Be careful, most YouTube ripping sites are now logging user data

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YouTube, Top 10 Zim YouTube Channels

We are always saying this but it’s true. Data is expensive in Zimbabwe which is a little odd considering YouTube, one of the most data-intensive sites out there, has been consistently one of the most visited sites in the country. The clever ones have found ways to enjoy their YouTube clips without having to visit the site every time. They use YouTube rippers.

What’s a YouTube ripping site?

Using sites known as YouTube rippers results in massive data savings. Let’s say you and your friends enjoy a show like Comic Pastor’s monthly awards, Bus Stop TV’s regular skits or even Jah Prayzah. Instead of buying data to go on YouTube every time you want to watch:

  • You just visit a ripper site like or
  • You paste the URL of the video you want in a provided field click convert or download and the video is saved to your device in your preferred format.

Now you can watch it as many times as you want on your phone or tablet. You can even share and send it via WhatsApp (remember most people are on WhatsApp only bundles in Zimbabwe) or even watch it on your DVD player. Put on a flash drive and share it with friends and so on.

There is just one problem. A lot of content creators, copyright holders and sometimes YouTube hates it when you do this. Some rightsholders even equate it to piracy, especially where music videos and movies are involved. YouTube makes money by showing ads alongside videos and creators, directly and indirectly, make more when they have more views on YouTube.

About three years ago music labels including Warner Bros and Sony decided to do something about it. They took the most popular stream-ripping sites to court for copyright infringement. In fact, over the years they have gone after stream-ripping sites and tools including the venerable YouTube-DL tool. Some of these sites including the aforementioned and have been making deals with the rightsholders.

A few of these sites are now making a deliberate attempt to stop you from ripping YouTube videos that feature popular known tracks. If you try to do so you get an error. That’s not in itself alarming. What is alarming is the news that some of these sites are now logging extensive data about you every time you visit them. If you inadvertently download a copyrighted video that data can be used against you.

Use Youtube-dl instead when you want to rip YouTube videos

As always nothing in the foregoing should be misconstrued as supporting piracy. It is always your responsibility to determine whether downloading a given YouTube video constitutes piracy. A lot of creators want their videos to be downloaded. I will just assume you have done your homework and really want to download a video without having your data logged by some third party or facing restrictions.

  • Install YouTube-DL for your platform. There are so many ways to do this and for Windows users there is even a .exe file. Be mindful that this is a command line tool. That might make it intimidating but it also makes is very powerful.
  • Open a browser and visit the video you want
  • Copy the video from the browser
  • Open a terminal and download the video using Youtube-Dl. You just type youtube-dl followed by various options and then the url of the video. All available options can be found here including explanations can be found here.

NB. If you are overwhelmed by the options you can try these quick commands instead:

  • youtube-dl -f ‘bestvideo[ext=mp4]+bestaudio[ext=m4a]/bestvideo+bestaudio’ –merge-output-format mp4 “link to youtube video” or
  • youtube-dl -f ‘bestvideo[height<=1080]+bestaudio/best[height<=1080]’ “link to youtube video” or
  • youtube-dl -f ‘best[filesize<50M]’ “link to youtube video”

Those square brackets are not optional, they are required. You can put the full link to the video. So for example let us say you want to download Alan Walker’s popular soundtrack Fade and want the best 1080p video you use the following link:

  • youtube-dl -f ‘bestvideo[height<=1080]+bestaudio/best[height<=1080]’

YouTube-DL will handle the download process and join the best audio and video for you. You can even convert this into an MP3 if you want which can be useful if you want to use it in your own videos be it on YouTube, Instagram or wherever.

P.S Alan Walker’s Fade is free to download and use as much as you want. All NCS made songs are “free”. You can always support the artists by paying for the soundtrack if you want but you don’t have to.


What’s your take?

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  1. Always off Topic

    This is absolutely ridiculous , why do the copyright owners go after third party service providers and individuals when they should be going after YouTube for providing the API that enables all of this.
    A better program to use for the more sophisticated (Yes sophisticated people use apps with a Gui, command line utilities are so like 1990 ), is FreeDownloadManager (just google it), where all you have to do is paste the url of the video and the app will load up all the video and audio quality download options, just pick one and download, complete with resume and download acceleration.

    1. Big Brrr

      exactly. I support you on that

    2. The Empress

      They go after those sitesbecause they are clearly breaking the law and also breaking the YouTube user agreement. These big companies signed deals for a cut of the revenue that YouTube earns from showing adverts on these music videos etc. But these pirate sites are just outright stealing content and those that use these sites are also thieves in the eyes of the Law no matter what excuse they use as justification. So the your favourite download site has been oparating for years doesn’t mean that what they’re doing is legal it just means either
      (1) that even after all these years they still flying under the radar and are still a small site that’s not yet big enough to grab the Big media companies attention. Meaning effort required to close down the site isn’t equivalent to the gain.
      (2) it’s server’s or site address are in a country that has…shall we call it flexible interpretations of copyright law😏
      (3) Or all of the above reasons at once.

    3. FlashGet OG

      3rd parties are an easy fixed target. Going after actual individual alleged infringers would be inefficient until they have an actual database to raid. Think of this as step one. Youtube itself does enough to provide plausible deniability. If you have been “collecting” videos long enough, you would have gone through at least a couple of download apocalypses where utilities were disabled on mass by some back end tweaks.

  2. Imi vanhu musadaro

    “A lot of creators want their videos to be downloaded.”, if they did, they would just put a download link to Google drive or some other free cloud storage in the description (as those that want that actually do). Even if content is “free”, it is free to view/listen to, not to download. The lack of copyright doesn’t supercede the ToS of YouTube.

    Piracy is piracy and the rights of contents creators should be upheld. This is a means of income for some local and foreign content creators. It’s thus quite irresponsible to provide a means to circumvent these rights and think a disclaimer of it being a person’s responsibility is enough.

  3. Samsung User

    For us data poor Zimbos we can use YouTube go,A lighter version of YouTube…. You can even mirror your phone to your smart TV If like me you want to watch your stuff on big screen think that’s a lot more safer & cheaper than using apps like Vidmate…It’s just riskier to use those online converting sites & YouTube go offers a clean Interface as well as pretty good data savings….