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The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Is it illegal to download a TV episode from a Bit Torrent site?

Asked by The_Compassionate_Heretic (14634points) August 21st, 2009

The Bit Torrent technology itself is not illegal but distributing copyrighted material such as music, games, and software is illegal.

What if you missed an episode of Hell’s Kitchen and download from a bit torrent site?

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22 Answers

drdoombot's avatar

My personal opinion is that downloading a tv episode soon after it airs is okay (like watching a friend’s recording or something).

Once it’s out on DVD, though, you’re depriving someone of some money, so it’s illegal.

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kyanblue's avatar


Pretty much everything that people do on the internet is illegal, though—AMVs on Youtube? Fanfiction? Using random pictures from Google on your blog?

Personally, I have problems reconciling some of the legally-dubious stuff I do with my belief that artists should get paid, recognized, and be given control over their work.

Sarcasm's avatar

Typically yes it is against the law. You can, however, legally watch Hell’s Kitchen on Fox’s website.
(a lot of shows are legally available on their channel’s website, especially if it’s one of the most recent episodes)

Jack_Haas's avatar

On the one hand, If you pay for a cable of satellite subscription and only download an episode off torrents or usenet because, for example, your DVR failed to record it and there aren’t reruns, you’re not doing anything wrong.

On the other hand however, commercials are typically cut from shows available on bitttorrents and usenet so that could be a problem.

Looks like another grey area, like remote viewing: the industry opposes it but they don’t do anything about it because they fear pirates more than paying customers.

sandystrachan's avatar

Illegal yes , worth doing yes if its the only way you can see the show .

jrpowell's avatar

It is copyright infringement. But you will not wake up to police putting you in handcuffs. All that can really be done is that the copyright holder could sue you for monetary damages.

The odds of that happening are really slim. You are more likely to get struck by lightning.

But you could piss off your ISP and they could cancel your service. This is also really rare.

DarkScribe's avatar

It isn’t illegal, it is just not approved. It is a commercial issue, not a legal one. They are making the shows available for locals, but don’t want to damage their potential international market. It is breaking rules – not laws.

markyy's avatar

I assume you are talking about the US? I am not familiar with your laws, but you’re just fooling yourself if you think it is legal. The only reason I can think of is that people don’t consider it illegal because the music and movie industry is so aggresive and you never really hear about the media/television industry suing (except for viacom and youtube).

Ps. yes I download tv shows (from your country) and no I don’t have any pretence that it is legal. Nor do I feel like the local police will lift me from my bed and charge me.

cbloom8's avatar

pretty much yes

bennihan's avatar

It’s illegal but the things you can get off bittorrent sites are absolutely amazing. It’s crazy too because when big things leak the torrent sites go under fire. i.e. When a dvd quality of the workprint for Wolverine leaked to the web like weeks before the actual movie was even out it was insane

DarkScribe's avatar but you’re just fooling yourself if you think it is legal.

There was a discussion of the matter on the BBC less than ten days ago with a BBC representative stating that the were trying to make it difficult by using internet filters, but they were aware that those who used who used local servers were downloading regularly. The rep said quite clearly that there was nothing that the BBC could do about it as the episodes had been placed into the public domain. For the British public. Unfortunately, once in the public domain, it is not limited by borders, just by technology. I often download material through a “pay for use” server in the UK. It is just stuff that I have missed and that I don’t won’t to wait for it to be repeated.

In the Mail last week someone asked about downloading TV shows from the free sites and then taking them overseas on their computers – response from the BBC was that no laws were being broken but they would prefer that they didn’t distribute the material.

You don’t have to use a P2P site, you can download directly if you use a local server. If you don’t use a server a pop-up will tell you that downloads are not available to your country. If the people who create the shows say that it isn’t illegal, then I don’t think that it is illegal.

drpoop's avatar

no, it’s just frowned upon, like masturbating on an airplane.

markyy's avatar

@DarkScribe I focused my answer on the US, and specifically the show: Hell’s Kitchen. Why? because that is broadcast on a commercial TV station(FOX). A station that orders a season from the production company that makes it. Sometimes they buy all the rights, sometimes the production company keeps them. But the copyrights don’t disappear after an episode has been broadcast. Why would Viacom sue Youtube for making content that has been broadcast available? Because Viacom still owns the copyright, and would like to use it to make dvd’s and sell those shows abroad.

Government owned TV stations like the BBC, are paid for by the people. Once again, I know nothing about copyright laws (especially foreign laws), but I just can’t imagine the BBC sue someone for downloading content that was a) Provided by the BBC to download b) Paid for by government and the people watching it. The fact that they tried to find out if they could prevent it, makes me think that those who can, will.

Maybe I came of a little strong, but like @kyanblue said, almost everything is illegal right now. Illegal may not be the right word, I should have said: everything is copyrighted. And if someone has the rights to something and think you are damaging them, they have the law on their side to act upon it. Do I agree with this? no of course not, we need to get rid of this copyright on everything!

Don’t we have a copyright lawyer in the audience?

DarkScribe's avatar


I agree that all is copyrighted, but downloading and viewing doesn’t breach copyright, distributing or selling does. This was the thrust of the BBC comments, if you can manage to circumvent their deliberately difficult distribution methods, no law has been broken. If you then distribute that in any way, you are breaking laws. For personal use only is basically what it comes back to.

sandystrachan's avatar

And because we pay for BBC they don’t have to place adverts every 15 good damn 10 minutes like channel 4 and IT bloody V

markyy's avatar

@DarkScribe Touché, I agree with you. Unless of course you are using torrents, by downloading a torrent you are also uploading (and thus distributing). I’m assuming most people here use torrents, but you were clearly talking about the BBC player (iPlayr?). I’m going to keep watching this development in the UK, sounds interesting.

Btw if anyone is interested, this is a great documentary about how everything is copyrighted.

DarkScribe's avatar

@markyy I agree with you. Unless of course you are using torrents, by downloading a torrent you are also uploading (and thus distributing).

I have one directory for use when using any P2P networks, in order to be not cut off for “freeloading” and everything in it is legal. Old out of copyright music and radio shows from the twenties etc. I don’t allow piggybacking on my downloads so basically what I do, if not legal, is not what they prosecute for, which is, as you say, distributing copyright material. (It is amazing how many people actually like those old comedy shows, there is always someone downloading them. )

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soman's avatar

It depends on which country you live. Some countries have no restrictions for download the tv shows from torrent but there is so many countries in which torrent sites are illegal.

Zyx's avatar

The law doesn’t recognize the fact (yes, keep up) that information and property are mutually exclusive.

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