Is torrenting illegal?
Torrenting is often associated with internet piracy and copyright infringement. Open access to loads of free music, movies, and games raises a red flag, doesn't it?
Is torrenting illegal? How exactly does this technology work? And should you use it to download content from the web for free?
The answers to these questions are not as straightforward as you might imagine.
So, we'll start with the basics and cover everything from torrenting to how to use it safely.
And once we answer all of that, you can see this technology beyond its public reputation.
Now, let's get started!
What is torrent?
Torrenting is the process of downloading and uploading files over the BitTorrent network. This is a peer-to-peer file-sharing communication protocol, which enables data exchange in a decentralized manner.
Now, from a layman's perspective:
Basically, torrenting is similar to other forms of downloading, but the way you get the files is not as straightforward as it usually is. Also, you have more freedom when it comes to sharing your private data.
When data is fetched from HTTP, it comes from an advanced server designed to handle traffic from large numbers of people at the same time.
With torrent apps, things work a little differently.
Instead of storing them in one place, the files you download come from hundreds or more servers. What is even more strange is that they are exclusively personal computers. This means that advanced devices do not participate in this type of data exchange.
How did it all start?
It all started 20 years ago when programmer, Bram Cohen, came up with a new way to transfer large files. It was a reaction to the incredibly slow internet at the time, which could not facilitate the transmission of large data.
Now that you know what a torrent is, it's time to come up with an answer to the question - how does torrenting work?
How does torrent work?
Downloading files via peer exchange can seem confusing. In fact, the whole concept is not difficult to understand.
So what's the first thing you're supposed to do when you download something this way?
Well, first, you need either a torrent file or a magnet link to click on it.
The first is a file on your computer that uses the .torrent file name extension and starts the download process with a double click. The latter is a link with all the information your customer needs to start scraping the file right away.
This sends a request for the file you want, and your program tries to locate it on other computers whose file-sharing software is running.
Therefore, you can access data from more than just one place. So, when downloading torrent movies, for example, each file comes in bits and pieces from different users.
When you start downloading something, it will pick your torrent from the servers to collect data. It will do this based on where it can find the parts of the file you need.
The transfer load is distributed among the computers that exchange files to ensure that no one's bandwidth is overburdened.
Let's look at an example.
We will imagine that you decide to share a 500MB file from your computer in a traditional way. In the event that 1000 people try to get it from you, all at the same time, it will completely exhaust your upload bandwidth. The result - a torrent app for everyone will have to spend hours trying to download it.
Torrents get rid of issues like this with a simple solution. It allows users to scrape bits of data from multiple places with this specific file (also known as swar) until they get the full version. The lack of a central server means that no one will ever experience a massive drop in speed on the Internet. Users who download the file will still get it at the end of the process.
Even if the original participant stops distributing it, other users can still do so once they complete the download. This is due to BitTorrent's peer-to-peer basis.
Therefore, unless you change the preferences in the program you are using, it will automatically share the computer file you downloaded with users online.
This completes the cycle and ensures that the original file remains publicly available.
The speed of getting something this way often depends on the ratio of sowing to reapers.
I wonder what these two concepts are?
We'll explain that too.
With most torrent software, when you download a file, you automatically become a maker. This means that other users can get rid of you whenever you are online.
Of course, you can stop seeding whenever you want.
Just keep in mind that the lack of seeds means that it is impossible to download the file.
In the world of torrenting, people who download data from servers without publishing it are called hackers.
Some scrape more than they upload, while others upload nothing at all once they get the file they want.
Is torrenting safe and how can you torrent safely?
BitTorrent is known as the place for hacker movies, games, music, and other types of content.
This is something ISPs are aware of, which is why you may often hear the question “Is torrenting safe?”
It's just that there is a lot of copyrighted content on the Internet, and it's very easy to access it. Oftentimes, ISPs send warning messages and links to anti-piracy educational resources when they learn about BitTorrent users.
While this practice should be approached with caution, it is not as unsafe as it may seem.
Depending on where you reside, the worst thing that can happen is your provider reducing your bandwidth or suspending your account.
If you don't want that to happen, you are probably wondering how to torrent safely.
The good news is that protecting your privacy when downloading files is not difficult. You can do this even if you don't have any special computer skills.
You can also choose between two popular tools to do this - VPN and Proxy.
If you don't want anyone to know that you're downloading content with BitTorrent, you can change your default location.
And how do you do that?
The answer - use a VPN.
This little tool can make it look as if you are browsing the Internet from a different city, state or country.
In addition, it can encrypt all the traffic that goes through the tunnel, ensuring that you stay safe when downloading.
That's why VPNs and torrenting go hand in hand.
We have a list of the best VPN services for torrenting, including some of the big names like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, PIA, Surfshark, and more.
Proxy also ensures that you stay safe when torrenting, and it changes your IP address, but replaces it with your own.
This way, your privacy stays the same, and you don't even have to show your actual IP address.
If you choose to download data this way, you can check out our list of the best proxy server services of the year.
Is torrenting illegal?
It's time to answer the big question - is torrenting illegal?
When you think about it, it would make sense that this type of file transfer is not allowed. After all, it is commonly used to share copyrighted content with other internet users.
However, the technology behind BitTorrent was not specifically designed for this use. Therefore, there is nothing illegal in using torrenting itself.
But if you download copyrighted material that is not prohibited, you are breaking the law.
This is also not as straightforward as you might imagine. There are a lot of gray areas around what is legal for torrenting and what is not.
However, even if you download something that is clearly not allowed, there is a good chance that you will not be held responsible. This depends on your location, though.
For example, some countries impose fines on all genres, including movies, TV shows, and torrent music.
These countries are:
- Great Britain
- The United Arab Emirates
If you plan to download something while you are in one of these countries, using a VPN is a must.
Some countries have different policy against torrenting. Here is a list of people with a history of closing these types of websites:
- South Africa
The do's and don'ts of torrenting
Use a VPN or proxy
Earlier, we talked about what both are. So, you already know how they can protect your privacy when downloading.
Even if you don't plan to catch anything that is copyrighted, ensuring the anonymity of the torrent is a good idea. When you use a VPN or Proxy, you know that no one has proof that you downloaded something.
In addition, many of these services have additional security features that can be useful.
Choose torrent sites carefully
Torrenting is more popular than it might seem. There are plenty of websites that you can go to and start downloading content.
Unless you want to risk downloading the offending files, you have to be very careful about the site you are using.
The best thing you can do is find one that adheres to all the laws and get your data from there. Vuze, Inc. For example, it has a zero-tolerance policy for copyrighted content.
Be careful when sowing
Another important part of how to torrent safely is to be careful when seeding.
Whether you're just seeding or sharing data, you should know what you're doing. The last thing you want to do is click on the "Upload file" button and break some kind of law.
Do not use PirateBay
PirateBay has a large amount of content just waiting to be downloaded.
However, it is one of the places that expose you to an abundance of torrents that are closely monitored for infringement.
Unless you have a lot of experience with this technique, you will probably want to look elsewhere for non-copyrighted content.
Do not load your CD copies
This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people torrent movies by downloading their own CD rips. Whatever type of computer file formats you have on the original CDs or DVDs, sharing them this way can get you in trouble.
Even if you live in one of the countries where torrenting is legal, you don't want to get copyrighted material there.
What happens if you get caught hacking?
Although torrenting is legal, downloading and sharing content that someone else has protected is not. Digital piracy comes with consequences that vary depending on where you live.
We previously mentioned that ISPs care about the type of data you transfer using torrenting. When they find out that you are engaging in illegal activities, they can send you a warning or even reduce your bandwidth.
But this is not the only reason why torrenting without a VPN or Proxy is not recommended.
In some countries, you can earn a fine for downloading a movie using just this technology.
For example, in Germany, this penalty can be up to 1,000 euros.
In the US, copying and sharing data with software such as µTorrent can result in imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine.
That's why you should be very careful about the type of data you're working with when using this technique. Also, you should only sign up for torrenting activities using a VPN or Proxy.
Is torrenting illegal? - conclusion
So, the torrenting process itself is 100% legal. All it does is transmit data differently than you do with the standard HTTP protocol. You can use torrent programs to download files and share them with other users.
However, the moment you start transferring copyrighted data, you are breaking the law. Depending on your location, the fines for this can be very high and may involve imprisonment.
This just shows how careful you have to be when downloading with torrents.
Some countries do not impose any rules against piracy, but knowing what kind of content you are dealing with is always a good idea.
We highly recommend setting up a VPN or Proxy in case this happens.