Connect with us

Christian Living

Only two legal scenarios to download YouTube videos

Pirating of DVDs and CDs is still quite common amongst Christians – at least in my experience. And I don’t like it. I’ve heard lots of excuses for this – “software is just so expensive”, or “music companies charge too much for their music”, but the law (and the Bible) is clear that piracy is a no-go zone. As Romans 13 explains, we are to submit ourselves to the governing authorities, regardless of how inconvenient this might be.

According to their website, there are two situations where you can download YouTube videos:


  1. when you are downloading a video from a designated YouTube partner.
  2. when you are downloading a video that you have previously uploaded.

YouTube explains that:

“Except for the cases mentioned above, the YouTube’s video player is designed to be used within your browser as an Internet experience.”


You can check out the full article on the YouTube website here. In addition, Section 5 of the YouTube terms of use explains:

“Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use only and may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, or otherwise exploited for any other purposes whatsoever without the prior written consent of the respective owners.”

UPDATE – 11 APRIL 2012

“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.”

This isn’t convenient, but as the provider of this service, YouTube has the right to set the rules for how their service is used.

I thought I’d check out the CCLI (Christian Copyright) website to see what they had to say about churches using YouTube clips. The only article I could find was from 2008 entitled – ‘Playing it safe – internet content and copyright‘.

As far as I can tell, the long and the short of it is this – in most cases, it is not legal to download YouTube videos for church use, personal use, or any other use, apart from the two scenarios mentioned above. Similarly, I discovered that should you (for some reason) want to reproduce (e.g. quote) comments made against videos, this too is a breach of the terms of use.

Steve Fogg wrote in with the following comment:

“…it is actually illegal to play this kind of thing [YouTube videos] in a church service or public space unless you have written authorisation from the ORGINAL copywright holder

Which means if people who put together videos for youtube sample vision or sound from somewhere else you need their expressed written permission.

CCLI who give licence for music offer video licence for most major movies which gives you rights to play a clip for a sermon. Outside of this, if you don’t know created the video or don’t have their express permission as copyright holders it is breaking many interlectual property laws and could break a small churches bank totally as fines for this kinda things are massive.”

Thanks to Steve Fogg for the heads up on the legal implications of downloading YouTube videos – much appreciated Steve. My apologies for misleading anyone with my previous post (now removed to avoid any confusion) – let’s strive to submit to our authorities and stick to the terms of use required by YouTube.

All is not lost! Coming soon, I’ll share some helpful resources for finding videos to use at church. If you’d like to suggest any to get the  list started – comment away!

Continue Reading


  1. Adrian Jackson

    August 10, 2009 at 6:25 pm


    Can you explain the first scenario? As in, what is a designated YouTube partner?


  2. Steven Kryger

    August 10, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Hi Adrian, according to YouTube:

    “We are currently testing an option with a small group of partners, giving them the ability to permit downloading of their videos downloads for free or for a small fee paid through Google Checkout. For more information, please visit our Blog and the following Help Center entry about partner video downloads.”

    You can read this in context here.

  3. Calum Henderson

    August 10, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Thanks for the correction Steve.

  4. Steven Kryger

    August 10, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    I just received this response from Ken via Facebook:

    “Hi Steve. While I agree that Christians have an obligation to observe copyright law, we have to remember that terms of use do not change statutory rights. Australian law have “fair dealing” provisions, which are not too dissimilar from US “fair use” provisions. The two parts I would point out, without trying to interpret, since I’m not a lawyer, is that:

    1. To infringe copyright, you need to be using a substantial part of a copyrightable work. Taking a short clip of a movie might not be interpreted as substantial.

    2. There are provisions for the review or criticisms of copyrighted works – including ideas conveyed within the work.

    What this means for downloading Youtube clips, I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess. I’ll leave that to one of CBTB’s many lawyers.”

  5. Steven Kryger

    August 10, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for the comment Ken. I wonder what our obligations are to operate within the ‘terms of use’ stated by a service provider, even when these might not be legally binding? For instance, YouTube has made it clear in their terms of use that downloading videos (in almost every instance) is a no-go. I’m not sure what legal rights they have to ensure this, but regardless, do you think we should operate within the spirit of the terms of use?

    Playing YouTube clips (i.e. streaming from the site) is a different question – I’ll need to do some more research to find out the answer to that one…

  6. Steven Kryger

    August 10, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    I’m looking again at the terms of use, and section 5, part B explains that:

    You may access User Submissions solely:

    * for your information and personal use;
    * as intended through the normal functionality of the YouTube Service; and
    * for Streaming.

    I’m not a lawyer, but it seems from that reading, that playing YouTube videos in a gathering that isn’t ‘personal’ (i.e. a church service) isn’t permitted.

    Can someone else shed more light on this?

  7. Adrian Jackson

    August 10, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    I’m wondering about Google Video, where some of them you can click “download to ipod” and get a m4v file or the like. I couldn’t find any easy answers, or maybe I’m looking in the wrong place.

    I think since Google Video is a search service that they probably leave the copyright issues to the site owners, but when it says “download” it gives me an indication that it is okay to use it, but I’d feel unsure somehow.

  8. Ken

    August 10, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    Hi Steve,

    I’m of mixed thoughts about legally unenforceable terms of use. There are a lot of issues that come into play here. Some are black and white, others are somewhat gray. On the black and white side we have:

    1. Creators and owners of creative work, have the right to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

    2. Creators and owners of creative work, should have some say over how their work is used.

    On the grey side of things we have issues like:

    A. Copyright should not be used as a weapon to deter review or criticism of the work. If someone for example, created a documentary with vexatious claims about the Christian faith, you would expect that churches should have the right to display the film and criticise the ideas shown in it.

    B. Can a third party enforce copyright that was willingly surrendered by the original copyright owner? For example, Mars Hill Church voluntarily surrenders some of their rights by allowing all users of their material to copy, distribute and transmit their work (With some small constraints). By uploading the their videos to Youtube does this mean that Mars Hill must now enforce, or assign to Youtube the right to enforce legal rights that they want to surrender? By the same token, can civil contract revoke a right enshrined in statute law?

    I’ve read newspaper articles several times where contracts have tried impose conditions on one party which are explicitly precluded by law. Often these contracts are things such as taking away award working conditions, or things like waivers of liability that include clauses like “even where injury is caused by negligence or malice”… These clauses are described by judges as unconscionable. If the law says that something is not a copyright breach, is it unconscionable for someone to attempt to place it as a condition on a contract?

    The harder question is that if we believe it is so, do we simply not agree to the contract, and not use the service, or do we accept the contract excepting the unconscionable and unenforceable terms?

  9. Steven Kryger

    August 10, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    I’ve just posted a follow-up article following on from some research I’ve done tonight – ‘Copyright and screening videos in church’.

  10. Steven Kryger

    August 10, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Hi Ken,

    A. I agree with you.

    B. I think YouTube (or similar services) can enforce this. It’s their site, their rules. They are providing the infrastructure (at considerable cost) and they can determine how people use it. If the producer of the content doesn’t agree with the terms of service, they should find other avenues to distribute the content.

    However, the last point you make is a good one. I would contend that if we don’t agree with the contract, we shouldn’t sign up for the service – what do you think?

  11. Steve

    August 11, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Good conversations!

    Ken, some good questions there. I personally think the using the creative commons licence is a good step for churches who wish to pass on their content for kingdom purposes.

    I would highly recommend the resources Steve highlighted above. They are relatively cheap – even if sometimes they have an american slant.

    Bottom line really is to educate each other and provide a clear path forward so everyone can know what the legal boundaries are. We also as Ken indicated need to honour the artist who created the work and we can do that by acknoledging their work or paying what they are entitled to for the work.

    Keep up the chat. this is good!

  12. Steve

    August 11, 2009 at 9:42 am

    This site below often gives some good articles on copyright and often features videos

    Here is their latest video of the week—8709

  13. Steven Kryger

    August 18, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    I just came across an article on Mashable – “How to download YouTube to your desktop”.

    They provide a disclaimer at the top of the article:

    DISCLAIMER: As some of you have pointed out in the comments, downloading personal copies of YouTube videos is not supported by the YouTube Terms of Service, which states:

    “You may access User Submissions for your information and personal use solely as intended through the provided functionality of the YouTube Website. You shall not copy or download any User Submission unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the YouTube Website for that User Submission.”

    We want to stress that most of these tools do violate the ToS and that if you use them, you do so at your own risk. Also , if you’ve been tempted to download for a better browsing experience on the big screen, don’t forget YouTube has already got you covered on that with YouTube XL.

    It’s interesting that there are so many applications available to help you download from YouTube, when there are very, very limited situations where you are allowed to do this according to the terms of service.

  14. Nona

    March 8, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Do you think Christians should honor the copyright on Bibles (example: you’re not allowed to quote more than x amount of words without paying a fee)?

  15. gj531

    November 26, 2011 at 5:55 am

    What is a “designated YouTube partner”?

  16. Geoff

    April 6, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Good article… it’s a reality we have to live with unless we are prepared to break not only the law but God’s law.  Would appreciate some more detail on what is mean by downloading from a youtube partner.

  17. Steven Kryger

    April 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    It looks like the Terms of Service have changed slightly. I’ve updated the details in the post above.

  18. Ash2feb2wed

    June 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    “It’s interesting that there are so many applications available to help you download from YouTube, when there are very, very limited situations where you are allowed to do this according to the terms of service.”
    Those situations don’t even need an application. They have “download” or similar links.

  19. videoresponsibility

    June 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Google itself, which acquired YouTube, shows these applications in Google ads and Google Search.

  20. Josh Ginsborg

    December 5, 2012 at 9:15 am


    I was wondering your views on family members sharing the same iTunes. That is, if we rip a cd we share, are we all allowed to transfer it to our iPods or do we all have to buy our own CD?

  21. Steven Kryger

    December 5, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Interesting question Josh. I’m not sure of the answer – this would be best checked with Apple.

  22. Poor man

    December 21, 2012 at 7:49 am

    I asked God instead of apple this question and God said it was ok by him.

  23. Peace By JESUS

    February 12, 2013 at 3:51 am

    From the Youtube Terms:

    5b. 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.

    5c. You agree not to circumvent, disable or otherwise interfere with
    security-related features of the Service or features that prevent or
    restrict use or copying of any Content or enforce limitations on use of
    the Service or the Content therein.

    The legality issue here is as regards violating the owner’s copyright as well as that of YouTube, which are two things. A video may be in public domain or under a license that allows duplication, or one may have permission from the CR holder to duplicate it, but without the download link then YouTube TOU disallows using software to do so, although buffering does save content.

    A legal means to save video that allows duplication is thus needed. Note YouTube’s policy on Creative Commons material:

    “By marking your original video with a Creative Commons license, you are granting the entire YouTube community the right to reuse and edit that video.” (

    But what YouTube allows is of no effect without a legal means of copying the content.

    On a doctrinal note, N that Rom. 13:1-7; 1Pt. 2:13,14 does not mandate unconditional obedience to man, but allows for dissent in instances when that would be in violation of what God requires, and contrary to the intent of the law, but which clause is not to be lightly used, and it would be hard to justify copying what YouTube disallows.

    However, in my opinion Christians who criminalize the copying of content, for free distribution and with attribution, which is supposedly offered as Christian ministry, are themselves acting contrary to Scripture. But those who without permission use such gospel material of others to make money are criminals. We should live by faith and trust the Lord to provide for what we need to do His work, and not make people criminals who help to share it for free.

  24. Ke Kya

    April 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    I may be entirely wrong here, but I think there’s a loophole in the terms that allows you to download any video you like – given two additional conditions: a) you are using Firefox, and b) you have the add-on “1-Click YouTube Video Downloader” (available at installed.

    “You shall not download any Content unless you see a ‘download’ or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that Content.” Once you install this add-on, a download link will appear on every YouTube video you watch. Since the terms of service don’t define “YouTube” as the site’s owners, it could be interpreted as the site, which is now displaying the link and giving you the right to download it.

    Now we have to go over the question of whether it’s wrong for Christians to exploit loopholes.

  25. gj531

    April 16, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Mozilla, RealPlayer, and such add-ons are not YouTube add-ons and therefore the download links that such add-ons display are NOT download links displayed by YouTube, so they do not constitute those covered by YouTube’s Terms,

  26. Ke Kya

    April 17, 2013 at 1:11 am

    I’m banking on ambiguity here. There is a download link displayed on the website, by the YouTube HTML.

  27. gj531

    April 17, 2013 at 2:31 am

    I don’t think so. I think it’s your browser’s HTML. I use Chrome and I have Real Player. I have a Real Player downloader add-on in Chrome. That add-on displays a download link over any video on any page of anybody’s site whether it is allowed by the site to download it or not. I can choose to do what’s right or not.

  28. mrinal

    June 23, 2013 at 1:53 am

    Is it legal to download creative commons , i had made this video
    The only legal way to download YouTube Videos

    Let me know if it’s not the legal way.

    Thanks is advance

  29. Rutt

    July 7, 2013 at 12:23 am


  30. Robert

    October 8, 2013 at 3:50 am

    I have slow internet and I download only God related files. that increase my faith to Jesus. its a dellema for me. I want to watch God Gospels movies but for my personal use… I think God owns what He owns. but still its dellema. I think He is the Authority of Authority. If I ask permission to Him maybe its ok.. as long as no damage was done. BUT Still a DELLEMA..

  31. Josh Jenkins

    October 8, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    For some reason I thought it was also okay to download them for educational use, but maybe I’m wrong about that. I do download videos with the torch browser but am careful that they come from acceptable places. I have a feeling these laws will change soon anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top