How to Download Music From YouTube

By: Talon Homer  | 

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Before you download that video or music from YouTube, make sure it's legal to do so. picture alliance/Getty Images

Streaming services like YouTube offer a lot of convenience but there may be a time you wish that you had access to some of that massive video and music library offline. The solution may not be obvious at first, but it's actually pretty simple. In this article, we'll recommend two of the best methods for downloading music and other assets from YouTube. Plus, we'll go over the legality of saving clips offline, and how they may affect the company's terms of service.

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Downloading Via YouTube-DLG

A lot of programs and websites have come and gone with the intention of letting users download files from YouTube. However, the issue with a lot of those services is that they're filled with bloatware, scammy ads, or just aren't reliable. To solve these issues, YouTube-DLG comes in.

DLG is an open source program available for free on Github, and was created as a graphical front-end for a text-based version called YouTube-DL. The beauty of this interface is that nothing gets in your way. The user simply enters one or more URL addresses that they wish to download from, selects their choice from a range of video and audio formats, and lets DLG do its work.

All of the files will be ripped to a YouTube specific folder, or to another one of your choosing. DLG also has the ability to read files from Facebook, Twitter, and many other video streaming sources.

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What Can You Legally Download from YouTube?

However, you must be careful with that kind of power, as some use cases for programs like YouTube-DLG aren't strictly legal. You should stick to downloading assets that are considered public domain or fair use. Under United States copyright law, works that have entered public domain can be downloaded, reproduced, and modified as the user sees fit with no penalty. They're truly free.

As outlined by Stanford University, there are four common ways that works enter the public domain:

  • The copyright has expired.
  • The copyright owner failed to follow copyright renewal rules.
  • The copyright owner deliberately places it in the public domain, known as "dedication."
  • Copyright law does not protect this type of work.

A trickier facet of copyright law is something known as fair use. Fair use applies to those who want to use others' work in a critical, educational, or transformative capacity. For instance, using a short movie clip as part of a film review can be protected under the fair use clause, but uploading an entire scene without commentary cannot.

From the U.S. Copyright Act Section 107:

...the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

With that in mind, downloading copyrighted music straight into your library for personal use would not be considered legal. YouTube also sees third-party downloaders like DLG as a violation of their user agreement, as outlined in the terms of service:

The following restrictions apply to your use of the Service. You are not allowed to:
1. 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;

The company could use downloading content with this method as a grounds for account suspension or termination, so be careful.

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Downloading Via YouTube Premium

Luckily, we have an even safer method when it comes to downloading music and videos from YouTube, which is guaranteed not to infringe on any laws or terms. In recent years, the company has implemented a feature that allows users to save content directly from the website or mobile app. It can then be accessed again any time you load up the app, even if you're completely offline.

In the U.S. this feature is locked behind the paid YouTube premium subscription but is available for free in some other regions. Once the feature is enabled, you can find a download icon under videos next to where you'd usually find sharing and commenting features. The compiled list of songs and videos can then be found and viewed in the library section of the app.

The only drawback is that works downloaded with this method can't be moved, copied, or modified by the user in any way. They are still considered locked to the YouTube service, and can only be accessed through the app. If any saved video is deleted from the YouTube server, it's also likely to be wiped from your device the next time you get online. This is considered a necessary function so that no copyright violations can be allowed to occur.

To sum it up: A program like YouTube-DLG allows the user the greatest degree of flexibility when it comes to downloading audio and video online. However, using it at all quickly falls into a legally murky area.

Downloading directly via the YouTube app is the most worry-free method to save the content on your device. However, you will have no say in where those songs and videos can go, or even how long you will be able to access them.

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