Any kind of potentially copyright-related YouTube usage can get murky, that includes educational use.
Unfortunately, while many services and laws make exceptions or allowances for educational use, copyright law is not inherently one of them. This does not mean that YouTube is off-limits for educational use, but it is important to understand what constitutes a breach of copyright.
Of course, it wouldn’t be murky if we could just tell you exactly what constitutes a copyright violation in all cases. The reality is far too messy, and often on a case-by-case basis. It is not unusual for certain examples of copyright infringement to remain questionable until there is a court case to settle it.
Fortunately, it is entirely possible to use YouTube for educational purposes in such a way that the question of copyright infringement never needs to rear its ugly head.
What Constitutes Educational?
It is important to understand the word “educational” in a copyright/license sense before grabbing YouTube content, as some YouTubers permit the use of their content for educational purposes.
The first thing to note is that if you are making a profit from the content itself—such as selling an online course and including the content in the course—you are unlikely to get the benefit of the doubt from any content creator. To be considered legitimately educational, you would need to be part of an educational institution, such as a school or university. In almost all cases, if you are working outside of those institutional frameworks, you will struggle to convince any copyright holders or service providers that you are educational.
YouTube Terms of Service
Another important thing to consider is the YouTube Terms of Service, which apply regardless of how you use the content. One particularly relevant point is YouTube’s stance on downloading their content, which is don’t. It is not allowed to download videos from YouTube for any purpose, which means it is not permissible to download videos for educational purposes.
This may not seem like a problem at first, but when combined with the fact that it is also not permitted to broadcast or display YouTube content, it starts to put a bit of a roadblock in the way of using the platform for educational reasons.
Essentially, it means you would be breaking YouTube terms of service by playing a YouTube video to a class of students, but you would also be breaking the terms of service by downloading the content you wish to show and playing that to your class.
How to Use YouTube for Educational Purposes
So, with that in mind, how do you use YouTube videos for educational purposes? The chances of you being caught playing videos in a primary school classroom are pretty slim, but we wouldn’t advise taking chances like that. No matter how slim the risk of being caught is, you are still breaking the terms and conditions.
In all likelihood, the worst YouTube would do is ban a user for violating their terms of service (though legal action is not impossible). However, if you are breaking the terms using an account that represents the educational institution you work for, you could end up getting the entire school in trouble with YouTube, which could see your employer take disciplinary action against you.
So let’s talk about how you can use it.
Sharing YouTube Videos
If the reason you are sharing the videos does not require them to be watching in real-time together, you can always just share the link to the video with your students in the same way you would share the video with friends. There is no rule against sharing the content (as long as you’re not charging people for the link), and anything your students do with the content after that would be their responsibility.
Getting Content From the Source
It may be against YouTube’s terms to broadcast YouTube or play it to large groups of people, and it may be against their terms to download content from YouTube, but the restrictions only refer to the platform, not the content itself.
If there is a piece of content that you think would serve your educational purposes, consider contacting the owner of that content directly and asking them about using it. If they are okay with this, you can also ask them if it would be possible to send you the content directly, so you can play the media without using YouTube.
It should be noted that there is no practical way for YouTube to catch you downloading their content in the vast majority of cases, especially if you have the permission of the creator to use that content. But, once again, it is against their terms of service, so you are taking a risk if you do that.
Most YouTubers are already putting their content out for “free” in a sense and should be open to the idea of their content being played in an educational setting, even if they would not be getting views for it.
Create Your Own Content
In much the same way that the above suggestion gets around the various problems with YouTube’s terms, so too does creating your own content. And, in creating your own content, you can ensure that it shows exactly what you want it to show.
You will still be subject to YouTube’s terms about broadcasting and playing YouTube to groups of people, but you will also be in possession of the original files, so you won’t need YouTube. And, as a nice aside, your content could be made publicly available and, eventually, monetised.
While YouTube doesn’t make any special concessions for educational use, the restrictions it places on the use of its platform should not pose any significant hurdle to someone looking to use YouTube to educate. Whether you are a teacher looking to use informative content that is already there, or someone looking to create the informative content for others, there are ways to make it all work!
Top 5 Tools To Get You Started on YouTube
Very quickly before you go here are 5 amazing tools I have used every day to grow my YouTube channel from 0 to 30K subscribers in the last 12 months that I could not live without.
1. VidIQ helps boost my views and get found in search
I almost exclusively switched to VidIQ from a rival in 2020.
2. Adobe Creative Suite helps me craft amazing looking thumbnails and eye-catching videos
I have been making youtube videos on and off since 2013.
When I first started I threw things together in Window Movie Maker, cringed at how it looked but thought “that’s the best I can do so it’ll have to do”.
I soon realized the move time you put into your editing and the more engaging your thumbnails are the more views you will get and the more people will trust you enough to subscribe.
That is why I took the plunge and invested in my editing and design process with Adobe Creative Suite. They offer a WIDE range of tools to help make amazing videos, simple to use tools for overlays, graphics, one click tools to fix your audio and the very powerful Photoshop graphics program to make eye-catching thumbnails.
Best of all you can get a free trial for 30 days on their website, a discount if you are a student and if you are a regular human being it starts from as little as £9 per month if you want to commit to a plan.
3. Rev.com helps people read my videos
You can’t always listen to a video.
Maybe you’re on a bus, a train or sat in a living room with a 5 year old singing baby shark on loop… for HOURS. Or, you are trying to make as little noise as possible while your new born is FINALLY sleeping.
This is where Rev can help you or your audience consume your content on the go, in silence or in a language not native to the video.
Rev.com can help you translate your videos, transcribe your videos, add subtitles and even convert those subtitles into other languages – all from just $1.50 per minute.
A GREAT way to find an audience and keep them hooked no matter where they are watching your content.
4. PlaceIT can help you STAND OUT on YouTube
I SUCK at making anything flashy or arty.
I have every intention in the world to make something that looks cool but im about as artistic as a dropped ice-cream cone on the web windy day.
That is why I could not live on YouTube without someone like PlaceIT. They offer custom YouTube Banners, Avatars, YouTube Video Intros and YouTube End Screen Templates that are easy to edit with simple click, upload wizard to help you make amazing professional graphics in minutes.
Best of all, some of their templates are FREE! or you can pay a small fee if you want to go for their slightly more premium designs (pst – I always used the free ones).
5. StoryBlocks helps me add amazing video b-roll cutaways
I mainly make tutorials and talking head videos.
And in this modern world this can be a little boring if you don’t see something funky every once in a while.
I try with overlays, jump cuts and being funny but my secret weapon is b-roll overlay content.
I can talk about skydiving, food, money, kids, cats – ANYTHING I WANT – with a quick search on the StoryBlocks website I can find a great looking clip to overlay on my videos, keeping them entertained and watching for longer.
They have a wide library of videos, graphics, images and even a video maker tool and it wont break the bank with plans starting from as little as £8.25 ($9) per month.