General Question

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Is it illegal to torrent a live show that you cannot watch otherwise (details)

Asked by MyNewtBoobs (19044points) June 13th, 2011

I want to watch the Republican Debate tonight, but while it’s going on, I will actually be having dinner with my cousin. I know there are websites that stream these type of events (the Olympics, political speeches, the Royal Wedding, awards shows, etc), but I haven’t found any let you watch the full thing later, only watch clips. I have found, however, that I can always find torrents of these tv events. So if there’s no way to watch it with the commercials on Hulu or whatever, is it actually illegal to torrent a copy of the debate later on? Would it still be illegal if the torrent included the recorded commercials?

Please, for the love of Mike, don’t just have a kneejerk reaction and tell me that all torrents are illegal, or that you “feel” that it’s illegal – actually know that it’s illegal or not.

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11 Answers

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
MrItty's avatar

1) yes, it’s illegal. Accessing copyrighted material without the permission and authorization of the copyright holder is illegal. Period.

2) Your details do not match your question. You are not unable to watch the show. You are choosing not to watch the show in favor of doing something else.

koanhead's avatar

@XOIIO It is absolutely not true that “all torrenting is illegal”. BitTorrent is just a protocol and there are no laws against its use in the United States, nor elsewhere that I know of. As long as you are dealing with material that is not restricted by copyright or illegal for other reasons, you are fine. As a matter of fact, there are websites that specialize in legal torrents like and Also Ubuntu and Debian recommend BitTorrent as the best way to download their ISO images (it’s kinder to their servers) and I get my updates via debtorrent. It’s a good thing!

The way to answer this is to find out who owns the copyright for the program. If it belongs to CBS, for example, you probably are not allowed to copy it, but you can ask them or you can look at their website to see if they have a posted policy on copying it. If it belongs to the Republican Party they might decide that it’s in their best interest to let people copy it for maximum exposure (but I doubt it.)

Unfortunately it’s unlikely that anyone here can offer you a definitive answer to this particular question.

XOIIO's avatar

@koanhead Yes, but how many people are going to use legal torrent sites? It seems to me that it would take longer for them to get their material.

koanhead's avatar

@XOIIO The fact remains that people do use them, whether you believe it or not.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@XOIIO Torrent sites are usually not illegal by default – the individual torrents are if they contain copyrighted material without permission, but not the host site.

koanhead's avatar

@MrItty Do you have any hard information on the copyright status of recordings of the debate? I didn’t bother to look, but it certainly seems possible that (for example if it were held in the Capitol or on other public property) it might be in the public domain.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
MrItty's avatar

@koanhead it was organized, produced, and paid for by CNN, a non-public entity.

MrItty's avatar

For what it’s worth, the Debate is available as a series of clips (which I know you said you didn’t want, but oh well) on CNN’s website:

seekingwolf's avatar

It’s true, not all torrents are illegal. It’s not about “legal torrent sites” but rather the material itself that is being torrented. I have used torrents to get music from local bands. These bands are distributing their music for FREE via torrents rather than selling them because they want to get the word out. Is this illegal? No way. I got the torrent from a site that DOES have illegal torrents (movies, etc) but me going to this site to get a legal torrent is not illegal because of what I personally am downloading. Make sense?

If I were you, I would get the names of the people involved in the debate. Write them down. Then after the debate, search for them on CNN and Youtube and other video sites. You should be able to watch the whole debate (yes the whole debate) because others have recorded these clips of these people so you’ll pretty much get the whole thing, especially the very important parts.

Plus, you’re not downloading anything, so you can’t get trouble for watching the clips on CNN or YouTube. Enjoy.

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