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Are YouTube converters legal?

With file sharers coming under increasing pressure from warning letters in Germany, the use of YouTube converters has become popular. But is it legal to convert YouTube videos into MP3 format.

YouTube converters are legal under German copyright law? ©-Thomas-Jansa-Fotolia
YouTube converters are legal under German copyright law?©-Thomas-Jansa-Fotolia

YouTube converter

A YouTube converter is a piece of software which can be downloaded for free from the internet and which converts YouTube videos into MP3 format. The MP3 files can then be transferred to an MP3 player.

This new method of “downloading” has given rise to debate in Germany about whether YouTube users infringe copyright law.

When converting a YouTube video, only the soundtrack is downloaded from the platform. In principle, downloading a copyright-protected work is legal under German copyright law provided it is for private purposes.

However, the right to make private copies of protected works does not apply if the source from which the copy is made is clearly illegal.

Given that it is generally well-known that many artists and performers publish their works on YouTube for advertising purposes, it can readily be asserted that there are no clear indications that the source of a video is illegal.

YouTube’s terms of use

YouTube makes clear in its terms of use that videos on the platform may only be used for streaming purposes and may not be downloaded or copied. However, users of YouTube are not required, before viewing the video, to agree to the terms of use. As a result, the terms of use do not apply when using the platform.

Conclusion

The conversion of YouTube soundtracks for private use is not illegal under the current German copyright law.

The popularity of YouTube converters is rising. It seems the use of file sharing websites may recede. If so, law firms that have specialised in sending file sharing warning letters will have to develop alternative business models. Given the recent wave of infringement warning letters concerning Redtube and streaming, it may only be a matter of time before the use of YouTube converters leads to warning letters.

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