My question is what are the legal protections for downloading a leaked database under the premise of not knowing the database in question is actually a "leaked database" as in you think the database is not really leaked and you download it anyways.

Hypothetically Finding of the database was of the sort that involves the ability to google and finding a link. Amazed at finding the link and doubting it factually a leaked database you then download it and find out it really is a leaked database.

Goal is and was to see what you can find on world wide web AS known as "the internet" and then attempt to report said supposed leaked database to owners of leaked database.

  • It depends. Whose database is it, and why don't they want it to be public? Who leaked it, why, and how? The question is not answerable without these details. For example, if it is a leaked database of poetry published in the 1830s, there may be no consequences whatsoever for downloading it.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 2:11

1 Answer 1


There is, in general, no US law against accessing a "leaked database". Using it may violate laws, depending on the contents.

If the database (DB) contains content protected by copyright, it might well be copyright infringement to republish the content, or to prepare a derivative version. It might be infringement simply to download a copy, if this is treated as making a new copy of the work. But informing the copyright owner of the address at which the DB is found, while not using it in any other way, is not likely to be treated as infringement.

If the DB contains content that the owner is trying to protect as a trade secret, it might be unlawful to make use of the content for commercial advantage, depending on how the address was found.

If the DB contains information protected by a current patent, it will be unlawful to use that info to infringe the patent, but it is legal to read and learn from the info. Patents are public by law.

If the DB contains content directly prohibited or regulated by law, such as child pornography or classified information, the relevant law would apply, and the "leaked" status would be irrelevant.

I cannot think of another situation in which even the use of the information would be unlawful under US law.

  • As you say later in the answer, information is not protected by a patent. I agree with the tautology that if it was detailed production instructions for a product whose production would infringe a patent then following it to make the product would be infringing. Commented Nov 29, 2021 at 6:31
  • @RustyOperation Please do not make edits that significantly change the intent of answers here. Instead suggest improvements in comments. Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 2:34
  • actually... there are laws: if you ever have been allowed to look at confidential files, you are not allowed to look at any confidential files unless you get clearance for them.
    – Trish
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 9:57

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