How to Listen to YouTube Videos When You Can’t Watch Them

Did you ever find an interesting video on YouTube, like a great Ted Talks or something like it, but just can’t seem to find the time to watch it? Wouldn’t it be nice to maybe just listen to it while you worked on something else, or went to the gym, or anywhere else a Wi-Fi signal might be lacking? The option to do that is pretty simple, really, and there is quick way (or two… or more) to do it. Let’s take a look at how we can convert the files easily, using the most convenient way I have found.

First, the legal caveat: Fair Use allows you to use this material in such a manner, as long as you follow some simple rules set forth by YouTube. Here are the four factors of Fair Use, as listed on YouTube’s Fair Use page:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

Courts typically focus on whether the use is “transformative.” That is, whether it adds new expression or meaning to the original, or whether it merely copies from the original. Commercial uses are less likely to be considered fair, though it’s possible to monetize a video and still take advantage of the fair use defense.

2. The nature of the copyrighted work

Using material from primarily factual works is more likely to be fair than using purely fictional works.

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

Borrowing small bits of material from an original work is more likely to be considered fair use than borrowing large portions. However, even a small taking may weigh against fair use in some situations if it constitutes the “heart” of the work.

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

Uses that harm the copyright owner’s ability to profit from his or her original work are less likely to be fair uses. Courts have sometimes made an exception under this factor in cases involving parodies.

In essence, if you plan to use the material(s) for personal use, not manipulate it, and not use it for monetary gain, in may fall under the Fair Use umbrella. However, you should do your own research on this topic to gain a better understanding of determining factors. You can check out YouTube’s Fair Use information at, and its Copyright information at

OK, on with the show…

There are several sites that will allow you to convert from the YouTube video directly into an audio file (MP3 being the most popular). Here are a few:

The instructions are essentially the same for any of the websites listed above (I will use the first link above to demonstrate here). First find the video clip you want to convert. Below the video there is a button labeled “Share.” The accompanying icon is an arrow, as shown here:


Copy and paste the URL that is given to you.



Paste that link into the conversion website. You may have to go through some options (audio file type – all generally default to MP3, download location, etc.).





On a Mac, it will download directly to the Downloads folder.



On a Windows-based PC you will be given the option to choose your download location.

Finally, just load the audio file onto your player of choice. See, I told you it was easy.

Steve Holsonback
Instructional Media Design Specialist
Center for Academic & Professional Excellence
Ext. 3425


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