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Legalness of Bittorent sites and downloading.

Old 05-02-09, 12:52 PM
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Pheard
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Legalness of Bittorent sites and downloading.

I really don't want this to get taken to PnR, I'm really only seeking pure fact on the matter.

I'm wondering what the law says. Is it legal for the bittorent sites to do what they do? Is it legal to download from them? I was reading that one of the leading bittorent sites avoids violating US law by keeping their servers in sweden where it's protected by sweden's looser laws. Other than morally it seems legal to me. Recently I acquired a program that normally costs alot off a bittorent site, and then I thought to myself, if this is against the law and I can get dinged for it, I'd rather just take it off my computer.
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Old 05-02-09, 12:54 PM
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It's a real fuzzy line. Just make sure that what your downloading is legit and is, in fact, free to the public.
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Old 05-02-09, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Hickeydog View Post
It's a real fuzzy line. Just make sure that what your downloading is legit and is, in fact, free to the public.
Yea I figured, everything I've downloaded isn't free to the public.. Music, etc.
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Old 05-02-09, 12:55 PM
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It's a big grey area. Honestly, I'm of the opinion that bittorrent sites are legal, but it's the users that do illegal things.

I think they're offshore servers are a lot less damaging to the US than, say, rich fat cat CEO offshore accounts...
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Obviously, the guy's like a 12th level white wizard or something. His mere presence is a danger to mortals.
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Old 05-02-09, 01:29 PM
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legality is the word i would have chosen.
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Old 05-02-09, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by botto View Post
legality is the word i would have chosen.
And your point is?
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Originally Posted by Bklyn
Obviously, the guy's like a 12th level white wizard or something. His mere presence is a danger to mortals.
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Old 05-02-09, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by SingingSabre View Post
And your point is?
botto has not point. botto needs no point.
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Originally Posted by Wordbiker View Post

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Old 05-02-09, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by SingingSabre View Post
It's a big grey area. Honestly, I'm of the opinion that bittorrent sites are legal, but it's the users that do illegal things.

I think they're offshore servers are a lot less damaging to the US than, say, rich fat cat CEO offshore accounts...
The legality of bit torrent is not a grey area. It's perfectly legitimate and has been consistently upheld in court. In fact, Comcast nearly got in big trouble (and very much should have, but the government chickened out of it) for restricting torrent bandwidth.

The grey areas can come in if there's restrictions on the files being traded via torrent. The problem is not the use of bit torrent, but the unauthorized copying or transfer of restricted files.

Copyrighted material like music and movies is the obvious example, and this is explicitly not allowed by most copyright holders. Whether or not they can catch and how they can prosecute you if they do is another grey area, but the actual legality of it is not.

Another example would be classified information, like stuff that falls under ITAR. This is much less common, but I believe there have been a couple cases that have been tried in court.


Regarding the sites that link to torrents of unauthorized content themselves, I believe these have successfully argued their status as mere indexes, not distributors of the content, but there are some who do want them held at least partially liable, including the mafiAA.
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Old 05-02-09, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by SingingSabre View Post
And your point is?
since when does foo need a point. duh.

Originally Posted by Hickeydog View Post
botto has not point. botto needs no point.
correct.
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Old 05-02-09, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by iamlucky13 View Post
The legality of bit torrent is not a grey area. It's perfectly legitimate and has been consistently upheld in court. In fact, Comcast nearly got in big trouble (and very much should have, but the government chickened out of it) for restricting torrent bandwidth.

The grey areas can come in if there's restrictions on the files being traded via torrent. The problem is not the use of bit torrent, but the unauthorized copying or transfer of restricted files.

Copyrighted material like music and movies is the obvious example, and this is explicitly not allowed by most copyright holders. Whether or not they can catch and how they can prosecute you if they do is another grey area, but the actual legality of it is not.

Another example would be classified information, like stuff that falls under ITAR. This is much less common, but I believe there have been a couple cases that have been tried in court.


Regarding the sites that link to torrents of unauthorized content themselves, I believe these have successfully argued their status as mere indexes, not distributors of the content, but there are some who do want them held at least partially liable, including the mafiAA.
I was reading that lots of music comes with a license agreement that allows whomever originally bought it to share it as long as they aren't trying to copy and sell for profit. So IMO, someone sharing music or anything with that particular license agreement isn't violating a law, or the person downloading. BUT, lots of things don't have that license agreement.

Question is, I know with the example of Napster and Limewire, they tried to make examples of people by suing them for money. My question is.. has anyone heard of anyone through a bittorent site getting sued? Is there any chance of some kind of criminal action? I mean if what I've downloaded is illegal I'll gladly delete it right now. But I can't find an official documentation about the law telling me one way or the other. I've just heard lots of people's opinions about morally what's right and wrong and what they think is the law. I don't know who's right.
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Old 05-02-09, 03:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Pheard View Post
I was reading that lots of music comes with a license agreement that allows whomever originally bought it to share it as long as they aren't trying to copy and sell for profit. So IMO, someone sharing music or anything with that particular license agreement isn't violating a law, or the person downloading. BUT, lots of things don't have that license agreement.

Question is, I know with the example of Napster and Limewire, they tried to make examples of people by suing them for money. My question is.. has anyone heard of anyone through a bittorent site getting sued? Is there any chance of some kind of criminal action? I mean if what I've downloaded is illegal I'll gladly delete it right now. But I can't find an official documentation about the law telling me one way or the other. I've just heard lots of people's opinions about morally what's right and wrong and what they think is the law. I don't know who's right.
Sorry, the following turned into a long post as I was typing. Bottom line, if something doesn't say whether or not it can be shared, you shouldn't do it.

The music with the open license, typically creative commons or a similar generic license, is going to be primarily independent bands. Some of it can be shared, but some of it probably specifies that even though the music is free it needs to be obtained from the artist (I'm more familiar with the software side of copyright law, although I am not a lawyer). It's considered up to the user to determine that before downloading or sharing someone else's work. Almost anything produced through a major record label is going to be copyrighted under very restricted terms. From what I remember, if a copyrighted work has no statement granting license to reproduce, none is given nor can be assumed.

Yeah it's complicated, but that's how the law tends to get when there's 300 million people's interests involved.

I would have to go searching for cases to be certain, but I'm 90% sure bit torrent users have been sued for sharing music and movies via that means. Typically, they don't go after the downloaders, they go after the people offering the files for download, the seeders, because they're easier to identify and they can rack up higher legal damages. Recently some appeals judges have overturned some of the original rulings against those people on the basis that the RIAA/MPAA's arguments of culpability don't fit the actual law, but this is one of those grey areas I mentioned.

This is still a matter of hot debate in the courts, which is part of why there is no clear guidelines.

Personally, I stopped downloading music years ago, but I never deleted the collection I had. Instead I focused on buying the stuff in my collection I truly liked on CD (and ripping the discs to my hard drive which is completely legal). I haven't been able to justify to myself violating the terms under which people release their hard work to the public, even if I think the terms are often poorly considered.

One very positive outcome of this long legal issue that is still developing is that although the record companies still tend to act like boat anchors, the artists and big third-party distributors like Apple have established a reputable means to legally buy music online, and for those that wish, to even distribute some of it free. The record companies originally tried to crush all non-physical media, including back-up copies for personal use, but more sensible heads are slowly prevailing and we're getting more options to buy media, with fewer record company hoops to jump through. Hopefully this will evolve into the record companies becoming largely obsolete, and more of the money going to the actual artists instead of RIAA.
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