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Downloading torrents is not, in itself, illegal, there are many many legal torrents out there. The downloading of copyrighted material without paying for it however.....well, that would be the illegal bit. Your torrent client will download any torrent you tell it to, but the use of it is not illegal
it depends torrent to torrenr
It's Legal as long as the content is not copyrighted.
It depends on what you are downloading....
other answers are correct but here's something of note - in order to be prosecuted your computer will be seized and the copyrighted data searched for...but encrypted hard drive passwords are protected by your 5th amendment rights.
technically its illegal AND legal... if you download from a torrent client technically you have authorized permission from the person who seeded the torrent file, so you HAVE permission to download it and use it, BUT the legal-nese written into copy rights and patented software rights would claim otherwise!!! Personally I think its bullpellet prosicuting people for sharing music/movies/software is dumb in the early 80s no one minded when people were making copies of music for their friends on cassette tapes!!! I use BTJUNKIE to search for torrents and btjunkie.org is the NUMBER ONE torrent search engine, they are EVEN on stock market so downloading torrents cant be all that illegal if companies like btjunkie are having shares of their company traded on the stock market!!!
Without all the drama and B.S., it's fairly simple. Selling copyrighted material without the permission of the owner of the copyright is a violation of the copyright and in most countries, illegal. Stealing copyright material (by any means) is theft, and in most countries, illegal. Receiving stolen goods (by any means) makes you an Accessory After the Fact, and in most countries, illegal. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accessory_%28legal_term%29