prior to its official launching. This is evidently illegal and will be always held against you.

Some Copies

Private use permits making some copies - but only few. The limit has not yet statutorily been determined. The BGH practically set the limit to seven copies (judgment of April 14 04.1978 (re I ZR 111/76). When saving the audio track from YouTube to a MP3 file on your hard disk you will be copying a copyright protected file you will creating a new copy.


Converting and saving audio and video tracks of a YouTube is generally permitted - in lack of conflicting precedences and statutes.


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