What is Torrenting? Is it Safe? Is it illegal? Will you be caught?
Looking to find out more about torrenting? We explain exactly what torrenting is, how to torrent safely, and what to do if you get caught.
@pabischoff UPDATED: April 8, 2021
Three questions I’m often asked are: Is torrenting safe, is torrenting legal, and what happens if I get caught? This post answers those questions and looks at the methods torrenters use to stay safe and anonymous.
What is Torrenting?
Torrenting is the act of downloading and uploading files through the BitTorrent network. Instead of downloading files to a central server, torrenting involves downloading files from other users’ devices on the network. Conversely, users upload files from their own devices for other users to download.
Torrenting is the most popular form of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing, and it requires torrent management software to connect to the BitTorrent network. Such software can be downloaded for free for a number of different devices.
Everyone downloading or uploading the same file is called a peer, and collectively they are known as a swarm. Because of how BitTorrent works, a peer can download a file from several other users at once, or upload a file to multiple other users simultaneously.
Torrenting is often associated with piracy because it’s frequently used to share files that are protected by copyright, including movies, games, music, and software. However, torrenting has many legitimate uses as well, such as lessening the load on centralized servers by distributing the hosting burden among users.
Torrenting safety and legality: In short
Is torrenting legal or illegal? Torrenting itself isn’t illegal, but downloading unsanctioned copyrighted material is. It’s not always immediately apparent which content is legal to torrent and which isn’t. Some fall in a gray area, so you may find yourself unwittingly on the wrong side of the law.
Your internet service provider (ISP) and copyright trolls monitoring the BitTorrent network can take action if they catch you illegally torrenting. This can range from a warning letter and throttling (slowing down) of your internet connection speeds to legal action – although the latter is increasingly rare.
Digital privacy-conscious torrenters will use VPN services, or virtual private networks, to keep their internet activity hidden from their ISP. With a wide range of applications, some VPNs are better suited for torrenting than others. If you want to keep your ISP from snooping on your activity, choose a VPN connection that: a) doesn’t keep a log of your activity, b) isn’t based in a country where the legal system can be used to demand customer records, and c) is fast enough that it won’t slow entire downloads. We’ve rounded up the providers that fit these criteria and others in our list of the best torrenting VPN services.
How to torrent safely
It is relatively simple to torrent safely and keep your online activity private. Note that while a VPN for torrenting will keep your activity private and safe from prying eyes you may still be susceptible to malware from some public torrent sites. Follow these 5 steps to torrent privately with a VPN.
Here’s how to torrent safely:
Download and install a VPN matching the criteria mentioned above. We recommend NordVPN.
Enable your VPN’s kill switch, if it has one.
Connect to a VPN server, preferably in a P2P-friendly country
Once the connection is established, open your torrent client and start downloading as usual
Your online activity is now encrypted by your VPN
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Torrenting without a VPN
Torrenting without a VPN means your internet service provider (ISP) can see your online activity including the sites you visit and the content you view. In certain countries, including the US, ISPs are allowed to share this information with third parties including intellectual property owners. A VPN will keep your online activity private from your ISP.
Is uTorrent safe?
uTorrent is the official torrent client from the creators of the BitTorrent protocol. It is proprietary—not open source—software maintained by a legal US company. Like BitTorrent, the uTorrent software itself is legal, although it can be used for digital piracy. The official uTorrent is free of malware and can be used safely and privately in combination with a VPN. It does not, however, prevent users from downloading malicious files that can infect their device.
The BitTorrent protocol rose to become the most popular medium for peer-to-peer file sharing in the world after the demise of centralized services like Napster and Limewire. Unlike those services, torrenting is almost completely decentralized save for the trackers that allow users to search and download torrent files and magnet links. Torrent files and magnet links are used to find other users on the network who host the desired file or files but do not actually host those files for downloading.
Is BitTorrent safe and legal?
The BitTorrent protocol is not in itself illegal or unsafe. It is just the means to share any type of file, and plenty of legal torrenting services do exist. The most popular torrent trackers, such as ThePirateBay and KickassTorrents, however, operate in a legal grey area, offering users free access to copyrighted content. Sharing and downloading copyrighted content by BitTorrent, or other means, is illegal in many countries and can be unsafe since sites including KickassTorrents have been shown to host malware.
These trackers would argue that they simply find and organize information that is already out there, and they do not illegally host any copyrighted content on their own servers. Just like the BitTorrent protocol itself, they are the means to an end. Not everyone is convinced. Major trackers have come under heavy legal scrutiny from content creators and distributors who argue the trackers enable and encourage theft.
The blame ultimately shifts to the users, the millions of individuals who host files on their personal computers, downloading and uploading movies, games, software, music, ebooks, and more. Users connected to the same tracker are called peers, and they fall into two categories. A leech uses a torrent file or magnet link to download the file from other users on the network who already have the file. These users who already have the file are called seeds. When a leech is finished downloading a file (or even just part of a file), he or she becomes a seed, allowing other leeches to download the file from his or her computer. As a general rule, it’s considered proper pirate etiquette to seed as much as you leech.
Comparitech does not condone or encourage any violation of copyright law or restrictions. Please consider the law, victims, and risks of copyright piracy before downloading copyrighted material without permission.
Legally speaking, seeding and leeching copyrighted material fall into different criminal categories. Think of it like buying illegal drugs: purchasing the drugs for personal use is definitely a crime, but a relatively minor one. Turning around and selling those drugs to others is a much more serious offense. Finding the original source of the drugs, or in this case the HD rip of the new Avengers movie, would be the best case scenario for law enforcement, but that isn’t always possible. The trackers act as the shady back alley marketplaces where all of these transactions go down, but they don’t personally handle any of the drugs.
What happens if you are caught torrenting?
The prosecution of torrent users has been sporadic. The chances of actually going to court or having to pay a settlement are pretty slim, but the penalties can be extremely high. The frequency of copyright holders suing torrenters for copyright infringement peaked in the late 2000s. Copyright pirates were sued for wildly disproportionate amounts of money, and most settled out of court.
These public scare tactics shone poorly on the recording and movie industries because they were portrayed as petty millionaires bullying poor college students. Direct lawsuits are much less common these days, but the campaign against torrenters is far from over.
Now the job of going after individual copyright pirates has been outsourced to a growing number of small businesses known as copyright trolls. These companies locate torrenters who illegally download copyrighted content through their real IP addresses. They then approach the copyright owners and sign a deal that lets them take legal action on their behalf. Others are hired directly by Hollywood production companies to sniff out pirates.
With legal leverage and a list of names, the copyright trolls then go after torrenters via mail, email, or even by going door to door and handing out settlement letters. These letters are not legally binding documents or injunctions. Copyright trolls use intimidation, fear, and shame to make torrenters pay without ever going to court. A common tactic is to threaten to sue for over $100, 000 but only ask for $3, 000 or so in the settlement. That makes the $3, 000 look like a good deal, but going to court is costly and risky for them, so don’t give in if you receive such a letter.
What to do if you receive a settlement letter
The most common way to receive a settlement letter is through your internet provider. A copyright troll will go through the court system to subpoena your ISP and force it to email customers with a legal threat and hand over personal details.
According to US law, an IP address is not a person. If you were contacted through your ISP, chances are that’s because the copyright troll doesn’t know your actual identity yet. If the letter doesn’t contain any identifying information on you, keep it that way and do nothing. Your case could be dismissed before the date that your ISP is set to reveal your personal details to the troll. If you respond and identify yourself, that gives the troll a more direct means of targeting you.
This is a game of probability for copyright trolls. If they send out 1, 000 threatening emails and 50 people reply, they only need a handful to actually cough up money to make it worth their time. Chances are it’s more cost effective for them to move on to the next swarm of torrenters than pursue the remaining 950 people.
If things escalate and you decide to take action, lawyer up. Here’s a list of attorneys compiled by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that specialize in these sorts of cases.
Depending on your ISP, it may take actions against you on its own behalf. That could mean throttling your internet connection or threatening to hand over personal details to a copyright troll. Why does your ISP even care? Because torrenting takes up a lot of bandwidth, and that bandwidth costs ISPs money. On top of that, an ISP could be receiving kickbacks from content owners and their associates.
How to protect yourself
To avoid any legal ramifications, it’s best to simply not torrent. However, if you insist on torrenting, take the time to protect your online privacy and keep copyright trolls at bay.
Use a VPN when torrenting
The best way to torrent safely is by using a VPN. A VPN accomplishes two things: first, it re-routes all your internet traffic through a server in a location of your choosing, which changes your real IP address to one used by hundreds or thousands of other people (assuming your VPN uses shared IP addresses, which most do). This adds a significant layer of anonymity and makes it much more difficult for anyone to track you. Second, a VPN encrypts all your torrent traffic before it leaves your computer. That means your ISP cannot monitor your internet activity, nor can anyone else. And because all your traffic heads to the VPN server first, ISPs can’t even tell where it’s going.
Using a quality VPN is key; don’t settle for a “free” service or VPNs that log your activity, cap your bandwidth and data, or don’t provide sufficient DNS leak protection. Not all VPNs tolerate torrenting. You can check out our list of the best VPNs for torrenting here, which are services with fast download speeds and a focus on online privacy, security and anonymity like NordVPN, Surfshark, and ExpressVPN among others.
If you don’t want to pay for a VPN, you might be considering Tor. Tor is similar to a VPN in that it routes your traffic through several volunteer “nodes” while encrypting traffic. We recommend a VPN over Tor for a couple reasons. First, Tor is slow, and usually best for simple browsing and other low-bandwidth activity. Second, connecting to Tor could actually draw more attention from your ISP and law enforcement, as it’s a well-known tool for hackers and criminals.
Another popular app among torrenters is Peerblock. Peerblock is a desktop firewall with a regularly updated blacklist of IP addresses. These IP addresses belong to entities that try to track your activity online, especially on peer-to-peer networks. Unfortunately, the blacklist is only updated once upon installation. After that, users must pay to keep them updated. Even if you’re willing to pay, it’s unlikely that the blacklist could contain every possible IP address for copyright trolls, universities, and law enforcement. A copyright troll just needs to connect to the swarm–all the devices connected to a single torrent–with an IP that isn’t on that blacklist to get your IP address.
Instead of torrenting, another alternative is Usenet. Usenet is a paid service-usually between $10 and $20 per month–where you download files from centralized servers instead of a network of peers. Usenet downloads are much, much faster; often as fast as your ISP can handle. Usenet is more private as well. The connections take place between you and the provider’s network of servers, and the best providers offer an SSL-encrypted connection. Some even throw in VPNs for good measure. Torrents, on the other hand, require that you share at least some identifying information to connect to the tracker and peers.
Finally, downloading a Usenet file doesn’t mean you have to seed it for other internet users afterward. Legally, this makes you less of a target because you’re not supplying strangers with copyrighted content, at the same time consuming fewer computer resources and internet bandwidth.
Usenet providers make files available for a certain number of days. How many depends on the provider, but the standard is 1, 200 days after the original posting. Until that time is up, users have full access to that file. Torrents only stay up as long as people seed the file.
We’ve rounded up some of the best Usenet providers here.
Public vs private trackers
A “tracker” is like a search engine that indexes files on the BitTorrent network. Trackers can be private or public, and the former usually requires an invitation from an existing member.
ThePirateBay, KickassTorrents, and Demonoid are all examples of public trackers. Anyone can just go to their respective websites and search without logging in or requiring any sort of authentication. Likewise, anyone can upload files for others to download. These uploads are not moderated, so users must judge whether a download is safe and accurate based on comments and the reputation of the uploader.
Private trackers are more exclusive both in terms of who can upload and who can download within a group. They vary wildly in terms of content and quality, but many members of private trackers attest that they have higher quality files, faster downloads, longer retention, and an overall more consistent and safe experience.
The law views private trackers the same as public trackers. Internet piracy is piracy whether you do it in public or within a private group.
Streaming vs torrenting
Many people have moved away from downloading entire files through BitTorrent and opt instead to stream video content either on their web browsers or through customized programs like Kodi. When it comes to safety and the law, what’s the difference?
Legally speaking, you’re probably still breaking the law when you stream illegal content from a pirated source. However, this depends largely on your country. In the UK, it’s outright illegal. In India, a court ruled that it is absolutely not illegal. In the US, it’s still a grey area, as there’s been no precedent of anyone being convicted for copyright piracy after streaming copyrighted video content from an unsanctioned source.
Those who upload the videos without compensating or asking permission from the copyright holder do so illegally. That’s pretty much standard no matter where you are.
Not only do laws tend to be more lenient toward streaming content, but it’s also more difficult for copyright trolls and law enforcement to catch users in the act. When you download a torrent, you can see the IP addresses of everyone else you’re uploading to or downloading from. But streaming transmits a video directly from a website to your device, with no third parties involved.
Don’t get too comfortable, however, as there are still risks. The website could be logging IP addresses or other information about its users, which it could then hand over to law enforcement or a copyright troll. Your ISP could monitor your activity and see that you are watching pirated content. These are risks that can be mitigated by connecting to a reputable VPN.
When it comes to security, streaming video carries just as many risks as torrenting. Websites that stream pirated content tend to be chock full of intrusive ads, malware, and phishing threats. Kodi users are subject to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks and other threats from the add-ons they download.
As a rule of thumb, avoid downloading movies that were released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the past 60 days, especially big-hit blockbusters. That’s when movies make the vast majority of their post-box office money, after which their income significantly drops off. Copyright holders will put most of their anti-piracy resources into going after torrenters of new releases to minimize the financial damage. The same goes for TV series, shows and video games.
Users of Popcorn Time, the free movie-streaming app, should tread just as carefully as torrenters. Many Popcorn Time users don’t realize that the app actually streams directly from torrents and will even seed a file so it is uploaded to other users. All the risks associated with Popcorn Time apply in equal measure to torrenting.
Choose your torrents wisely. The most popular torrents on ThePirateBay and KickassTorrents are probably the ones being most closely monitored by copyright trolls. However, don’t pick totally unpopular ones either. Read through the comments section, where users often run virus scans on torrent downloads and post the results. They will also give you a general review of the quality.
Even if the comments are positive, run your own virus scans as well. Ideally, use multiple antivirus programs to run an array of scans, as each of their virus libraries can differ. Not all antivirus programs play nice with each other, however, so mixing two or more must be done with care. We recommend Bitdefender to scan all downloads before opening. This is especially important when downloading games and software, which are often “cracked” by the uploader. Cracks make it easier to bypass DRM schemes that validate content with the publisher, but they also make it easier to distribute hidden malware, spyware, and viruses. Check out Comparitech’s antivirus reviews section here.
Why did BitTorrent install adware on my computer? BitTorrent is a network and protocol used to share files, so BitTorrent itself cannot install adware on your computer.
However, the programs used to connect to the BitTorrent network and download files, called torrent managers or torrent clients, can and often do come with adware. The files you download can also contain malware and adware.
Stick to reputable torrent managers and, if prompted, refuse any offers to install additional software alongside them. These additional programs are often adware.
Likewise, be sure to only download and upload torrents you downloading a shared torrent from Google drive illegal? If you’re downloading something from Google Drive, then it’s not a torrent. It’s just a download. The file might have originally been downloaded through BitTorrent, then uploaded to Google Drive where others can download it.
Semantics aside, if the content of the file is protected by copyright, then yes, it is illegal to download pirated files from Google I just download a torrent from a public place? Most torrenters use public trackers to find and download files through BitTorrent. So in that sense, yes, you can download a torrent from a public place provided you have a torrent client installed on your device.
The files themselves are downloaded from other BitTorrent users who have downloaded the file and are now uploading it to fellow users.
Private trackers are also available and are often safer, but typically require an invitation from an existing I go to jail for torrenting? It depends on the circumstances, but no, it’s highly doubtful you would go to jail for torrenting. Most lawsuits regarding torrenting are civil suits, not criminal ones, so if a penalty is levied, it’s usually a fine or some other monetary compensation.
That being said, it also depends on what country you’re in, what you torrent, and whether you also seeded the file so it could be downloaded by other users. Check your local laws and are the risks of torrenting music? The music recording industry has, on occasion, aggressively targeted torrenters who engaged in music piracy. These days, litigation is mostly done by copyright trolls who target torrenters on behalf of recording studios. They’ll send out settlement letters demanding hundreds or even thousands of dollars to torrenters whom they can identify. They usually go through internet service providers to contact torrenters. Your ISP could throw you under the bus, and that’s not a gamble we recommend taking. By using a VPN, you can greatly reduce the risk of being identified by a copyright troll.
What Is Torrenting? What You Should Know if Using Torrents – AddictiveTips
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If you’ve never used torrents before but are curious to learn more, this is the article for you. We’ll address what exactly torrenting is, share tips for using the popular P2P technology effectively, plus illustrate how to use a VPN alongside torrents for safe, anonymous downloads.
Torrenting is a popular file sharing protocol based on peer-to-peer (P2P) technology. It allows vast numbers of users to connect and share content without having to rely on a single source for downloads. To illustrate the sheer usage of torrents, a 2018 Sandvine report shows that 22% of all upstream internet traffic worldwide is handled by BitTorrent. Insane.
Wanna cut to the chase? Here’re the best VPNs for safe torrenting:
NordVPN – Best Torrenting VPN – NordVPN’s P2P-optimized specialty servers are exactly what you need to hide your torrent traffic without sacrificing speed.
Surfshark – Not the biggest network, but every server is tuned for safe, unlimited torrent downloads.
IPVanish – The classic torrenting VPN, trusted by thousands all over the world. Good speeds and security.
On the surface torrenting is simple and easy to use. There are a lot of moving parts to the torrenting experience, however. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of file sharing to make it work, but it’s nice to know what makes torrenting work so you can get the most out of your downloads. Moreover, it’s critical you know how to torrent safely and protect your identity. We’ll show you everything you need in the article below.
30-days money back guarantee
Always Use a VPN While Torrenting
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are essential tools for anyone interested in torrenting. VPNs encrypt data that leaves your computer, making it impossible for anyone to see what you’re downloading. They also obscure your true location by providing you with a virtual IP address. This is extremely important for torrenting, as the nature of the protocol exposes your IP and your location to other users.
Using a VPN while torrenting is as simple as running another piece of software. Choosing the best VPN for the job is a little more difficult, however. There’s a lot of information to research and compare, including encryption protocols, server networks, and privacy policies. We’ve streamlined the process by providing our top recommendation below.
It’s fair to call NordVPN the Swiss army knife of VPNs, thanks to its array of highly specialized privacy provisions. Most relevant to anyone interested in torrenting will be the P2P-optimized speciality servers. Simply select one of these clearly-labeled servers within NordVPN’s intuitive interface, and let your app do the rest. It will always select the best balance of server distance, encryption protocol, and cipher strength for speedy downloads and truly private connections.
Beyond torrenting, NordVPN also has servers for navigating TOR, getting a static IP to beat VPN blocks, encrypting your traffic twice, and even for evading DDoS attacks. They’re all guarded by unbreakable 256-bit AES encryption by default. And with a kill switch plus DNS leak protection, you’ll never let a single byte of unprotected information out to reveal your identity and activity.
NordVPN’s no-logging policy is second to none, and their Panamanian jurisdiction ensures no government can strong-arm them into changing that.
Read our full NordVPN review.
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Mind-boggling number of servers
Strong encryption is used on all connections
Strict zero logs policy on both traffic and metadata
Great customer service via chat.
Apps can sometime be slow to connect.
What if you didn’t have to pick and choose your settings to get fast, private torrent downloads? Surfshark set out to make this a reality, and you could accurately blanket-label their entire network as “specialized” for P2P downloads. Gone are the days of slow downloads just because you don’t live geographically close to the nearest torrent-friendly server.
Even beyond filesharing, there’s plenty to love about Surfshark. Their apps are some of the snappiest, most minimal affairs we’ve had the pleasure of using. Moreover, most of the tweaking is handled automatically by Surfshark. If the app detects throttling or deep packet inspection or other invasive methods of destroying your privacy, it immediately responds with the appropriate countermeasure.
In short, Surfshark is a solid VPN, with 800 servers across 50 countries, 256-AES-GCM encryption, and one of the world’s best logging practices (aka, “strictly never”).
Bypass government censorship with NoBorders mode
Multi-hop connections readily available
No questions asked money back guarantee
Independently audited privacy practices
Support staff manned by actual human beings 24/7.
Server network is not nearly as expansive as major competitors
Apps don’t allow for much manual fiddling for power users.
Read our full Surfshark review.
IPVanish is an excellent choice for a strong, fast, and anonymous torrenting VPN. The service features a huge network of over 1, 300 servers in more than 60 different countries, giving you all the options you need for low-latency connections worldwide. The network also has 40, 000 shared IP addresses for an incredible boost in anonymity. Some of IPVanish’s exclusive security features even let you customize encryption strength and automatically change IP addresses on a regular basis.
A strong zero-logging policy is crucial for online privacy, especially when you’re downloading torrents. IPVanish doesn’t disappoint with its fantastic zero-logging policy covering all traffic. Data leaving your device also gets secured with 256-bit AES encryption along with DNS leak protection and automatic kill switch features for improved privacy. With an IPVanish VPN on your computer, you’ll always be safe and anonymous.
Read our full IPVanish review.
Before you jump into the world of torrenting, there are a few terms you should familiarize yourself with:
Indexers – Websites that collect torrent files and act as a search engine for content. If you’ve ever used The Pirate Bay, Extratorrent, or RarBG, you’ve used an indexer. Some sites are public and open to use by anyone who lands on the page, while others are private and require an invite.
Trackers – Servers that work as a bridge between torrent users. Whenever you upload or download a file, a torrent tracker orchestrates the entire thing.
Torrent client – Software used to connect to torrent trackers to download and assemble files on your computer. Deluge, uTorrent, and Transmission are a few popular clients.
Seeders – People who are actively uploading a file to the torrent network. It’s important to keep completed downloads in your torrent client so you can seed to other users. Without seeders, torrent content can’t be downloaded.
Leechers – Downloading a file without uploading (seeding) it. Leeching is generally considered a bad practice while torrenting.
Ratio – The relationship between your uploading (seeding) and downloading (leeching) score. Your ratio for each file should be greater than 1. 0, meaning you upload at least as much as you download.
Magnet link – Instead of downloading a torrent file, magnet links identify files and sources and allow your torrent client to start downloading immediately.
History of Torrenting
File sharing dates back to the 1970s when early computer developers needed a way to transfer content from device to device. The first sharing protocols set up simple host-client relationships that let users download copies of files from a centralized server. This quickly gained popularity as technologies such as usenet and IRC spread to the general population, but it was limited by the server’s speed and available bandwidth.
As content grew in size, new methods were developed to ease the load on servers while increasing the speed of downloads across the board. Peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P) gained enormous popularity in 1999 with the rise and subsequent fall of Napster. The software used P2P networks to link connected users. Instead of downloading one file from one server, you downloaded countless pieces of files from other users, letting people host and share content in swarms.
The BitTorrent protocol soon came along. It presented a logical evolution of the P2P model by formalizing and streamlining a lot of technologies that made peer sharing work. Torrents are tiny files that point to trackers, which are external sites that maintain a database of links. These links point to other users whose computers host a requested file. By downloading a torrent you’re connecting directly to dozens or even thousands of other users, grabbing tiny pieces of the file which your torrenting software assembles on your computer.
How to Use Torrents
The technology may sound complicated, but in practice it’s surprisingly easy to use torrents. It won’t be as straightforward as clicking to download a file, and it can be challenging to find good-quality content, especially if you’re looking for movies or TV shows. But with a little patience and the right resources, torrenting will open up a new world of downloads for you to browse and enjoy.
Download a torrent client such as Deluge (Windows, Mac, Linux). There are some torrent clients for iOS and Android, but it’s best to stick with PC whenever possible.
Search for a torrent to download. Use an indexer or tracker to find your favorite content.
Download the torrent file or click the provided magnet link.
If your torrent client doesn’t automatically start, open it and add the torrent manually.
Wait for the torrent to initiate and start downloading from peers.
When the download reaches 100% you can open the file and enjoy your content.
Leave the torrent client running with your download actively uploading so you can seed to other users.
Remove the torrent from your client when you’re done downloading. This is an important safety step, because sometimes you may want to shut your VPN off for whatever reason, and you don’t want to forget that you’re actively uploading data into the torrent network. Alternatively, if you want to keep seeding, just make sure that your torrent client is never open when your VPN is off.
Torrenting Depends on Users, Not Servers
When you get a file from a website or hosting service, chances are you’re downloading the content from a single computer. This host-client relationship is pretty straightforward, but the downsides include things like limited bandwidth, slow speeds, and even censorship. After all, if a file only exists in one place, all the host has to do is remove it and no one can use it.
Torrenting neatly sidesteps the problems of availability and slow speeds. You don’t download files from one source, you download it from dozens. Each user who downloads is then turned into an uploader (seeder), which in turn provides more sources for other users to download from. The more people who use BitTorrent, the stronger it becomes. It’s just one of the many reasons torrenting has gotten so popular in recent years.
When torrenting, always keep in mind that you’re part of a community. Seed as much as you can, keep a good ratio, and help your fellow torrenters participate in file sharing.
Is Torrenting Legal? Is it Safe?
Any new technology is going to come with a few hurdles to overcome, and BitTorrent is no exception. As soon as torrenting became popular people started using it to share pirated content, especially high-definition movies and TV shows. This soured the public perception of torrenting as a tool for breaking the law, which is a little unfair. BitTorrent has countless legal uses, everything from distributing your own files without a server to effortlessly sharing content with your school or work group. Torrenting itself is perfectly legal, but like any tool, you can abuse it in illegal ways.
The distinction that has kept torrenting alive is the fact that torrent sites do not host any content. You’re downloading from other users, not from trackers or indexers, which puts most of the community in a legally gray area. As is the case with downloading any file from the internet, there’s always a chance you’ll run into a virus or malware. Depending on the torrent indexer you’re using this may be more common than you think. Files can also be mislabeled intentionally or accidentally, which means you should always be a little cautious when grabbing torrents from the internet, just in case.
Staying Safe while Torrenting
While torrenting and torrent sites are generally safe, there are some dangers to look out for. Viruses, malware, data theft, and other issues can arise if you’re not careful. Follow the tips below to secure your computer and keep yourself out of harm’s way.
Always use a VPN – VPNs are important for everyday privacy and security, but they’re absolutely essential for downloading torrents. Connecting to peers means showing your IP address to the world, which simply isn’t safe in the modern digital age. You should always use a VPN for P2P file sharing. Always.
Use anti-virus software – Anti-virus software is a front line defense against harmful files. Keep your scanner active whenever you search for, download, or run torrents.
Don’t download illegal content – Downloading pirated movies, software, and TV shows will put you in harm’s way. If you stick to legitimate content, you’re much less likely to get into trouble.
Choose public trackers carefully – Where you get your torrents from makes a huge difference. Popular sources are generally safer to use than underground ones, though this isn’t always the case. Check out our guide to the best and safest torrenting sites currently operation.
Use private trackers – Registration requirements help keep private trackers safe from troublemakers. If you can gain access to a few good private trackers, stick to them for life.
Reader-submitted Torrent Recommendations
Got a reliable torrent site you love to use? How about a favorite torrent client you can’t live without? Let the world know in the comments below.
Is Torrenting Illegal? – All You Need To Know About Torrenting! | Techjury
Is Torrenting Illegal?
Torrenting is often associated with internet piracy and copyright infringement. The open access to high volumes of free music, movies and games just raises a red flag, doesn’t it?
Is torrenting illegal? How exactly does this tech work? And should you use it to download content from the web for free?
The answers to these questions aren’t as straightforward as you’d imagine.
So, we’ll begin with the basics and cover everything from what torrenting is to how to use it safely.
And once we answer it all, you may view this technology beyond its general reputation.
Now, let’s start!
What Is Torrenting?
Torrenting is the act of downloading and uploading files through the BitTorrent network. This is a communication protocol for peer-to-peer file sharing, which enables data exchange in a decentralized manner.
Now, in layman’s terms:
Basically, torrenting is like other forms of downloading, but the way you get files isn’t as clear-cut as it usually is. And also, you have more freedom when it comes to sharing your own data.
When fetching data from an HTTP protocol, it comes from an advanced server designed to handle traffic from large numbers of people at the same time.
With torrent applications, things work a bit differently.
Rather than being stored in one place, files you download come from hundreds of servers or even more. What’s even more unusual is that they’re almost exclusively personal computers. This means advanced hardware takes no part in this type of data exchange.
How did it all start?
The beginning was 20 years ago when a programmer, Bram Cohen, came up with a new way to transfer large files. It was a response to the incredibly slow internet at the time, which couldn’t facilitate large data moves.
Now that you know what torrenting is, it’s time to come up with an answer to the question – how does torrenting work?
How Does Torrenting Work?
Downloading files via peer exchange may sound confusing. In reality, the entire concept isn’t that difficult to grasp.
So, what’s the first thing you’re supposed to do when downloading something this way?
Well, first, you need either a torrent file or a magnet link to click on.
The former is a file on your computer that uses the. torrent filename extension and starts the download process upon a double click. The latter is a link that contains all the information your client needs to start scraping the file right away.
This sends out a request for the file you want, and your program tries to locate it on other computers running their file-sharing software.
Therefore, you can access data from more than just one place. So, when you download torrent films, for example, each file comes in bits and pieces from different users.
When you start downloading something, your torrent will choose from which servers to gather data. It’ll do so based on where it can find the file parts you need.
The transfer load is distributed between computers exchanging files to ensure no one’s bandwidth gets overloaded.
Let’s look at an example.
We’ll imagine you decided to share a 500MB file from your computer in a traditional manner. In case 1, 000 people try to get it from you, all at the same time, it would exhaust your upload bandwidth entirely. The result — everyone’s torrent app will have to spend hours trying to download it.
Torrents eliminate issues like this with a simple solution. They let users scrape pieces of data from multiple places with that specific file (a. k. a. the swar) until they get the full version. The absence of a central server means no one’s internet will suffer an enormous decrease in speed. And the users downloading the file will still get it at the end of the process.
Even if the original sharer stops distributing it, other users can still do it once they complete the download. That’s because of the peer-to-peer foundation of BitTorrent.
So, unless you change the preferences in the program you use, you’ll automatically share the computer file you’ve downloaded with users online.
This completes the cycle and ensures the original file remains available to everyone.
How quickly does one obtain something this way often depends on the seeders vs leechers ratio.
Wondering what these two concepts are?
We’ll explain that as well.
With most torrent programs, when you download a file, you automatically become a seeder. This means other users can scrape it from you whenever you’re online.
Of course, you can stop seeding whenever you want to.
Just keep in mind that zero seeds mean it’s impossible to download the file.
In the world of torrenting, people who download data from servers without seeding it are called leechers.
Some scrape more than they upload, while others upload absolutely nothing once they get the file they want.
Is Torrenting Safe and How to Torrent Safely?
BitTorrent is best known as a place for pirate 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’s so much copyrighted content floating online, and it’s so easy to get access to it. Quite often, ISPs send warning letters and links to anti-piracy educational resources when they identify BitTorrent users.
While the practice should be approached with caution, it’s not as unsafe as it may seem.
Depending on where you’re based, 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’re probably wondering how to torrent safely.
The good news is that protecting your privacy when downloading files isn’t difficult. You can do it even if you don’t have any special computer skills.
Also, you can choose between two common tools for doing so — VPN and Proxy.
If you don’t want anyone to know that you’re downloading content using BitTorrent, you can change your virtual location.
And how do you do that?
The answer is — using a VPN.
This little tool can make it appear as if you were browsing the internet from a different city, state, or country.
In addition, it can encrypt all the traffic passing through the tunnel, ensuring you stay safe when downloading.
That’s why VPN and torrenting go hand in hand.
We have a list of the best VPN services for torrenting, including some big names like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, PIA, Surfshark, and more.
Proxy also ensures you stay safe when torrenting It also changes your IP address, but it substitutes it with its own.
That way, your privacy remains intact, and you don’t even have to show your actual IP.
If you opt to download data this way, you can check out our list of the best proxy server services for this year.
Now’s time to answer the big question – Is torrenting illegal?
When you think about it, it will make sense that this type of file transfer isn’t allowed. After all, it’s most commonly used to share copyrighted content with other internet users.
However, the tech behind BitTorrent hasn’t been designed specifically for this use. Therefore, there’s nothing illegal in torrenting itself.
But if you download unsanctioned copyrighted material, you break the law.
This also isn’t as clear as you’d imagine. There’s a lot of a gray area about what’s legal to torrent and what isn’t.
Still, even if you download something that obviously isn’t allowed, there’s a big chance you won’t be held responsible. This depends on your location, though.
For example, some countries have fines for all types, including movies, TV shows, and music torrenting.
These countries are:
If you plan to download something while in one of these countries, using a VPN is an absolute must.
But there’s more…
Some countries have a different policy against torrenting. Here’s a list of those that have a history of shutting down these types of sites:
Many internet users aren’t aware of how it all works. That’s why we’ll check out another example.
For instance, is torrenting illegal in the USA?
Using this type of file transfer isn’t illegal in the USA. You can safely share data this way and not worry about breaking the law.
However, the moment you upload or download something copyrighted, your actions become subject to a fine.
And is torrenting illegal in other places around the world?
In many other countries, the answer is yes. However, depending on where you are, the fines are rarely imposed, meaning that in most of them you can freely download/share any type of content.
Even in that case, using a VPN or Proxy is a good idea.
Do’s and Don’ts of Torrenting Use
So, what should you and shouldn’t do when torrenting?
Let’s take a look!
Do Use a VPN or Proxy
Earlier, we talked about what both of these are. Therefore, you already know how they can shield your privacy when downloading.
Even if you don’t plan on picking up anything copyrighted, ensuring torrent anonymity is a good idea. When using a VPN or Proxy, you know no one has a clue that it was you who downloaded something.
Plus, many of these services have extra security features that can come in handy.
Do Choose Torrent Sites Carefully
Torrenting is way more popular than it may seem. There are plenty of websites where you can go to and start downloading content.
Unless you want to risk downloading infringing files, you should be very careful about what site you use.
The best thing you can do is find one that adheres to all laws and get your data from there. Vuze, Inc., for example, has a zero-tolerance policy for copyrighted content.
Do Be Careful When Seeding
Another important part of how to torrent safely is to be careful when seeding.
Whether you’re just seeding or want to share data, you have to know what you’re doing. The last thing you want to do is click on that “upload file” button and break some sort of law.
Don’t Use PirateBay
PirateBay has a bulk of content that’s just waiting to be downloaded.
However, it’s one of the places that expose you to an abundance of torrents monitored closely for infringement.
Unless you have plenty of experience with this tech, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere for content that’s not copyrighted.
Don’t Upload Your Own CD Rips
This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people engage in movie torrenting by uploading their own CD rips. Whatever type of computer file formats you have on original CDs or DVDs, sharing it 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 out there.
What Happens if You’re Caught Pirating?
While torrenting is legal, downloading and sharing content someone else has protected isn’t. Digital piracy does come with consequences that vary depending on where you live.
We already mentioned earlier that ISPs pay attention to what type of data you’re transferring using torrent. When they detect that you’re engaging in illegal activities, they can send you a warning or even reduce your bandwidth.
But that’s not the only reason why torrenting without VPN or Proxy isn’t recommended.
In some countries, you can earn a fine just for downloading a movie from using this tech.
For example, in Germany, this penalty can go all the way up to €1, 000.
In the US, copying data and sharing it with programs like µTorrent can even lead to imprisonment and/or a $250, 000 fine.
That’s why you have to be extremely careful what kind of data you’re working with when using this tech. Also, you should only engage in torrenting with VPN or Proxy.
Is Torrenting Illegal? – Conclusion
So, the act of torrenting itself is 100% legal. All you do is transfer data differently than you do with a standard HTTP protocol. You can use torrent programs to download and share files with other users.
However, the moment you start transferring copyrighted data, you’re breaking the law. Based on your location, fines for that can be extremely high and even involve jail time.
This only shows how careful you have to be when downloading with torrents.
Some countries don’t impose any rules against piracy, but knowing what kind of content you’re handling is always a good idea.
We highly recommend VPN or Proxy set up just in case.
Frequently Asked Questions about what is torrent software
What is torrenting used for?
Torrenting is a popular file sharing protocol based on peer-to-peer (P2P) technology. It allows vast numbers of users to connect and share content without having to rely on a single source for downloads.Dec 6, 2020
Can you go to jail for torrenting?
Can You Go To Jail for Torrenting? As long as you only transfer data that isn’t copyrighted, you can’t go to jail nor pay a fine for sharing data this way. … If torrenting is illegal in your country and you get caught downloading copyrighted content, you may be charged with a fine or even a prison sentence.Oct 4, 2021
Is torrenting safe?
Just like any other online activity, torrenting isn’t 100% safe, but by using one of the best VPN services available today and taking some sensible precautions, you can safely share files and download torrents online. Tom’s Guide in no way endorses the use of torrenting for illegal purposes.Aug 11, 2021