YouTube Offline: Are Downloads Hurting Partners?

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For people who want to enjoy their favorite YouTube videos offline, why not order The YouTube Collection DVD set?

OK, that was YouTube’s April Fools’ joke this year, but a large number of third-party applications will let you download your favorite YouTube videos for your enjoyment without buffering issues and advertisements. One of the more advanced downloaders, Direct YouTube Downloader, lets you choose the type of file you want to download your video in and the resolution. Videos can be converted to multiple platforms such as iPhone, Android, PSP and more.

Clearly, users are benefiting from getting something for nothing as they can watch the videos they want wherever they want, as the third-party YouTube downloaders make it easy for users to bring those videos offline. However, it does pose a problem for partners making money through the site.

Although most of the focus on piracy has largely targeted users uploading copyrighted content, little has been said about how YouTube would crack down on users downloading videos. YouTube has said little about their position on third-party software apart from that it violates the Terms of Service. The document reads:

“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. 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.”

Although these downloading apps are in a sense violating the YouTube Terms of Service, an unknown number of users and apps are doing it anyway. Even though the company has been quiet on the issue, Google has threatened to take down YouTube-MP3.org, a website dedicated to extracting audio from videos and converting them to MP3s. This pending lawsuit shows that Google is serious about protecting YouTube from unlawful downloading and retaining repeat customer use. Expect more threats and lawsuits against third-party apps in the near future.

Even though portability and watching videos without ads are luring people to use these YouTube downloaders, it leaves a host of consequences from possible lawsuits from YouTube to independent creators potentially losing partner money because of lost views.