Is it legal to download pirated movies or software for personal---that is non-commercial---use?

  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a trivial question, duplicating the content of dozens of others here on Law SE.
    – user4657
    Mar 16, 2017 at 8:55

4 Answers 4



Not even when you own a CD/DVD version of the movies/software.


Absolutely not in the US either. Under the normal assumed definition of 'pirated', this is clear copyright infringement regardless of your intentions not to re-distribute material. This could violate any range of federal copyright law pursuant to 17 US code § Ch 1-8 and 10-12 as it would almost certainly fail to qualify as 'fair use'.


It isn't legal.

Here's what might be confusing you: copyright's fair use doctrine does look at whether the use is personal vs commercial. But that's just one thing copyright takes into account. There are a number of other factors courts are required to take into account, by law. See 17 U.S.C. § 107. These other things weigh heavily against you: movies and software are at the heart of intended copyrighted protection; you're taking the entire movie/program; not paying for the items screws up the market for the good; and you're not triggering any exception. If you want to see how the judge has to weigh the factors in practice, see these other Law.SE questions here or here.

Regardless of whether it's legal, you might ask whether the government will enforce it. Copyright owners used to be to prefer to sue the internet provider or cable provider, but that ended up being somewhat ineffective, so owners are now suing individuals who pirate movies/software directly. For example, Breaking Glass Pictures filed a bunch of suits against people who pirated Six Degrees of Hell and K-11. See here. Capitol Records went after an individual for pirating music online. See here.

However, set the law aside for a moment and just look at common sense. The term pirated means "stolen." So we can rephrase your question as follows: "Is it legal to download stolen goods?" It is not.

  • You show links of people getting sued. Do you have links of people going to jail?
    – user4951
    Apr 15, 2020 at 14:05

It depends on where you are in the world. Some countries do not enforce intellectual property laws. Such that, you can very well start a business selling movies downloaded from the internet. So long as you do not hack yourself to acquire it. Though again, that might not be accounted for in your state laws.

But generally speaking, the countries that produce this content do have the laws that prohibit or limit resharing of their content. Making it illegal to download content labelled as "free" for personal use. Infact, the law is so right your ISP is mandated to warn you prior to prosecuting you for a criminal offence if you do in fact access such content. So there might be no assumption that you know unless you have been warned, and then criminal proceedings are initiated against you for failure to comply.

Which seems fair -- though it might be better if the laws allowed your ISP to block illegal content from entering their networks. It actually makes no sense to pass up "free" and go the long way to purchase the very same thing. A clear example might be a free newspaper or book at a bus/train terminal.

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