General Question

Mariah's avatar

Is it illegal to download a torrent of a game if you already bought and own the game?

Asked by Mariah (19182 points ) July 3rd, 2011

Lately I’ve been on a nostalgia kick and I’m craving to play a computer game I played as a small child. We still have the game on CD-rom, but it ran on Windows 95 and it’s not compatible with my Windows 7 PC. I found a torrent of the game online that can run on modern computers. I don’t think it would be morally wrong at all to download it, but is it illegal? And how likely is it that I would get “caught” and fined if it is?

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14 Answers

incendiary_dan's avatar

Not really an answer to your question, but you could just download DOSbox and run it through that with the CD.

Mariah's avatar

@incendiary_dan Oh whoops, I guess we acutally own a later version that ran on Windows 95; I edited my question. Is there a Windows 95 emulator out there?

incendiary_dan's avatar

@Mariah I’m sure there is, but since I’ve only used DOSbox, I don’t know for certain. Don’t most editions of Windows have some sort of compatibility wizard?

Mariah's avatar

@incendiary_dan I dunno, last night my dad tried running it in compatibility mode on his Windows XP machine (we figured we’d have better luck on an older operating system) and the game wouldn’t open because he didn’t have the right sound card. An error message regarding that came up and it wouldn’t load past that.

SavoirFaire's avatar

This is a controversial issue in intellectual property law. Businesses tend to interpret the backup/archival clause found in most statutes differently than their customers. I’ve known lawyers who say it’s perfectly legal so long as you still have the authentic copy in hand, I’ve known lawyers who say it’s perfectly legal but you’d never win in court, and I’ve known lawyers who say it’s illegal.

Most of the people I know fall into the first two categories. The only people I know who fall into the last category are current, former, or aspiring business lawyers. My experience is limited, however, so take from that what you will. As for the likelihood of getting caught, it’s probably quite low. The likelihood of prosecution is even lower since you’d present a much harder case than people usually like to take on. No guarantees, though.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. The above is based on seminars I’ve taken on copyright law and discussions with colleagues who have studied and/or practiced copyright law. The information may be out of date or based on a misunderstanding. It is always advisable to speak to a practicing lawyer.

Mariah's avatar

@SavoirFaire Thanks! It definitely sounds unlikely that I’d experience any repercussions. It’s silly how badly I want to play this game.

Symbeline's avatar

I’ll gladly stand corrected if I’m wrong.

If you own the game and burn a copy for your own personal use, I think it’s fine. Were you to get busted, you’d be safe if you had a copy of the original. (although I denno how this works with PC game updates and stuff, they prolly have all sorts of rules)

What they’re mostly worried about is you making profit that doesn’t go to any legal sources.

Chances are though, even if you did it all wrong, you probably would never get caught. Again, don’t quote me, don’t want to get you in trouble.

MissAnthrope's avatar

If it’s an old game, the likelihood of you getting in trouble is pretty low (i.e. no one cares or is watching the torrent).

Technically, I think you would be fine, if you could show that you own a legit copy. The issue is that when these companies/entities sit on a torrent, watching the downloads and IPs, they shoot first and ask questions later.

What I mean by that is that you will get notified that they know you broke the law, blah blah, without any regard to whether you own the media or any other reasoning that might make the download okay.

My feeling, without knowing for certain, is that they might argue you broke the law simply by engaging in the sharing of an illegal torrent or something like that.

roundsquare's avatar

I don’t know the legality of this, but I’ll point out that while you download something via torrent, you’ll probably be uploading it too, which could cause other legal problems.

Vortico's avatar

You, downloading a game you own, compared to a 15-year-old with 30,000 pirated songs should be nothing to worry about.

Ivan's avatar

If the version in the torrent runs in Windows 7, that means there must be some sort of patch that allows the game to be played in newer operating systems. Perhaps Google would help you find it, although it would probably take less time and effort to just download the torrent.

Hibernate's avatar

I was about to say what @Ivan said . There must be a patch on their site or on a partner site which allows the game to run on newer operating systems .

@roundsquare when you download something via torrent you can stop a particular piece to be uploaded . Let me explain . If you download 10 movies you can block one of these to be uploaded back to others . [ this is why when you use a torrent and there are 1k leechers and 100 seeders you only download from 200 of them ( total from both classes ) This usually sucks but a lot of people do it ] .

@MissAnthrope and there’s always the using of a proxy so when the shoot first and ask later I could download in Italy under a France ip and I could care less who they shoot .

Not to mention this all falls under the country you are in . There are a lot of countries out there where intellectual property is not defended properly and there are not a lot of laws regarding this issue . But since most of you are in the US you need to check your state laws regarding this [ no matter how lawyers interpret it you need to check what’s the law ] .

roundsquare's avatar

@Hibernate Yep, but in this case its not clear if a) the OP has any other live torrents at the moment and b) if so, if any of them are legal to upload.

“you need to check your state laws”
I assume you mean “federal law” not “state law” (since this would be the law of each individual state within in the US). As far as I know (and I’m not sure) IP is mostly a federal thing.

“no matter how lawyers interpret it you need to check what’s the law”
That will be very difficult to do in the US (and I assume in other common law jurisdictions as well). Again, as far as I’ve heard, the laws as written (i.e. statutes) are not clear on the point. So, you would need to go look at case law. In this endeavor… I wish you luck. Its possible, I mean its what lawyers do all the time, but it takes a long time and is error prone. Even if you do a good job, I’m not sure there is case law on point so you would need to interpret it and a lawyer would be much better at doing this than you.

Please note: I am not a lawyer.

Hibernate's avatar

I’m not sure an IP is something concerned to federal laws but oh well .

Well I do not know how things go for you guys there [ state / federal etc laws ] so it’s all good if you corrected me ^^

In any case it could be a first timer with no precedents so it’s hard to look for similar things .

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