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Do Data Recovery Engineers Care About Pirated Movies and TV Shows?

December 5, 2022

One of the most common questions we receive is regarding our liability to report illegal content on recovered devices. 

To be clear, there is certain content that must be reported to the authorities — particularly videos and pictures of child endangerment. We have processes in place to find and report that type of content. Our laboratories use artificial intelligence (AI) and other methods to find potentially criminal content, which we have a legal responsibility to report to relevant authorities.

However, we don’t care about TV shows and movies that have been potentially pirated. 

Why Data Recovery Companies Don’t Report Pirated Media

We certainly do not endorse copyright infringement (hey, the crew of Ernest Scared Stupid deserve to be compensated for their hard work). But pirated movies are not an important concern for data recovery engineers for several reasons:

  • We can’t determine whether you own the files illegally. Even if you have hundreds of ripped DVDs on your hard drive, you may have created those copies legally. We have no way of knowing, and we don’t pass judgment.
  • Pirated media is extremely common. If we reported every potential incident, we wouldn’t have time to perform actual data recovery work.
  • We work with massive amounts of data every day, and we don’t have time to look through every file. Only a small selection of files are inspected for data integrity (essentially, to make sure that our recovery efforts were effective). 
  • Our engineers follow strict security controls which minimize access to client data. Those controls protect our clients’ privacy, and we’re quite serious about adhering to them — even if engineers wanted to look through your files, they won’t be able to do so without your explicit permission.

This is also true for pirated software. While we might investigate if data was clearly used for nefarious purposes (for example, a server that operated an illegal file-sharing website), we haven’t encountered that situation yet.

As one of our engineers wrote in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) post

We will recover anything and keep all data completely confidential unless it’s extremely illegal. And by “extremely illegal,” I mean that we don’t care about your pirated movies.

My job isn’t to make moral judgments, and it’s something we’re really careful about here given the sensitive nature of our work. 

Related: Throwing Out an Old Hard Drive? Here’s How to Protect Your Data

Do all data recovery companies ignore pirated media and software?

We’d love to tell you that we’re the only company with strong security controls, but fortunately, that’s not true. While we can’t speak for other data recovery providers, the consensus in the industry is that pirated content is no big deal — or, at least, it isn’t our job to determine what is pirated and what isn’t. 

If you have other questions about data security and privacy at our laboratories, we’re here to help. Give us a call at 1-800-237-4200 to speak with a data recovery expert or click here to submit a case online. provides free media evaluations, and every case benefits from our no data, no charge guarantee — if we don’t get your important files, you don’t pay (even if your Ernest Scared Stupid DVD rip is part of your request).