This is the first best example

Is downloading a torrent chunk copyright infringement?

Clearly the intent of the question is to provide some deniability to what presumably the OP knows or should know is a potentially illegal action.

I think if we allow the site to fill up with these sorts of questions the site will neither be useful to people with real questions of the law, nor will it be attractive to experts who can answer those good questions on the law.

  • 3
    I think the question you ask is a good one, but the example used might be weakening it. Jun 9, 2015 at 16:10
  • 4
    I don't think the intent of the OP should be considered at all. To borrow language from FoI law: this site should be 'requester blind'.
    – Flup
    Jun 10, 2015 at 13:33
  • downloading a torrent chunk in general is not copyright infringement. downloading a torrent chunk of copyright content is copyright infringement. So the question the person is asking about torrents sounds valid. There is a lot of content a person can download using torrents that is 100% legal. Having a torrent client on your computer is 100% legal.
    – mepatuhoo
    Jun 15, 2015 at 21:11

4 Answers 4


"Clearly the intent of the question is to provide some deniability to what presumably the OP knows or should know is a potentially illegal action."

Thats not clear to me, the OP.

To me, clearly the intent is to ask a question about what is to me an interesting hypothetical that gets to the root of what reproduction means, the dichotomy in Canada between performance and reproduction rights, and substantiality of copied material in Canadian infringement analysis.

  • So then what is your intent with hosting this chuck of copyrighted work that you do not have permission to distribute nor the licence to download?
    – Chad
    Jun 9, 2015 at 16:29
  • I don't have any intent to do this. Also, in the hypothetical, the downloader-and-discarder didn't end up hosting the chunk at all.. In the hypothetical, the chunk (sometimes as small as 256kb, like 1/1500th of the entire file) is discarded as soon as it is received. You're begging the question by talking about a "licence to download"... in Canada, downloading is part of the reproduction right, which is what this question is trying to ask about.
    – user248
    Jun 9, 2015 at 16:31
  • Well with out something saying otherwise the appearance is that you are intending to subvert copyright through a technicality. With out specifics that show otherwise I still think this is a bad question
    – Chad
    Jun 9, 2015 at 16:33
  • @Chad What is "subverting copyright through a technicality"? The downloader-and-discarder is not in possession of anything at the end of the hypothetical process, they didn't even get to look at the content of the chunks. Also, if this is not a prohibited activity, it is not subverting copyright. If it is a prohibited activity, it is just copyright infringement, not subverting it.
    – user248
    Jun 9, 2015 at 16:35
  • Again... specifics on how this could happen in a way that is not an intent to violate copyright or the law
    – Chad
    Jun 9, 2015 at 16:41
  • @chad Well, first, it is unknown (to me) whether that activity would be violating copyright law (hence the question). Second, if it turns out that this activity is not a copyright violation, then performing that activity would not be an intent to violate copyright. Third, if you believe that the activity is a copyright violation, please write that as a better answer than the current one which misstates Canadian copyright law twice.
    – user248
    Jun 9, 2015 at 16:43
  • @Chad In the hypothetical, the chunk is discarded as soon as it is received without hosting or otherwise making it available to others. I'll clarify that in the question.
    – user248
    Jun 9, 2015 at 16:47
  • Why did you have the chunk. That is the important part.
    – Chad
    Jun 9, 2015 at 16:47
  • @Chad The purpose for having the chunk only enters into a fair dealing analysis. As I understand things, the reason for having the chunk doesn't enter into any infringement analysis in Canada, and I believe I've read every copyright opinion from the Supreme Court of Canada. "Why you have the chunk" is not important at all for infringement analysis aside from a fair dealing exception.
    – user248
    Jun 9, 2015 at 16:48
  • 1
    torrents and downloading content using torrents is not an illegal action. however downloading copyright content is an illegal action. I think the question the person is asking is valid. They should however know that downloading copyright content in general is an illegal action.
    – mepatuhoo
    Jun 15, 2015 at 21:14

I don't see any reason why such questions are bad enough to be declared off topic.

If someone uses an answer to avoid actually breaking the law, then so what? They by definition wouldn't have done anything illegal.

Of course, these thing might share some of the tricky aspects "legal advice", but there's nothing especially bad about legal advice about working around the law, that doesn't apply to legal advice in general.

I'm afraid that you're going to have to come up with a more compelling example if you want me to care about people intending to "skirt the law"


This is a matter of interpretation and I sense that it would lead to many questions being closed and reopened continuously.

I would be more concerned about questions that appear to pertain to specific situations where our answers might be used to support some kind of legal argument, for instance: Who is liable for damage?

In this question the OP asks about a situation that actually happened and this could be of concern to those wishing to avoid malpractice claims.

  • If this actually happened I would have much less of an issue with the question. The premise is a hypothetical that has no basis in reality.
    – Chad
    Jun 10, 2015 at 13:43

At the risk of being anvilicious....

Is it legal to not arrest a suspected runaway slave, if I suspect that the declaration of ownership from the owner is fradulent {or insert your own technicality}

Would also be off-topic under the rule you proposed.

As such, I would say that making thinks off-topic merely for discussing technicalities of avoiding a specific law isn't a good blanket rule.

  • being that owning slaves is an illegal action this would invalidate the original question of arresting them, due to the idea that slaves cannot exist in today's laws. So this would be a difficult question to answer as there would be no situation in modern society where there would be a valid slave.
    – mepatuhoo
    Jun 15, 2015 at 21:18
  • @patrick if you follow the link, you will notice that neither the word "today" nor "modern" are applicable in the context of my example
    – user0306
    Jun 15, 2015 at 21:24

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