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I've been watching a lot of older anime shows lately (like, pre-1950), and there are a few I would like to be able to source.

A good few of these are so old that their copyright has run out and they are in the public domain.

Would it be okay to ask for download links (or similar) to these shows even if they go to a supposedly 'illegal' site? [Provided it is certain that they are public domain]

(by 'illegal' I mean ones that we would usually consider illegal for copyrighted works such as the pirate bay or many 'free' streaming anime sites)

I just thought I'd ask before putting up some questions.

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    While this doesn't answer the question, if the work is really public domain, there shouldn't be any problems uploading it yourself to YouTube or some other reputable general-purpose streaming site. I'd think that, when possible, that's a better approach than linking to somewhere questionable.
    – Logan M
    Aug 28, 2014 at 22:31
  • That seems better alright :) Aug 29, 2014 at 11:49

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If the work is truly public domain, so that anyone can freely share it anywhere under any conditions without legal ramifications, then it's hard to come up with a good reason to disallow links to sites with it, even if those sites are used for other purposes including piracy. There are some weak arguments, like the fact that linking to many of these sites may (slightly) hurt our credibility with search engines or that this would constitute supporting their illicit business practices. Neither of those is as important as making the questions and answers here as good as possible though.

However, it's not always easy to determine whether something fits that criterion. Copyright law is notoriously complicated even in a single country (the terms can vary drastically based on the medium and date of production), and we're mostly dealing with international copyright law here. In addition, if a company continually uses a particular work, it could be protected as a trademark even if it would not be protected under copyright law.

This isn't to imply that you (or we) need to be concerned with enforcing this. If common sense dictates that posting something here isn't going to hurt anyone's business and is primarily of historical interest, I don't see any problem with it whether or not it technically violates some intellectual property laws. Anything we do on our end is based on the sort of image we want to project about our community, and I don't think there's any real problem if the work is old enough that it's only of historic interest (in which case it might qualify as Fair Use anyway). We can let Stack Exchange handle the difficult cases however they choose if it comes to that. But you should still keep this in mind.

But, in fact, I'm hard-pressed to find a situation where doing this would actually be necessary. If the work is really public domain and you have access to it, you should be able to post it yourself on some reputable general-purpose streaming site without issue. There are literally dozens of options, including YouTube, Vimeo, and Niconico. Any of those would be preferable in terms of quality and reputability to some generic watchfreeanimeforfree.com streaming site with mediocre video quality and annoying ads. When possible, this seems to always be the best option.

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