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403 Error


This error usually occurs when downloading m3u8 videos. HLS(m3u8) is a streaming protocol built on top of the HTTP(s) protocol. The HTTP 403 Forbidden error indicates that the server refuses to authorize the request.

The reason for the error can be summarized in the following situations. Some of these situations are fixable.


1. Protected Keys

Some video server extended the m3u8 protocol and used techniques such as dynamic tokens to protect keys. These keys are used to decrypt the downloaded video. Since keys are still transmitted over the network, WhaleDown still has a way to get keys.

In this case, please use WhaleDown to launch Google Chrome and browse the relevant page. WhaleDown will cache the keys according to their characteristics and pass them to the downloader.


Document External Browsers explains how to use Google Chrome with WhaleDown.

2. Dynamic Tokens

Sometimes video servers use dynamic tokens to protect manifest(m3u8) files. At this point, the detector looked like this,

  • playlist-2.m3u8?token=DYNAMIC_PLAYLIST_TOKEN_2
  • playlist-1.m3u8?token=DYNAMIC_PLAYLIST_TOKEN_1
  • master.m3u8?token=MASTER_TOKEN

master.m3u8 contains links to playlist-1.m3u8 and playlist-2.m3u8. However, since dynamic tokens are used, the token in the link is already inconsistent with the one detected above. Downloading master.m3u8 directly will cause the server to return a 403 error.

In this case, download the detector playlist manifest at the top every time. Because it already contains the correct token.

3. DRM

The use of DRM(Digital rights management) technology has further strengthened the protection of videos by the HLS(m3u8) protocol. Major tech companies are developing their own DRM technology.

For example, Apple developed FairPlay Streaming technology. The key used to decrypt the video is no longer transmitted through HTTP(s) protocol. As a result, WhaleDown can't get the key.

In this case, WhaleDown is unable to download these videos. There are both technical reasons and legal considerations.