From viral videos and educational tutorials to personal vlogs and insightful documentaries, YouTube is the ultimate place to discover new sources of knowledge and inspiration.
Not all videos are accessible to the general public, though; some are locked behind a virtual curtain labelled as "private." If you've stumbled upon a YouTube video that piques your interest, but it's marked as one, don't worry.
In this article, we'll guide you through the process of how to watch a private YouTube video.
What is a private YouTube video?
A YouTube private video is a clip that is uploaded to the platform but is not visible to the general public.
Instead, it’s restricted to a select group of people that the video uploader chooses.
Private videos are not displayed on Google search results, the creator's video list, or any external search engines, either. Consequently, these videos will not show up in the suggested video lists that typically pop up in your viewing options. Private videos do not trigger notifications for subscribers, either.
To access private content, you must be part of the selected audience invited through email or other means by the video creator.
How to watch private videos on YouTube
Watching private YouTube videos without proper authorisation, such as without the video owner's consent, is impossible at this point. It's also against YouTube's terms of service and can potentially violate copyright and privacy laws.
So we'll review four ways that allow you to see a private YouTube video.
Get the YouTube video owner's permission
The most common and legitimate way to access private YouTube videos is through an invitation from the video owner: they send you an email invitation via YouTube, allowing you to watch the video.
When a YouTube video is marked as private, the video owner, who is usually the uploader, has the exclusive authority to invite specific users to view it. This invitation includes a link that grants access to the private video.
To watch the video, follow the link in the email and log in to your YouTube account. Then, you'll be able to view the private video.
How do I know if I can watch private YouTube videos?
If a video creator has given you permission to view their private video, you typically receive an email invitation. Navigate to your email inbox and look for a message from the creator's channel. If you've indeed been invited to watch a private video, this email will provide a direct link to access the video.
Receive collaboration request from the video owner
If the video owner is using the video for collaboration, they may invite you to collaborate on it through the YouTube platform, so you just need to accept this invitation to access the video.
If that's the case, you'll receive a notification or email from the video owner. Then just accept the collaboration request through the notification or email, which will grant you access to the video as a collaborator.
As a collaborator, you may have permission to edit or comment on the video, depending on the owner's settings.
Get direct URL (if shared)
Another way to get access to a private video on YouTube is get the direct URL the video owner shares. If you receive this link, use it to access the video.
Then simply click on the link, log in to your YouTube account, and view the private video. But note that these direct URLs are not publicly accessible or searchable.
View video cache
For that, you should use a utility called VideoCacheView which keeps a record of all the videos you've watched. This means that if a video you've previously seen becomes private, you can search for it in your video cache.
Some other articles covering this subject claim you can simply delete the word “watch” from the URL that has been given to you by the video owner and thus access the private video for good without even signing in to YouTube. This method isn’t working.
Private videos on YouTube: FAQ
What's the difference between private, unlisted, and public videos on YouTube?
YouTube offers three different privacy settings for videos: private, unlisted, and public. Each setting serves a distinct purpose and determines who can view your video. Here's a breakdown of the differences:
Private videos are the most restricted visibility-wise. They're not visible to anyone except the uploader and any YouTube accounts the uploader explicitly invites to view the video.
Unlisted videos are not publicly listed on your YouTube channel or in search results, but they are accessible to anyone who has the direct URL to the video. In other words, they are semi-private. They are often used when you want to share a video with a broader audience but do not want it to be discoverable through search or recommended videos.
Public videos are visible to anyone and can be found through search results, on your YouTube channel, and in related video recommendations.
Is it legal to watch YouTube private videos?
It's not illegal but respecting the choices made by content creators regarding the privacy settings of their videos is, well, vital. When someone uploads a video to YouTube, they become the rightful owner of that content. This ownership grants them the authority to decide who can view it, and as a viewer, it's crucial to respect their creative control and privacy preferences.
Accessing or attempting to access private videos that contain copyrighted material without proper authorisation can lead to copyright infringement issues.
In many cases, private videos contain personal, sensitive, or copyrighted material that the owner may not wish to share with the general public. Attempting to access such videos without the owner's consent is a violation of their personal boundaries and privacy.
Why can't I watch a private video I have access to?
Ensure you're signed in to the specific YouTube account to which the invitation was sent. If you have multiple YouTube accounts, verify that you are signed in to the relevant account for access.
Besides, trying to watch the video while your browser is in Incognito or Private mode might also lead to the issue. In these modes, you won't be automatically signed in to your YouTube account, which means you won't have the required access to view the private video.
Private videos cannot be watched via Google Workspaces for Education services, either.
How to share private videos on YouTube
Sharing private videos on YouTube means inviting specific users to view your video, and here's how it's done:
- First, you need to upload the video to your YouTube channel.
- During the upload process, set the video's privacy setting to "Private." This option is available in the video details section.
- To share the private video, navigate to the video by clicking on your profile picture in the upper right corner and selecting "YouTube Studio." Then, go to the "Videos" tab and click on the private video you wish to share.
- On the video page, click on the "Share" button below the video player.
- In the pop-up window, you'll see an option to invite people via email. Enter the email addresses of the individuals you want to share the video with.
You can customise the access level for each invited person: give them viewing, commenting, or editing access, depending on your collaboration needs.
6. Once you've added email addresses and customised access levels, click the "Send" button to send out the invitations. The recipients will receive an email with a link to access the private video.
You can monitor who has accepted the invitation and has access to the video from the "Video details" page in YouTube Studio.
Can I download a YouTube private video?
Yes, but only if you already have access to watch it. 4K Video Downloader+ or Freemake can help you save YouTube private content.