How do I record a streaming video from an online website like YouTube?
In this excerpt from
Answercast #74, I look at both the technical and legal ramifications of
downloading or recording streaming video from internet locations.
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Recording streaming video
So this answer actually gets a little bit complicated in two ways. One is
technology and the other is legality, of all things.
Let’s start with the technology.
With respect to YouTube specifically, go out and Google the phrase “YouTube
downloader.” There are many pieces of software available out there that will
let you directly download a YouTube video. You don’t have do any recording at
All you really need to do is download the video file from YouTube directly
and you’ll have what you’re looking for: an offline copy of the video.
Record your screen
Now, for other sources? Many of them are using “true streaming” where there
literally is no file to download. The only solution I’m aware of (and I’ve
actually done this a couple of times) is to use a screen recording
I happen to use Camtasia, which is kind-of a higher end utility. There are a
couple of other alternatives out there (one of which may even be free, but the
name escapes me – perhaps someone will actually comment on this article and
give a suggestion on that.)
The bottom line is that you end up using a “screen recording” utility. You
have to make sure that it’s also recording the audio output that plays with the
video (Camtasia happens to.)
What that allows you to do is exactly as you describe: record what’s
happening on your screen. Then, you can save it to a video file in any number of
different formats; whatever you would like it to be.
So those are two ways of doing it. If you can, find a direct downloader
specifically for YouTube. Otherwise, you end up having to use screen recording
software; screen capturing software, much like (if not exactly) Camtasia.
Legalities of downloading
Now. Let’s talk about the legalities for a minute.
The problem is that what you’re doing is you’re making a copy of
this video. Many times (in fact, I would claim, in most cases) even
when there’s a YouTube download available, it’s not formally supported. It may
be illegal or at least against the Terms of Service of the site.
In other words, you’re not supposed to do what you’re trying to do in most
It’s unfortunate; it really is. In my case specifically, the reason I
actually want this (for things like YouTube) is that there are videos out there
that are available in High Definition. They look great! The problem is my
internet connection is slow enough that I can’t actually stream the
High Definition version. I would want to download it first and then play
A YouTube downloader would let me get the High Definition version and then
play it while offline without relying on my internet connection.
Nonetheless, I do believe that’s against YouTube’s term of service.
Technically, it could be considered illegal.
So be very careful when you’re doing this. Pay attention to what the law
says or at least what the Terms of Service is. Most of these sites will tell
you. It’s something worth looking into it.
Obviously, I personally believe that there are perfectly ethical reasons to
do this; my scenario being one of them. But nonetheless, that doesn’t
necessarily mean that it’s legal.
Now, I do have to end this by saying I am not a lawyer and this isn’t legal
advice. But I do, at least, want to make you aware of the potential legal
ramifications of doing what it is you’re asking to do.
(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)