Is Recording Streaming Video Allowable?

We think that recording streaming videos for the later personal enjoyment or edification of yourself and members of your immediate household is allowable, whether as a "fair use" under the United States Copyright Act or the equivalent in the territory of the rights holder or you, or otherwise, and is the equivalent of using a digital video recorder (DVR), or an old fashioned VHS or Sony Betamax video recorder (we suspect that most of you don't remember the Betamax) hooked up to your TV, or a video camera pointed at your screen, to record. And there are many videos that are in the public domain (meaning, at least in the United States, there is no copyright or all copyright has fully and irrevocably expired), or where the copyright holders are okay with you saving or recording these videos for your later personal enjoyment or information. Some copyright holders are even okay with you making more copies of those videos or other works for the purpose of distributing them (or making them available) to others, without charging for them or otherwise financially benefitting, but this may be a pretty complex area of the law, and it isn't always crystal clear what a particular copyright holder may be okay with, and what the law is or may be, so we urge caution and unless you are certain about who the rights holder are and what they may be okay with please do not distribute or make them available to others. Sometimes a copyright holder will actually inform you that you can re-use or re-distribute their videos or other works, in whole, or in part, including by notifying the world at large that a particular Creative Commons type license [1] is applicable to a video. Here is where Creative Commons lists organizations and projects powered with Creative Commons licenses:

The Internet Archive has a large collection of educational and entertainment video's that are available either because they are in the public domain or have some sort of some, but not all rights, reserved Creative Commons type license: . Under C-SPAN's copyright policy a license is generally not required to post a recording of C-SPAN's video coverage of federal government events online for non-commercial purposes so long as C-SPAN is attributed as the source of the video ( YouTube® allows uploaders of videos to indicate that certain videos can be edited, re-used, or re-distributed, in whole or in part (see,

We suggest that for those videos where you are not sure if they are in the public domain, or where you are not sure that the copyright holder would be okay with you making more copies of those videos or other works for a purpose of distributing them (or making them available) to others, or doing something else typically within the exclusive rights of the copyright holder, without charging for them, that you not place those videos or other works in any folders where you might make the content of such folder(s) available to others, whether on a VPN (virtual private network) or through any P2P (peer-to-peer) file search and sharing networks. Also, although some agreements (the "terms" or "EULA" [End User License Agreement]) with various streaming video websites might say that you shouldn't download, copy, convert or record videos that stream, we think similar “fair use” type reasoning applies to recording for your own later personal enjoyment notwithstanding what the terms or EULA might say, and, therefore, we don't think those parts of the website agreements are enforceable. But we can’t be sure, and we aren’t encouraging you to violate or breach those agreements. We also think that it is fair, in most instances, for you to convert audio/video files to audio files, again for your later personal enjoyment. This may be particularly true if you are visually impaired. As a matter of fact, in many instances the video you are streaming is actually being recorded and saved already. When you watch a video in flash from a website, the video is downloaded into your computer, in the folder "Temporary Internet Files" of your browser. The Video Downloader program does pretty much the same thing, allowing you to select the destination folder. This means that the file is saved on your computer while you watch the video and there remains until you do delete it. Some, but obviously not all copyright holders may feel that this is not always fair or allowable. For example, some "major label" music recording or music publishing companies, and performers and songwriters may believe that with regard to music videos it is not fair for users to either record, or continue to keep the video streams that have already been recorded to your computer, or to just keep the audio portions of the videos, especially if a user can continue to play those files after they have been removed from the streaming website, or they think that you should have bought what they were allowing to be streamed for free if you were going to do anything other than watch or listen from the streaming website. That's kind of like saying you can't make a recording of what is playing on a radio station, or music videos playing on you television, whether delivered over the air, by cable, by satellite, by telephone line, or other communications carrier or delivery mechanism. We, and many many others from all walks of life, from economists, to scholars, to industry insiders, to average citizens and consumers, to some in government, feel that, all things considered, it is okay for you to record, convert to audio, and save for later personal use. But we recognize that some believe otherwise, and you should know this too. And so while we think that we are right, and it is within your rights to record even music videos for later personal use, it is your choice to make an informed decision. And we will repeat because we think it is important, that we do not condone copyright infringement, we don't think that you should attempt to sell or make money from streamed audio-video files (unless the rights holder says you can, or perhaps you are using parts in something like news reporting, or for scholarly or educational purposes, or the like . . . but the exceptions to the "no profiting" rules are even more stringent and complex than the average person will want to try to figure out). And you should be very very careful about making some such content available for distribution, even if not for profit. Also, we encourage you to support authors and artists whose works you like. But ultimately, unfortunately, we can't give you advice about any of this. You might want to consult with an experienced and good lawyer who knows about these issues, or ask some public interest groups to publish information on these topics and help you stand up for your rights. Also, this was written with the laws of the United States principally in mind, as we understand them, though may of the same principles apply elsewhere. If you are outside of the United States you might want to look into what the laws are of the territory where you are, the Electronic Frontier Foundation provides a database of copyright laws around the world at In European Union countries, the Commission website has some helpful information and links: .

WIPO has a list of Intellectual Property and Copyright Offices internationally, you can find the one applicable for your country here:

See for more information about U.S. copyright law.

For more information on US copyright law and fair use, check out the following materials.

The School of Communication American University Center for Social Media has a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication .

Greentree Applications SRL respects intellectual property rights and expects the users of Video Downloader to do the same. Any use of Video Downloader that violates an intellectual property right of a third party is not allowed.

Other Stuff our lawyers like us to say :

All defenses, remedies, rights, claims, etc., reserved without waiver or prejudice. No admissions, waivers, etc. made, including by silence or only partial response. No promises made or implied. Emails, other Posts, and written and oral discussions do not make or modify contracts and are not digital or electronic signatures or writings.

Creative Commons (CC) is a nonprofit entity dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. CC licenses provide a standard way for authors to declare their works as having "some rights reserved" (instead of "all rights reserved"). CC provides free license types and other legal tools to mark creative works with the freedom the author wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof. To learn more, visit If the source you're quoting has a Creative Commons license or public domain dedication, you may have extra rights to use the content. Licenses don't trump fair use, but if you want to do more than fair use allows, look at the terms of the license to see what it permits and what, if anything, it requires you to do in return. The attribution license, for example, lets you copy, distribute, and display a work so long as you name the original author. Share-alike lets you make derivative works so long as you use the same license for your re-mix. A work in the public domain is no longer under copyright, so you can use as much as you want in any way you like.

[October 23, 2015]