Can Australian Teacher's download videos from YouTube

Can Australian Teacher's download videos from YouTube

We have been having an on-going debate regarding whether or not YouTube content is regarded as “free-to-air” and if it is legal for Teachers to use show archived YouTube clips for offline playback.  There is heaps of blog articles relating to this but there are few credible sources of information which give you a ‘black and white’ interpretation of the law.  Part of the confusion comes from the definition of “Downloading” and the understanding of what streaming a video involves.

A couple of things to be aware of:

  • Google’s (own YouTube) Terms and Agreement are guidelines for members using the website, not a law.  They are also based on US Legal Guidelines rather than the Australian legal system.
  • Google does not own the content posted to their video sharing site and therefore is not in a position to grant/deny permission to use it.  If this changed there would be another “Instagram situation”.
  • Only the actual owner of the content can grant such permission
  • All owners of the content agree to license the videos under Creative Commons Attribution license

The Smart Copying website has provided a great summary of the above points and is a good credible source to base your legal defence.

Eventually, we decided we should contact The Australian Copyright Council to see how the law relates to us as “Teachers” and how we stand as an “Educational Institution”.

The response from the Australian Copyright Council was a little contradictory but most legal advice surrounding technology usually is.  Please note before reading the response below that you should contact your own legal representative or the Copyright Council directly as you may be in a different situation to us.

(a) Copying videos from YouTube in general

In most cases, you need direct permission to download videos from YouTube.  This is because:

(i) Downloading a local copy to keep on your school’s server is a “reproduction” of that video.  There is no general exception or licence that covers this for educational purposes.  This means the copyright owner’s permission is needed before each video may be copied.

(ii) Most YouTube videos are restricted to streaming-only access and do not permit downloads. If you need to bypass or “crack” a technical protection measure put in place that prevents access to the content in order to download the file, then you could infringe a copyright law prohibition on circumventing technological protection measures that protect access to copyright protected material.

There are exceptions which allow technical protection measure to be bypassed in some circumstances but no exception exists for general educational purposes.

However, if you are linking to a legitimate video on YouTube, then you can add the link without needing permission. Likewise, embedding a non-infringing YouTube video using the special embedded code listed with the video is unlikely to raise a copyright issue as you are skill streaming from Youtube.

(b) Part VA (Screenrights) Licence

There is one situation in which your school will be able to copy videos from YouTube.

If your institution has a Part VA licence (often referred to as a “Screenrights” licence), then you will be able to download and keep local copies of videos from YouTube provided that the video you are download is:

  • from a free-to-air broadcaster’s (e.g. Channel 9, 7, 10, ABC, ABC News 24, Go, SBS, Eleven, etc.) YouTube channel; and
  • was a program that was broadcast by that free-to-air channel (not something that was un-aired).

In these cases you can use the downloaded copies for the educational purposes of your school provided access is restricted only for students and staff and the download material isn’t made available to the public.  Fore more information, see You should confirm with your administration and/or AISWA whether or not your institution has the licence.

If the video you want to download from YouTube was not something that was broadcast on free-to-air TV, then apply (a) above.

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