By Harry McCracken | Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 12:33 pm
Some observant folks noticed last month that YouTube was dabbling with letting users download videos from the site to their hard drives. The YouTube blog just made it official: The company is permitting content providers to allow their videos to be downloaded, either for a fee (via Google Checkout) or for free.
It still sounds fairly experimental: YouTube is only working with a few content sources, including Stanford, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Khan Academy, HouseholdHacker, and PogoBat. And even with them, the download option isn’t universally available–actually, I’m not seeing it on any of the first half-dozen videos I’ve checked.
This isn’t earthshaking news–for one thing, tools like KeepVid have allowed YouTube fans to snag videos and save them for a long time. The YouTube videos are in unprotected MPEG4 format: I assume this means that YouTube isn’t going to enable downloading on the massive amount of stuff it offers that consists of short, unauthorized clips of copyrighted material. And while YouTube is also experimenting with streaming official versions of Hollywood content, it seems unlikely that the entertainment industry is ready to allow DRM-free downloads of current shows. At least right now.