Can I download music and videos from YouTube? Am I breaking copyright law?



Educators please note: we have now published practical advice for schools using YouTube videos to expand upon the educational exemptions of the NZ Copyright Act.

– – –

New Zealand’s copyright laws were updated on the 1st September 2011 with the introduction of the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011.

The wording of the new Act says it:

“provides rights owners with a special regime for taking enforcement action against people who infringe copyright through file sharing”

It is quite specific because it only applies to infringing material (protected by copyright) which is uploaded or downloaded via file sharing applications or networks.

Does this law apply to YouTube and streaming content from websites?

NetSafe has recently been inundated with enquiries from people worried that they may be breaking the new law by watching or downloading movies or audio from popular video sharing site YouTube or using other websites to watch streaming TV shows or movies.

Our advice to date has been simple:

  • This new law only covers peer-to-peer file sharing and YouTube seems to fall outside of the Act.
  • However, the existing Copyright Act 1994 has always given the creator of a work ownership rights over who can use their works and how they can be used and this Act can still be used to take action on other forms of copyright infringement in New Zealand.
  • Downloading videos from YouTube has always been a breach of the site’s Terms of Service (Tos) and New Zealand users should be aware of penalties in the US and action taken to protect copyrighted material uploaded and hosted on the video streaming site.

In short then if you are downloading videos from YouTube you may very well be breaking copyright law in NZ or the US (unless the site provides a Download link or the content is available under a Creative Commons licence that permits copying/reuse).

How am I breaking the YouTube Terms of Service?

When you use any website you are normally making use of the content or services under Terms and Conditions published on the site – even if you never read those conditions of use. For YouTube the important statements are currently paragraphs 4C and 5B (September 2011):

– You agree not to access Content through any technology or means other than the video playback pages of the Service itself, the Embeddable Player, or other explicitly authorized means YouTube may designate.

– 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, make available online or electronically transmit, publish, adapt, 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.

Whilst downloading videos from YouTube is a common online activitiy – and there are many simple technical solutions for doing so – you are breaching the company’s stated terms of use.

Will I be warned, fined or prosecuted for doing this?

At the time of writing (mid September 2011) there have been no recorded incidents of internet users being sent an infringement notice under the new Act – many people have however modified their downloading behaviour due to concerns over fines.

Copyright remains a complex area for NetSafe to give guidance on and we will try to revise our website resources as issues develop. For now it is safer to respect international copyright laws, only access and download content you believe the creator is willing and has the rights to share with you (in both paid and free formats) and be aware of terms and conditions of use for websites where you find popular content.


  1. Cheryl Nesbit says:

    What is the ruling on downloading videos from YouTube for educational use? My year 11 students are use Weebly – a free website creator – for a school assessment. They want to save YouTube videos to their school accounts and then insert them into their website. Is this allowed? I know that copyright laws can differ if students are using various videos, images etc for school only.

    • Chris Hails says:

      Thanks for your question Cheryl – I believe the YouTube terms of service are the same for all users – educational use doesn’t bring other exceptions but do let me know if you have a better knowledge on this topic. There is extensive guidance for NZ educators on the TKI website at

      In terms of NZ copyright law there are indeed ways to cover the use of copyrighted material in a school setting. See this PDF guide from the Copyright Council for more on that. It mentions a one-stop-shop licensing scheme for schools available through the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA):

      What you describe the students doing can normally be accomplished by using the YouTube embed code for the videos they want to publish on their website or blog. By making use of the embedding system (not do

      • Shaun Bowers says:

        Hi There,
        I want to download Lady Gaga photoshop video but it is not on youtube it is up for download on Mediafire.. Would i still be breaking the law if I download it?

        • Chris Hails says:

          Hi Shaun – the new 2011 Act is simply an amendment to New Zealand’s existing copyright laws.

          The new Act specifically targets downloading over peer-to-peer networks but this doesn’t make it legal for you to download copyrighted material for personal use just because the 2011 Amendment Act doesn’t explicitly mention filelockers and other sources like Mediafire.

          That activity is covered by other sections of the existing law and so you need to be certain who owns the copyright of the Lady Gaga file and if they have explicity stated it can be downloaded.

  2. ian says:

    does this mean that we ARE allowed to download videos and musics from youtube via converters?

    • ian says:

      some of the works that i do require videos and me and my friends are just wondering if we’re allowed to download off youtube?..some of the stuff we download are for school work and stuff.

      • Chris Hails says:

        Hi Ian, I summarised the issues with this line “For now it is safer to respect international copyright laws, only access and download content you believe the creator is willing and has the rights to share with you (in both paid and free formats) and be aware of terms and conditions of use for websites where you find popular content.”

        Most YouTube content will be protected by copyright and of course you are breaking their terms of use by downloading files.

        If you are using video content for schoolwork I’d suggest checking with a teacher – there are ways for schools to access copyrighted material. There are also exemptions to NZ copyright law – see – “for private study and certain educational purposes”

        • Ian says:

          so…basically…music download and videos for personal use is allowed?

          • Chris Hails says:

            No! We need to reiterate that the new 2011 Act is simply an amendment to New Zealand’s existing copyright laws.

            The new Act specifically targets downloading over peer-to-peer networks – this doesn’t make it legal for you to download copyrighted material for personal use just because the 2011 Amendment Act doesn’t explicitly mention filelockers and YouTube and other sources.

            That activity is covered by other sections of the existing law.

  3. joss says:

    hi so i just downloaded some videos off youtube today with the understanding that it was ok if the videos provided links and youtube allowed the video on their site in the first place, Am i going to get a fine now? I need the videos for research etc only personal use nothing else. So what happens to me now?

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Joss, looking at the stated YouTube Terms of Service you would appear to be operating exactly as they approve, only downloading what comes with a download link.

      The personal use bit is the grey area under existing NZ copyright law, my interpretation (not being a lawyer) would suggest the fact they made a download available suggests they are OK with people reusing for noncommercial purposes but check the copyright statement alongside the videos.

  4. Veasnay You says:

    i think that downloading video and music from youtube is really coolz for your iphone,mp3, or save to burn on disc , so easy but i know that its against the law to download or you will get fine, :( i only sometimes download if i need too!

  5. a barr says:

    Is it illegal to stream movies and tv shows from streaming websites other than youtube?

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi, this is a difficult area for NetSafe to comment on especially given the fact we are not legally trained.

      The new Amendment Act and the three notice regime covers peer to peer technology – other parts of the 1994 Copyright Act may cover the streaming and any breach of copyright and allow the rights holder to take action.

      You can of course purchase and legally watch streamed content from iTunes and other video sites. There may be further issues around terms of service if you use technology to subvert any geoblocking they have in place to prevent people from New Zealand watching content only licensed for the US for example.

      In short you need to investigate the source of the content and understand how it has been provided and under what terms when streaming movies and tv shows.

  6. Stacy says:

    Hi…i am just wondering…is it ilegal to convert a youtube video to mp3 and then download it into Itunes 4 my ipod? Im not sharing it and im technically not copying or using the video as such but i am still downloading….am i safe to do this?

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Stacy, you need to be certain who owns the copyright of the file you are downloading and if they have explicity stated it can be downloaded and reused. Look for a download button on the YouTube video or Creative Commons licensing.

      Most YouTube content will be protected by copyright and of course you are breaking their terms of use by downloading files with a converter. Converting/downloading is copying the video and so you could be breaking the 1994 Act which cover many copyright areas prior to the recent law targeted at peer to peer file transfers.

  7. Joey says:

    Hello, so I’ve been reading the discussions and this is what I think I’ve read..
    If you use a converter for a website (lets say Youtube) to download songs or music you’re NOT breaching the new New Zealand law on P2P file sharing because it’s not actually P2P. But you could however be breaching whatever you’ve agreed to when you convert songs/videos/music from that website.
    NZ Act – No?
    *Website – Yes?

    Sorry about having to read these questions which are all so closely related =/

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Joey, the new 2011 Act is a red herring in the case of downloading copyrighted material from YouTube. This law simply amends the pre-existing 1994 Copyright Act which established the rights of a creator to protect their work.

      If you use a converter to download copyrighted material from a website like YouTube doing so is not covered by the new 2011 Act, that only covers peer to peer technologies and thus falls outside the realm of the three notice regime. However that doesn’t mean you can continue to download music/videos without understanding the copyright associated with those files.

      You need to be certain who owns the copyright of the file you are downloading and if they have explicity stated it can be downloaded and reused. Look for a download button on the YouTube video or Creative Commons licensing.

      Most YouTube content will be protected by copyright and of course you are breaking their terms of use by downloading files with a converter. Converting/downloading is copying and so you could be breaking the 1994 Act which covers many copyright areas – there’s more advice on the Respect Copyrights site.

  8. daniel says:

    hello so is it ok if i use you tube converter it get songs for my ipod or am i breaking the law i really need new songs but im just not allowed to share them is that right.

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Daniel

      Most YouTube content will be protected by copyright and of course you are breaking their website terms of use by downloading files with a converter (see the whole post for info).

      Converting/downloading songs is copying and so you could be breaking the 1994 Act which covers many copyright areas and would include for personal use – there’s more advice on the Respect Copyrights site. Paying for music is the best option to ensure you’re not breaking the law.

  9. daniel says:

    thank you very much Chris

  10. Kaboom says:

    One of the exceptions mentioned in the Wikipedia article you posted before is: “Fair dealing; for purpose of criticism, review, news reporting, research, private study.” does this mean that anyone can download let’s say video’s off Youtube and when confronted say they were doing it for research, or writing a blog about music (even though it has 0 viewers and is hardly find-able)?
    Or am I misinterpreting it?

    • Kaboom says:

      Except for the violation of Youtube’s rules, tbh no one cares about those ^^

      • Chris Hails says:

        There is certainly widespread use of downloaders/converters – that’s not to say though that at some point a copyright holder or YouTube themselves wouldn’t choose to track down and take action on one video or many and trace/block users in some way.

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Kaboom, the fair dealing text is where my lack of legal training falls down here – as you say you could try and claim that your actions were covered under those grounds but that may very well not be accepted in court for example.

      When we looked into YouTube specifically for teachers and sought legal advice, the interpretation of the Act is key and something I’d suggest you’d need to consult an expert on who knows of legal precedents.

  11. William says:

    Hi there

    If I download episodes of a cartoon that I would like to revisit from my childhood, from youtube using a program like moyea. I was wondering would this be illegal due to this new law?

    Please write back :)

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi William, as I’ve said before on this post the real issue is copyright of the file/cartoon – if the programme was very old and out of copyright perhaps then you may be able to legally download the file – YouTube terms of service of course being broken by doing so.

      The safest option would be to watch the shows online as YouTube intended (or buy them on DVD/download via iTunes or similar) – the uploader of course may have broken the law by sharing the file online.

  12. kapi says:

    if we have a converter can we stil convert youtube vids

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Kapi, read through the previous replies and the page itself. Using a converter to download YouTube videos breaks the company’s terms of service which may or may not be an issue for you.

      Obviously by downloading a file which is copyrighted you may also be breaking the law somewhere between where the file is hosted and your location. The real issue is ownership of the content so check out the info on the Respect Copyrights website.

  13. William says:

    Hi Chris

    Thanks a lot for your answer to my previous question. When you said that if the programme is very old and maybe out of copyright, do you mean like as old as the year 2000 when the programme first began or the year 2003 when the programme ended?

    PS: The programme I am revisiting from my childhood is X-Men Evolution. :)

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi William, sadly copyright lasts a little bit longer than 11 years! I can’t give you an accurate length for the programme but this advice from the World Intellectual Property Organisation might give an indication:

      In countries party to the Berne Convention, and in many other countries, the duration of copyright provided for by national law is as a general rule the life of the author plus not less than 50 years after his death. The Berne Convention also establishes periods of protection for works such as anonymous, posthumous and cinematographic works, where it is not possible to base duration on the life of an individual author.

  14. William says:

    Hi Chris

    Thanks for your answer. I think I understand what that all means. Anyway I asked around with my friends they said that it is just torrents that arent allowed to be download. Is this statement true?

  15. Andy says:

    Hi There
    I have downloaded few videos from the adult sites. Do they still fall under the law ?

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Andy, the same laws apply no matter what content you are downloading. If you have a paid subscription, membership or pay to download from any site or service that is more likely to bring with it permission to copy or watch perhaps on a time limited basis material for your own use (think iTunes or subscriber video services normally available outside New Zealand).

      If a website has given permission to share or allow re-use or copying under say a Creative Commons licence then they may also have a download path or button in place. The act of downloading via a converter that breaches a website’s stated terms of service is obviously widespread but may well put you at risk of legal action or loss of service/access.

  16. IndianKiwi says:

    I guess the obvious question is, how can the copyright owner know that you have downloaded the music/video from a online converter or download helper, since I understand it is the onus of the owner to contact the ISP?

  17. Sony says:

    i have an app on my cellphone called mp3 music download. is it illegal to use that to download music onto my phone?

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Sony, if this is the app your are talking app for an Android phone then it would appear likely from the comments that the files you are eventually downloading are likely to be made available without the permission of the copyright holder.

      I’d need to know more about the app to be sure – it’s possible the creator has some deal with music owners to provide files under licence but more than likely not if you have a free app linking off to the usual online download sites.

      Remember, it was only yesterday that the first copyright infringement notices were sent out to ISPs – whilst a cellphone app is not likely to be using peer to peer technology (explicitly covered under the new Amendment Act) there’s still a possibility your downloading can or is being monitored somewhere along the line.

  18. Mike says:

    Hi Chris – would the website be classed as an illegal download site… this is a music site where DJ’s up-load music to share; where there are free-downloads from DJ’s (the oringal artists) does that fall under the catagory of “illegal file sharing”. Look forward to your response.

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Mike, a quick glance at the site itself suggests all files uploaded here are copyright free in the sense that the uploader certifies they have the right to share them with the community: “only share sounds that you have created yourself and have permission to share” – see

      They have quite a bit of information on there about copyright too at so I’d suggest most creators have given permission to download a rights free track or a file they have created and want to share under this spirit

  19. aidski says:

    hi there just wondering is mp3 rocket illegal??you basically downloading straight off youtube :/

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi – see above would be my best suggestion. Downloading from YouTube via converters breaks their terms of service and obviously if the file is copyrighted and not shared via Creative Commons or explicitly by the creator for reuse of copying then the action of infringing copyright would be covered by law.

  20. kiwi says:

    we got a warning from our ip an infringement notice thing it almost puts me off using the net altogether no one in the house seems to no who downloading the said mp3 we are accused of downloading . it feels creepy like someones keeping track of what we are viewing on the net its like a breach of our personal privacy

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi kiwi, I understand your concerns about privacy in regards to the new legislation but you should always assume that all your internet traffic can be monitored at any point – the myth of online anonymity is just that, everything can be traced back to an originating IP address unless you go to the effort of increasing your security and even paid VPN services have turned over records to law enforcement in the recent past.

      It’s quite possible if you are sharing a wireless router in your house for any one of the residents to monitor or interfere with traffic being sent and received. I’m not suggesting they would of course but shared internet access is based on trust and the issue with the new law of course is that the account holder themselves is the one who faces the infringement notice and possible fine/’award’ of up to $15,000 if any housemate is continuing to fileshare.

      The new law was put in place to protect copyright and in reality the internet remains a very unregulated place compared with other activities – you can continue to watch content online but the downloading or copying is what the government is keen to minimise.

      I’d encourage those of you living in the house to openly discuss the issue now you’ve received the first infringement notice to highlight the reality of the fine for the account holder and to get an understanding of what you collectively consider to be acceptable use of your broadband connection.

  21. kiwi says:

    why is it that anything in life thats fun is always spoiled by the govt placing shit loads of laws around it.. i have no idea what i can and cant view online anymore everything i view comes with a certain amount of fear that i maybe breaking this new law and end up with a 15000 fine which in my position would bankrupt me i dont have 15 bucks in the bank let alone 15000 lol this law makes me angry its taking away the fun the internet use to be and turned it into something to fear

  22. kapi says:

    yes or no can we convert music from youtube

  23. Anne says:

    Hi, thanks for the information given so far.

    Let’s say that if someone sends me a music/video file through messengers like MSN, would that be considered illegal? From what I see, yes, file-sharing isn’t allowed, but if it is through MSN, would it be considered as a form of ‘file-sharing’?

    Thank you very much.

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Anne. The recent amendment to NZ law covers file sharing made over torrenting style Peer to Peer (P2P) software. Sharing a file that is copyrighted would be covered under other existing copyright laws.

  24. Marcus says:

    will a vpn from (only kiwi nzd one i can find) keep my ip hidden if i do torrents or this kind of stuff work for everythang?

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Marcus, I can’t comment on this company’s offer specifically but a VPN is designed to encrypt your traffic and notionally prevent anyone (including your ISP) from seeing what you are looking at. There have recently been VPN outfits in the UK legally obliged to hand over subscriber lists and payment details of customers so do keep that in mind if you intend to break New Zealand laws.

  25. Cheryl Rini says:

    Hi there again im wanting to know my kids go onto youtube alot and viewing the clips on there is that downloading or not and when you pay for something like a movie on here(the net) is that not allowed? cause i pay to buy unlimited movies is that downloading and one more thing… on wireless and i have a open connection i think not sure if someone sat outside and downloaded a movie or sumthing what happens then cause i dont do that im more worried that everything is not allowed what about facebook /

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Cheryl, watching clips on YouTube is not downloading – the new law that may have you concerned is designed to cover downloading files using a torrenting service over peer to peer (P2P). The service you have paid for unlimited movies may be a filelocker or streaming site that hosts copyrighted films illegally – at present the recent law does not cover this kind of pirated material and it’s a grey area.

      If your wi-fi router is not securely encrypted there is a possibility that others can connect and steal your bandwidth and download files that could result in you as the internet account holder being sent an infringement notice. See our general advice for securing your wi-fi connection.

  26. richie says:

    What is the difference between recording a video clip on tv and downloading a video clip on youtube? They both can be viewed for free, and yet it can be seen as illegal to download a video clip off of youtube..

  27. Confused says:

    Hi there,

    I realise that it is illegal to download TV shows, but is it illegal to watch them online (streaming)?


  28. Rose says:

    Is it illegal to upload songs to You Tube? Hits by The Beatles etc.

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi Rose, the short answer is yes, especially songs by well known artists such as the Beatles. The song is owned by the copyright holder and even though you may have purchased the song on a CD or download you don’t own the rights to reuse or share the song in this way. Check out YouTube’s Copyright Education information at for more details on using songs in your videos

  29. Lewis says:

    I now this thread is old before anyone says why are you writing a comment 3 months later.

    I haven read all the above comments and I don’t think the original question is right. The question should be ‘Is it illegal to upload videos and music to Youtube for others to view or download?’

    The way copyright is written for music and video is that it is illegal to share. This would include allowing others to watch or listen to what you have purchased.

    Example 1

    I purchase a CD, I play it in the car with my wife in the car. I am in theory breaking the copyright laws and so is my wife as she hasn’t paid the privilege to listen to it. I am the one who has bought the copyright to be allowed to own the material.
    Right or wrong? You decide. It depends how you interpret the copyright laws.

    Example 2

    I rent a film from Blockbusters. The account is in my name. I pay for the right to watch the film. I get home and allow my wife and kids to watch the film. I am in theory breaking the copyright laws along with my wife and kids. Well children under a certain age aren’t legally accountable, the parent is. Technically my wife and kids would have to pay a fee to rent the film, Just like they would have to pay to watch a film at the cinema.

    The copyright laws in the UK are old and need revising more so when the likes of Apple’s iTunes Match service. If you don’t know what this is then let me explain. In the UK it costs £22/year to have the capability to have you music collection (purchased through iTunes or not) in the cloud. This then allows you to download your music where every you like. You can download music to up to 10 devices (Apple’s devices i.e. iPhones, iPods, Mac Book and PC’s with iTunes software). I have no idea what this £22/year covers but I imagine it is for renting server space and maintenance. This service also allows you have music enhanced in quality. By this I mean you can rip a CD at 128kbps have iTunes Match scan it, match it to the same CD on iTunes and then has it stored on the cloud you subscribe to. You can then download it at 256kbps, but only if iTunes Match matched it.

    I have concerns over the legality of this service, but Apple being Apple I doubt they are breaking the law.

    I have 20gb of music on the cloud. Not a great amount but if I downloaded it might be twice this size. Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is that Apple have created a music sharing system where by others who have your login details can then download music you have uploaded or iTunes Match matched to what they already have.

    My wife and I both have an iPhone 4. We both use the same iTunes account. This enables us to utilise the photo stream system (allows me to take a photo and it pop up on my wifes phone without me sending it her). But if I purchase music from iTunes that I want my wife can then download it for free. So i question the copyright laws for digital media etc.

    The laws are out of date. If I was sharing music on a massive scale then by all means prosecute me. If I was downloading music at an obscene rate then by all means prosecute me. Is it fair to prosecute someone for downloading the odd song/album. I have a massive CD collection in the attic and I roughly know what is up there, but last year my computers HDD packed up and I lost all my music. Instead of ripping all the CD’s to the new HDD I downloaded them through Bit Torrent. Is this illegal. Yes. But then again I have already purchased the rights to these albums so technically no. If I got caught I could face an unlimited fine and up to 10 years in prison.

    No one can claim they know what a song is worth until the song has been sold by a certain amount. To produce a song or film there is a fee for a number of factors. Studio hire, equipment, actors etc. If a film cost £100 million to make and only one person watched it that person would have to pay the full cost to view it. But the makers of the film don’t know how many people will watch it. The same goes for music. Songs on iTunes cost between 69p to 99p. Do I think this is reasonable, well in a way yes but when you think how many people will purchase the song then I might think not.

    example – Gotye – Somebody I Used To Know is top of the charts in 15 countries and has been reported to have sold 8,000,000 copies of the single.

    Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know has gone on to reach 8 × Platinum (8,000,000 units sold) status and is 99p on iTunes. The math is mind blowing 99p x 8,000,000 = £7,920,000.

    It did not cost that to write, produce, record and distribute just one song. Imagine the album it is on (Making Mirrors) sold just half the amount of singles sold. £7.99 x 4,000,000 = £31,960,000. iTunes prices.

    My verdict on the copyright laws are not just that of being out of date but as ridiculous.

    For an album to possibly make £32 million by writing 12 songs is mind blowing. I have no idea what Gotye would make after record company fees etc but I doubt he will be poor. Add to this the money he’ll make from a world tour (even if only to the 15 countries his song is in the top of the charts). Say UK tickets were £35 and at Shepherds Bush Empire with 2000 capacity. Thats £70000 per gig (I imagine 2 gigs per venue). Again I doubt he isn’t making money.

    I could use another artist to give examples but I think you’ve got the point.

    Factor in what is called illegal downloads, whether through Youtube or other means I really don’t think the music/film industry is in real trouble. Before the internet it was cassette tape. I use to copy other peoples tapes. Back then it was far easier and more common than record labels and artists would like you to believe.

    Is it illegal to download something off the internet that someone has made a lot of money from? Legally yes, morally no.

    I think a cap to the profit made by an artist or movie studio should be set and then after that their material can be downloaded with no consequences.

    That’s what I think.

  30. Corey says:

    awwwww… cool story.
    If you commit a crime, you do the time.

  31. James says:

    Chris, please explain to me why steaming isn’t downloading?

    • Chris Hails says:

      Hi James – the details of the 2011 law is the issue and it specifies peer to peer technologies to cover torrents in particular.

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