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Torrenting a movie you own (Legality)? Answered

So, i have been wondering this for a while now, and thought to ask here before I did something stupid and got the feds at my door :)

Is it legal to torrent a movie I own? For example, I have an old copy of the Incredibles, but since it was released in 2004, the movie has seen its fair share of use, and at the moment is too scratched to be played (Unfortunately I did not rip a backup...). 
So under these circumstances, would it be legal to torrent the movie file, as I have the actual, physical disk of the movie?

What about VHS tapes (got my fair share of those). Getting these on my computer would just be some $70 software/recording equipment... it would be faster and cheaper to download them instead of getting shoddy quality off of a 15 year old VHS. 

What about for a disc that has been solen? We had our car broken into at one point, and got some 10 DVDs stolen out of it (around 8 of which didnt have a backup)... I would like to be able to get those back, legally, without having to spend $150 re-buying movies already purchased...


Yes, it is illegal in most places. You are distributing copyright material that you don't have permission to do so. That can get you charged and/or sued.

Don't bother. It's not worth it. ;-)

Downloading is just as illegal as uploading the copyright material (doesn't matter how old it is, or whether you have a copy).

I think it DOES matter if you have a copy, because creating a backup is legal.

Making a backup of your purchase is fine.

Downloading a copy of a movie to your PC is illegal, because the downloaded version is not a backup of your purchase.

This includes downloading because you only have it on VHS (and don't want to make a digital copy of the VHS), 8-10 of the movies were stolen, or one DVD is now scratched and no longer playable.

Prove it.

....and that's where its been left, certainly in the UK.If you have a hardcopy, your defence for the digital copy is that you already have it.

DISTRIBUTING your copy is completely illegal.

Obviously I can't address every country and their laws, so I'll stick to U.S. Law. I found an article that discusses the fair use policy and the Motion Picture Association (U.S.) in recent court cases.


As far as the specific (U.S.) laws, they state that uploading or downloading (or sharing in any manner) motion pictures (and other copyright material), is illegal. There are no special provisions for circumstances where you already own a copy. Fair Use limits users under common law, and that's been a focus of debate as to what extent one can exercise that provision. So for this argument (aside from the first link I gave you), I can't point to any other specific instance where it states that copying someone else's DVD is legal if you own a copy. I can only state "my interpretation" which is that backing up your purchased copy for your own use is legal, but to obtain any other copy (than the one you purchased), is not.

As a footnote, I studied Canadian Criminal Law (in University), so my Common Law knowledge is not as fluent; so I could be wrong. ;-)

So even if I leeched the download (downloading without sharing any of the downloaded parts), I assume it would \still be illegal because it isnt my copy...

Correct. You did not pay for the copy you are leeching, and the person posting the copy has no right to do so either.

You don't get any special warranties or rights to download other copies if the DVD you paid for is lost, stolen or damaged. That would be like going to the store for a free copy because you lost yours. (I'm sure you know it doesn't work that way). ;-)

canucksgirl, I'm not disagreeing with that it's illegal to download/copy...but I don't think saying it's the same as going to the store for a free copy is the same thing. If you want a free copy from the store, you are displacing physical materials with an inherent cost...downloading duplicates a binary pattern and costs no more than bandwidth.

Where is it legal?? Lol, will catch a flight over ;)
jk.. Thanks for the info

You're welcome. You definitely picked a hot topic... ;-)

The only 3 countries that I'm aware of that have no copyright protection (and have no International Agreements) are Turkmenistan, San Marino and Eritrea. Afghanistan was #4, but they are working on restructuring their legal system and creating copyright laws.

BTW, don't forget to mark your question as 'answered' with one of the blue buttons (you don't have to pick mine).


1 year ago

I thought I should add a new comment even though it has been an a while. I have learned of a service through my daughter called VUDU --- that is vudu.com and they have an interesting service.

You set up an account and then you can register the movies you own. You put the movie in your DVD drive and the vudu site verifies that you have the dvd by scanning the title. It then adds the title to a library of titles you own. You can then stream any movie in your library to any device that you are logged in to your account. So if you have a scratched up DVD you don't need to get a new disc, you can stream it from the Vudu site once it is in your library. All perfectly legal, and the account is free as far as I know.

When she visited she went through all my DVD's and added them to her library and left me the account logon so I can get on the site and stream any movie that any of us have put into the library.


1 year ago

Old thread I know, but I'm fairly sure it's only gonna take one instance for that to chance; Because if I bought a movie, I've purchased an single license for said product. No matter if the disk breaks or not, I own a single license for that product and can legally supplement the media that is lost (but still owned by license) via torrenting (I'm pretty sure thats the reason torrent sites were legal in general).

Just because my disk broke doesn't mean I no longer own a license for it, and I'm not gonna be forced into purchasing a second just to get the media I already had a license for.

Now to host it...that legal area may be different. But the action of downloading it, its legal is, I believe, based on the individual instance.

This was a legal battle in the early 2000's; I doubt that part of the battle was just "suddenly changed"


2 years ago

Steveastrouk is right, it does matter. The law allowing backups does not specify how a backup must be obtained. Not everyone has the ability to burn bluray discs and store the massive file size, but everyone has the right to a backup.

If its copyrighted its illegal. If its not its considered public.

I used to work at a Library, so I know that the rules for coping DVDs from them were that if you already owned the movie, and you just needed to get a better copy because yours was damaged, it was fine. If you didn't own it, they wouldn't know the difference, so most people did it anyway. The difference between a library and a torrent is that you are supporting a illegal torrent. The person who put it up there did it for a reason, whether that be for recognition, advertising payments, etc. by downloading that, you are encouraging illegal behavior.

That being said, the probability of the feds coming to your door over a torrent is pretty slim. (I don't know about now, but when I was working for them, we had better things to do!) ;)


6 years ago

It all depends on the circumstances.
The incridables has been on TV several times.

With multi-billion dollar studios and stations paying for it.
Does not mean it is free... As far as I know law :)

Sorry to say but legally if you want those movies back you will have to buy them again. When you purchased the copy of the movie you have rights to that copy only. So you are allowed to make backups of your copy but you are not allowed to share that copy with others. So its illegal to share your copy which is what others are doing offering them on the torrent sites. By downloading the copy you are an accessory to the crime and can be prosecuted as if you where the one sharing the movie.

The movie industry has fought long and hard to keep full control of there content. If they had it there way you wouldn't even be able to make a copy of your own disk. But the courts have ruled in our favor allowing copies to be made and now many new movies come with digital copes so you can have your movie on the go. You may have noticed the movie industry also loves it when there is a format change so they can sell you the movie again. Moving from VHS to DVD to Blueray where big wins for them.

We all know what your going through. Heck i've purchased the Matallica Black album 4 times now. My first cassette was eaten so i purchased a second one. Then i got a CD player and got it on CD. That got stolen so i purchased it again. Its a great album so i have no problem supporting the band. Its the same with movies. If the movie is worth owning and worth keeping then its worth the money to buy it again. Personally i don't buy movies anymore. All the ones i like to watch or have owned are available through Netflix play it now.