I'm taking a paid online course in which the videos are streamed through Flash. After much trouble such as quality fluctuations, unexpected changes in playback speed and frozen screens (also experienced by other users), I've decided to download the videos using an add-on for Firefox.

That, however, violates the terms of service, even though I obviously don't intend to make any commercial use of the videos and I'm going to be the only one watching them. I'd like to know if the content provider can notice, using some kind of heuristic, that I'm not streaming the videos but downloading them.

I've been careful not to download a whole bunch of classes in a short period of time (before they'd have finished streaming if I were watching them), and in order to emulate an expected bandwidth usage I've been setting the videos at the end before I begin downloading them - even though that probably doesn't make any sense. I'd be glad if someone could illuminate me on that.


I've decided to download the videos using an add-on for Firefox.

As far as I know these add-ons, download works by going through the full video stream and saving it permanently. So they make exactly the same request as you would do whilst watching the stream.

If the content provider does not serve another direct download method, the only way to reach the content is by streaming (you get the same application/octet-stream), while a direct download would serve you something like video/mp4.

So I say, it's most likely undetectable. But if you paid for the content, the legal side is not something to worry about.

  • Lets suppose I am using aria2 with max-connection-per-server=1, would it be detectable? – zindarod May 5 '18 at 9:15

The short answer is potentially. It's really a matter of their level of logging/how the plugin requests the data. If the plugin submits the request for the video in the exact same fashion as the regular flash plugin, then no. If it does not request it in the same fashion, then they could look through their logs to see how your requests differ from regular requests (User agent, request frequency, etc.)

I'm not entirely certain what you mean by setting it at the end, but that likely makes your request pattern stand out compared to the standard requests, since most requests for videos will start at the beginning.

On the ethical side of things, it might make more sense to request that the provider fix their service or find an alternative online course provider. Your actions sound reasonable to me, but the service provider may not see it that way.

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