How to View/Download Blocked Videos on YouTube

You may come across a link from time to time on YouTube where there is a notice that the video has been removed by a rights holder. It looks like the homepage but the notice will appear in a red box along the top of the window. It turns out that these videos are usually just blocked geographically, where a rights-holder in that country has complained. This means it may be viewable in other countries.

You might be curious about what the video contained if it was not just your typical major movie, TV, clip or music video. Sometimes it is a news report or original reporting that contains a fair use clips and a false DMCA takedown has been issued to censor the clip like the recent report about a child being groped by the TSA “for the greater good” (this uploading of the clip has not been removed, others have). Well, there is a way to watch the video.
It is not only possible to watch banned videos on YouTube, but it is also possible to download any video. The ability to watch, download and then share banned videos may be of particular interests to people living under repressive regimes, reporters, and others. Here is how you do it:
Tor allows you to bounce your web traffic of a volunteer’s server in another country. In our case this is useful in disguising our real location from YouTube’s servers. Tor is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems. Vidalia is a Tor application that will work with the Torbutton add-on for Firefox. This will allow you to access videos through Firefox. In order to use Torbutton you must also use Vidalia. Or, you can use Tor Browser which is Vidalia along with a version of Firefox with Torbutton already installed. You will want to use Firefox anyway since this is also how you would download the video (more on this below). You might not want to use Tor for all of your browsing since it makes it a little slower and make websites appear in other languages. However, some people do use it for all of their browsing out of privacy concerns.
When you find a page that has a link to a YouTube video on a Google search or on a blog, and it is not available because of a violation, click the back button, fire up Vidalia, turn on Tor browsing with the Torbutton, and go to the link again. Now it may not be viewable, but if you do not get the message in red (which may be in another language), you are still good. If you still get the message, click the button Use a New Identity in Vidalia and then stop and restart Tor, and visit the link again. You may need to do this several times until you are linked to a Tor node who’s country YouTube has not blocked for this particular video (ie, a country that does not have a company operating inside it with supposed distribution rights). Refreshing will not work since YouTube redirects you to a new URL stating the video has been blocked. I do it by copying and pasting the link after each reconnect. Note that this will not work for videos that have been deleted by the user, only where the video is being blocked geographically. It will also not work when the entire domain has been blocked by a country.

Now that you at least have the video’s frame appearing as pictured above, you can download it. Use the Firefox Add-on called Download YouTube Videos as MP4 (screenshot below). This makes a download menu appear below the video. Sometimes YouTube download scripts like this one stop working because YouTube may change something on their end that does not make this possible anymore. Hopefully there will be an update for the add-on soon after this happens. Otherwise, just do a search for: [download youtube video firefox] to find the latest working add-on or script.

You can’t expect everyone to jump through the hoops you did to get it to play. Now that you have downloaded the video, you may want to upload and share it on a less popular video sharing site or file hosting site so it is not as visible to rights holders or repressive regimes (which are the same thing, sometimes), but still embed it on your blog. 

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