I’m frequently asked to suggest the best programs for downloading YouTube videos. However, even though I know of several, I always decline. That’s because downloading videos from YouTube without the permission of YouTube or the video’s owners is not only a violation of your terms of service with Google but illegal.

Microsoft seems to agree. The company removed 18 projects from its GitHub site that used Youtube-dl. Youtube-dl is a code library that allowed developers to download the source audio and video behind YouTube files. The takedown came at the request of Recording Industry Association of America.

In a message to GitHub, the RIAA said, “I am contacting you on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. (RIAA) and its member record companies. The RIAA is a trade association whose member companies create, manufacture or distribute sound recordings representing approximately eighty-five (85) percent of all legitimate recorded music consumption in the United States. Under penalty of perjury, we submit that the RIAA is authorized to act on behalf of its member companies on matters involving the infringement of their sound recordings, audiovisual works and images, including enforcing their copyrights and common law rights on the Internet.”

As I’ve explained to readers multiple times, the YouTube terms of service say you may not “access, reproduce, download, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, alter, modify or otherwise use any part of the Service or any Content except: (a) as specifically permitted by the Service;  (b) with prior written permission from YouTube and, if applicable, the respective rights holders; or (c) as permitted by applicable law.”

This doesn’t mean you can’t share YouTube content. You’re absolutely free to share links to it in email, messages, or on social media. YouTube even provides embed codes that allow you to play their videos on your site.

YouTube also offers a download option for their premium subscribers that lets you download items to view offline for 48 hours. After 48 hours, the access expires.

For those of you using a program to download YouTube videos, I’d advise you to be careful. Google is pretty darn good at tracking who’s using the site and what they do there. If you illegally download videos, it’s possible the copyright holder might decide to bill you for them.

Or you could lose your Google account, which could mean goodbye to Gmail and other services.