A person's computer stores a variety of copyrighted files which they have a license to use and store (such as video games, operating system files, and purchased or freely available media). However, generally these licenses prohibit redistribution. Also, some material (such as ripped audio CDs) may not have a formal license agreement.

Can a person legally make a backup image of their computer and store it in the cloud? Or would they be illegally distributing copies of all of this material by giving a copy to the cloud storage provider?

And does this calculus change if the person encrypts their backup image first, using a key that only they have access to? Or are they then illegally distributing a derivative work (the encrypted image) of the copyrighted material?

Finally, does the calculus change if the service being used to store the (encrypted) image is not a centralized cloud storage service but a new-fangled distributed system like Storj, where the task of actually storing the data is farmed out to a lot of other people's computers?

  • No distribution here as cloud providers are not the recipients of your data but merely storage.
    – Greendrake
    May 27, 2018 at 5:41

2 Answers 2


I believe DMCA settled this question once and for all, in favor of broad permission to replicate copyrighted software for the purpose of making backups. The government basically doesn't want to be in the business of regulating or litigating legitimate backups.

However, these backups cannot be sold or shared.


Copyright law allows making backups for personal use.

  • The real question was whether using certain types of services, like cloud storage or distributed storage could be used to make such a backup.
    – Brandin
    May 28, 2018 at 8:24
  • @Brandin and the answer deals with this
    – Dale M
    May 28, 2018 at 10:39

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