Is it legal to download internet video streams?

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  • Places like and stream their shows. It is legal to record shows off of TV (with a VCR or Tivo for example), right? So recording internet broadcasts should be legal as well, right? If so, what are the legal ways in which I can record these? Must I use a screen capture program to record these shows? Can I download the .flv files from the websites directly or is that legally different?

    I'm fairly convinced that screen recording streamed shows is legal (please tell me if I'm wrong!), but I'm not sure if it's legal to download the files directly instead. Downloading would be nice because of the better quality.
  • What are you doing with the shows after you download them? In the Sony Betamax case, the Court said that recording TV shows to watch at a later time (the Court called it time-shifting) was permissible. If you are recording/downloading from the Internet for your own personal use to watch later, it is likely that this use is permissible. If, on the other hand, you are downloading for other uses - for example, to mount on your own website or YouTube or elsewhere on the Internet, to share the files with others, to add to library collections, to distribute, etc. - then your downloading and subsequent uses might be infringement.

    Also - regardless of your intended use of the downloaded shows - if the website specifically prohibits downloading, or if you've clicked on a license agreeing not to download, or if you've entered into some other contract not to download (perhaps through purchasing a subscription to the videostreaming website), your subsequent downloading could be copyright infringement.

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