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Is it legal to download TV shows music applications etc from Suprnova.org?

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Wiki User
01/27/2012

Not even a little bit, assuming the software, music, and TV shows are covered by copyright law (which they almost certainly are).

Counterpoint:

The original copyright owner is called the "rights-holder". One of the "rights" protected and held by law to the rights-holder is the "right to distribute".

"Uploading", or sending a file, is distribution. You are distributing the file from yourself to someone else.

"Downloading", or receiving a file, does not meet the definition of distribution, and so is not a "protected right".

Put another way, the person who is sending you a file that they don't have the rights to (whether that is someone who set up a web site, or someone who is sending you pieces of the file via BitTorrent), may be violating copyright by distributing that content to you without the permission of the rightsholder. HOWEVER, the recipient of that content IS NOT BREAKING ANY EXISTING LAW.

If you look at court cases for copyright violation, you have yet to see someone who "downloaded music" or "downloaded movies" being charged. It is only when they are using P2P software, such as BitTorrent, where they also are uploading/distributing content as part of the process, that they get take-down notices and lawsuits from the rights-holders.

As someone who's seen my share of copyright notices working in the IT department for a decent-sized college, I can tell you definitively, the notices always refer to "[this IP address] made [this copyrighted content] available for download at [this date and time]". NEVER will you see one for "this IP address DOWNLOADED this content," because it simply isn't unlawful to do so.

And, if you think about it, it HAS to work that way. How do I, as a client, know that the iTunes Music Store is "authorized" to send me the new Metallica single? I'm not privy to the contracts, I have no idea if they've got the rights or not. (I mean, we can probably safely assume Apple *does* have the rights, but as a person downloading the track, I have absolutely no way of verifying whether or not the person distributing the track to me has the right to do so).

Now, getting back to the original question, since it references suprnova.org (a bittorrent site) by name, the answer is "yes, it'll likely be unlawful, since to use bittorrent, you have to ALSO participate in the distribution, which is unlawful." However, if you use any of a number of other sites, wherein it's just a straight "download from their site to you", then the answer would be "No, it is not unlawful".

This answer does not attempt, at all, to answer the questions of ethics and morality involved in depriving a rightsholder of their compensation by downloading something for free from somewhere, and should not be interpreted in any way as saying it is "right" or even "OK" to do so. This is strictly answering the question asked, which is about legality...

counterpoint

It's true the rights-holders generally go after people who share files on file-sharing services, in violation of the rights-holders exclusive right to distribute the works AND their exclusive right to reproduce them. These are separate rights, and violation of either of them is independently actionable.

Section 106(1) of the Copyright Act of 1976 makes this perfectly clear:

"...the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords"

By downloading a file, you necessarily make a copy of it. This act, in itself, is copyright infringement.

However, rights-holders can usually get larger damage awards from people who distribute a large number of copyrighted works, because each shared file creates a separate cause of action, with statutory damages in the thousands of dollars. If someone is sharing dozens, hundreds, or maybe thousands of copyrighted files, the damages that the rights-holders could potentially obtain add up really quick. As a result, they can threaten the user with a multimillion dollar lawsuit, and scare them into settling for a few thousand dollars.

However, it is still completely unlawful to download copyrighted material from any website or other online service, as it infringes upon the exclusive right to reproduce copies of the work.

counterpoint

Only one person in a transaction can be the one "reproducing the content", and it has long been held that it's the site that is SENDING the data.

Suffice to say, I believe, that there actually is NO existing case-law on this particular aspect of copyright law, so as with all things: Consult your own attorney and make sure you're comfortable with the answer he/she gives you before doing anything.