There are many questions about how to download video or audio from YouTube. Here are the two tags youtube-dl and youtube. But in the YouTube Terms 5.B., here I quote a portion of it:

You shall not download any Content unless you see a "download" or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that Content.

Are these questions allowed on Super User?

  • I asked a similar question a few years ago: meta.superuser.com/questions/8979/… Commented Nov 8, 2019 at 3:55
  • 6
    "You shall not download any Content unless [thing that never happens]." By that logic, nobody would be allowed to use YouTube at all, because all parts of the video are downloaded at least once just for watching it, even if it doesn't always exist at the same time on the device (but for short videos it does). And isn't the YouTube homepage's HTML file also "content"? This definitely has to be downloaded to use YouTube in a browser. Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 14:00

2 Answers 2


Questions about local tools for downloading from YouTube should be, prima facie, on topic: questions should be judged on technical merits

Back in 2011, the question arose with regards to removing DRM. I believe the situation is analogous.

From the question:

I just asked a question about how to remove DRM from Kindle books that I had purchased and it was promptly closed by the moderator studiohack with the following comment:

We don't encourage this kind of behavior here on Super User, thus off-topic.

With the response:

Unless it is a clear call for warez, discussion of DRM should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Per Joel:

I would hate for us to censor legitimate, technical discussion just because what we're talking about happens to be illegal in some jurisdictions. We should have the same standards as universities: we should defend people's rights to free speech.

(Jeff Atwood)

It should be noted that this answer literally has unanimous consensus: 153 upvotes, zero downvotes.

The situation is analogous

Consider the perspective of a user. They want to consume video content on their machine. Whether that is by removing DRM to play back in the video player/device of their choice, or by downloading to play back in the video player/device of their choice.

Presently, the situation has been "vote/deal with it on a case-by-case basis"

There was another Meta SU question, which broadly took in things such as 'EULAs, NDAs and other third-party agreements'. In that case, the original main site question that prompted the meta question was about OS X on VMware.

shlck's answer started:

This is not a real "answer" to your question nor official policy, so please bear with me when I'm rambling a little.

(...large parts about EULAs etc snipped...)

Confused yet?

Interestingly, in 2009, Jeff said, when asked how questions that break ToS or other policies should be handled:

Yes please flag profusely! That's what flagging is there for, and we look at all of them!

As you can see, even here, there's no agreement and the decision was forwarded to moderators.

with the outcome in comments:

So in essence, we each vote our conscience on such questions, on a case-by-case basis? – aroth Aug 28 '12 at 1:22

and the reply:

In fact, yes, that's always been the case and there's no other official policy. Of course, unless something is clearly about downloading warez, black hat hacking or software cracking, we'll probably give it the benefit of doubt. Hackintosh question are a bit of an exception where we have a policy that's not just about breaking of the license but rather the kinds of questions we don't want to have. – slhck Aug 28 '12 at 7:24

We are not here to police the internet

Secondarily, we should not be here to police others adherence or otherwise to third party TOS. What happens between YouTube and a user is between those two parties; it is not for us to decide what is acceptable. Questions should be judged on the technical merits, not an interpretation of an agreement between other parties. There are good reasons for this, but they are beyond the scope of this question, which is specifically about YouTube videos.

Questions about web services that offer download functionality remain off topic

For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that there are many web services that offer the functionality to download from YouTube. As with any remote web service, these are off-topic for Super User.

  • 3
    I want to play devils advocate and post a counter-argument so the community can vote for or against, but I can't really work up any argument except that we don't allow Hackintosh or Warez questions...
    – Mokubai Mod
    Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 17:50
  • 1
    @Mokubai Interesting thoughts :) My take on those is that Hackintosh Qs is that nowadays they aren't banned because of a 'legal grey area', more because they aren't good quality questions because of what they are trying to achieve. Similarly, with warez questions there's the legality and morality aspect, but really one is putting oneself at the mercy of whatever futzing with with the binaries/libs the cracker did; so it's not a class of questions the community wants to support.
    – bertieb
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 22:40
  • I could possibly add to my answer the implicit option everyone has for any question they don't like: don't answer, don't engage, downvote if they think it is a poor quality (or Tim Post has lost his keys again)
    – bertieb
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 22:43
  • 1
    In addition: a site's rules/terms of service can change at any time.
    – Booga Roo
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 21:13
  • @bertieb The nightmare comes true. youtube-dl has been taken down.
    – Biswapriyo
    Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 13:29
  • @Biswapriyo I saw, very stupid and sad :(
    – bertieb
    Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 15:29
  • @Biswapriyo: Youtube-dl was taken down briefly, before being made available again.
    – Vikki
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 10:10

Good answer by bertieb, although I think I come to a slightly different conclusion on the specific case of downloading protected YouTube content. Here's my take on the gray area, and how it leads to a conclusion regarding YouTube.

We don't support Warez or stealing services, but it also isn't our job to police the Internet. So where's the line between the two?

A few examples:

  • With DRM, the person could have legitimate rights to personal use of something they purchased, and we can't parse each contract or TOS.
  • If you're allowed to freely download something but it comes with TOS, it wouldn't be our job to figure out and enforce the TOS (but see Hackintosh discussion below).
  • Some web content has no stated or obvious restrictions on downloading; it is simply a technical hurdle. We support that.
  • If a web site has protections and controls over what proprietary content you can download and how, we generally don't tell people how to cheat the provisions. People make their living developing content and have the right to control and limit your access to it.

I think what it comes down to is this:

  • we won't help you defeat intentional controls to acquire something. The existence of those controls means you aren't entitled to it, so defeating them is piracy, just as we don't knowingly support warez.
  • But it you already own it, either because you purchased it or it was freely available, we'll extend the benefit of the doubt in helping you use it.

It isn't our job to police how you obtained it, but if we're familiar with the software and know that your copy must be warez, we won't knowingly aid and abet piracy. Or if you were dumb enough to describe that you have a pirated copy, we now know and shouldn't support it (don't ask, don't tell).

With Hackintosh, there's the argument that it is unsupported, so out-of-scope on that basis (it's not designed or tested to work on other hardware, so there isn't a "right way" to make it work; that comes more under the umbrella of development).

So my take on the question of downloading from YouTube: it depends. If content can be downloaded with readily available tools like browser extensions, and there is nothing but a TOS notice saying not to, it's not our job to enforce the TOS. But I would say that we shouldn't provide technical support to bypass intentional provisions put in place to prevent downloading. In my book, that would be piracy.

  • "The existence of those controls means you aren't entitled to it" - not if it's wrong for the vendor to put those artificial restrictions in place.
    – Vikki
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 10:11

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