What is Torrenting? Is it illegal?- Answering Torrent Questions

what is torrenting

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If you like to download and share TV shows, movies, and online games for free, you might have heard about torrenting. It is a popular file-sharing method, and its popularity is stemmed from the fact that downloading is free of charge.

Torrenting is the act of downloading and uploading a file using a peer-to-peer network. The process of downloading a torrent file is entirely different from regular file downloading. Instead of downloading a file as a whole, you download it in small packets from a single source and other peers in the swarm. 

Even though torrenting is a decentralized type of file-sharing method in which the files are shared with many people, it is still a reliable and fast file-sharing process. However torrent files are mostly pirated and are therefore met with much skepticism. We have therefore compiled this article to clear your doubts and let you into everything there is to know about torrenting! 

How Does Torrenting Work?

As mentioned before, torrenting is a systematic process, and it starts by downloading a torrent file or tracker. The tracker breaks the large file into tiny bits called packets. You download these small packets from different seeders who have uploaded the torrent file in the P2P network, and the same file is shared among the peers looking to download the same torrent file. These people who are downloading the same torrent file create a swarm where every peer has different bits of the torrent file. 

how torrenting work - infographics
how torrenting work – infographics

When you have downloaded certain packets of the torrent file, the torrent software you’re using starts uploading the files. It is a good thing as this minimizes network load, but it also has a drawback. When you’re downloading, at the same time, you’re also uploading, and this affects the internet speed. The download and upload speeds are linked; thus, you should seed more to maintain the internet speed.

The downloading process continues until you’ve downloaded the file or you stop the torrenting client from sharing the file. 

Common Terms Used For Torrenting

Here are some common terms that you often come across while torrenting. If you’re new to the realms of torrenting, then you know about each term for a better understanding of the torrenting process. So, here you go:

  • Peers: It is a user in the file-sharing protocol who uploads or downloads a torrent file. Each participant in the torrent network is known as the peer, while the entire torrent network is called P2P (peer-to-peer). 
  • Torrent Clients: It is a program that allows the P2P file sharing process by using the BitTorrent protocol. 
  • Seeders: It is a peer who has finished downloading a file but enables other users to download the file, and thus they seed (upload) the torrent file. 
  • Leechers: Users who are downloading the torrent files are known as leechers. When the download is finished, they become seeders. 
  • Swarms: It is a group of peers who are downloading or uploading the same torrent file. 
  • Indexers: Torrent websites that work as search engines and allow users to download torrent files on their devices. 
  • Magnet Link: These are particular torrent files that only contain the hash code and ensures a faster file transfer. 
  • Trackers: They are the servers that act, help in finding peers, and manage data exchange. 

Only if you’ve understood these terms, understanding the torrenting process would be pretty easy for you.

Is Torrenting Illegal?

When it comes to legality, torrenting falls in a grey area. Torrenting is not an illegal act but, if you download unsanctioned copyrighted content, it is illegal. 

It is found that 98% of the content downloaded via torrenting is either pirated or is copyrighted. It includes TV shows, movies, games, music, software, and more. Downloading such content for free is a violation of copyright laws, and thus it is illegal.

Moreover, the local laws of the country where you live also determine the legality of torrenting. The table below shows different countries and their narrative about torrenting: 

countries where torrenting illegal - infographics
countries where torrenting illegal – infographics

What Are the Risks Associated With Torrenting?

Though torrenting is an excellent method for downloading large files, it brings great risks along with it. Torrenting in most countries is considered an illegal act. If the higher authorities find you downloading torrents, legal action will be taken against you. Like recently, in the UK, the netizens who have illegally downloaded and shared the movie Ava are threatened with legal actions. In fact, the police have arrested three people for running an illegal streaming network. 

Besides this, other risks come along with torrenting. The most prominent ones include:

Speed Throttling Issue

Your ISP throttles your connection to regulate the network traffic and to decongest the network. Torrenting requires a lot of the bandwidth to download the torrent files. Your ISP, who’s constantly monitoring your network when it learns that you’re downloading torrents, starts throttling your network. This will ultimately slow down your browsing and downloading speed. 

Copyright Trolls

Suppose you reside in a country that follows mandatory data retention laws like in the US. In that case, the ISP shares your torrent downloading information with the higher authorities and with the copyright owners. By tracking your IP address, they can catch you for downloading the copyrighted content. This can lead to penalties. For example, in 2012, a lady in Minnesota was fined $220,000 for illegally downloading 24 songs. 

Malware Invasion

When you download torrents from different torrent websites, not all the files you come across are safe. The torrent files are shared by various seeders that you download onto your device. Since anyone can join the swarm, the threat actors send the malware embedded files. Downloading any such file can infect your device with malware, spyware, or viruses and risk your data security. 

Zero Anonymity

During torrenting, your IP address is visible to anyone who is part of the file-sharing process. Not all people present on that network are downloading files. Some might be there with bad intentions. In other words, the hackers might look for potential targets. By tracking your IP address, your data and personal information can be easily accessible to hackers. 

Moreover, it is not just threat actors, but also the copyright owners can filter out your IP address, which can lead to data surveillance and monitoring.

Falling victim to any of the risks mentioned earlier can put you in great trouble. If you want to enjoy some peace of mind during torrenting, you should follow the tips to download torrents safely. 

How to Download Torrents Safely?

Considering the risks mentioned above, it has become imperative to look for ways to download torrents securely from those threat actors. The following are some of the best tips you should practice to ensure safety while torrenting. So, here you go:

Use a VPN

Among all, the best way to safely download torrents is to use a reliable VPN for torrenting. The best VPN for torrenting comes with all the essential features that make your torrenting experience worth amazing. They provide unlimited bandwidth, an extensive server network, P2P-optimized servers for fast speed, and various privacy and security-enriched features that allow you to download torrents securely. 

A VPN for torrenting uses secure encryption ciphers and VPN protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard that protect your data traffic from all snooping eyes. Your traffic first goes to the VPN server, so your ISP won’t see your online activities. Also, since it hides your IP address, the peers in the P2P network or snooping eyes cannot detect you.

A VPN compatible with torrenting comes with various security features such as a split tunneling feature, and a kill switch enhances your torrenting experience. 

You can also check our guide for the best VPNs for torrenting and can escape from the hassle of searching for a VPN. 

Use a Reliable Antivirus Software

As said before, when you download torrents, you are at risk of getting infected with malware, adware, virus, and spyware. Protecting yourself from these attacks has become more crucial when you’re downloading torrents. People have also complained of experiencing a virus attack while downloading a torrent file. For this purpose, it is vital to use strong antivirus protection. 

While torrenting, ensure that you always use reliable antivirus software on your device to safeguard yourself against cyberattacks, hackers, and malware. Especially if you’re downloading torrents using public trackers. It’s like an open platform where you’re sharing your device with other connections, so there are more chances of getting attacked. 

Choose the Right Torrent File

You need to be cautious while downloading the torrent file from the internet, especially when you know threat actors are ready to trick users into downloading fake torrent files. Thus, you need to choose a suitable torrent file for downloading free from malware and other vulnerabilities. Here are some quick tips for picking up a suitable torrent file:

  • Download torrents from verified and popular torrent websites that are trustable. 
  • Check the file sizes and trust files with similar no of uploads and downloads.
  • If the torrent file is HD quality but small in size, it is undoubtedly a fake file. 
  • Read other user comments on the torrent file. If they seem legitimate, only then proceed for downloading. 

Do keep these points while you choose a torrent file for downloading. Hopefully, you won’t face any issues when following the tips above. 

Use Reliable Torrent Clients

A torrent client enables the users to share the file with peers using the same protocol. By using a torrent client, you can ensure a fast and secure downloading process. 

There are several different torrent clients out there; each of them possesses various features and functions. 

However, not all of them are worth using as some have serious vulnerabilities, such as intrusive pop-up ads, while others contain malware that can harm your device. Using such torrent clients can ruin your overall downloading experience. Hence, it is recommended to use reliable torrent clients to download torrents safely. Some of the best torrent clients include:

  • uTorrent offers impressive torrent-friendly features that make your experience worth amazing. But, the biggest drawback of using Torrent is that your downloading experience would be interrupted with intrusive pop-up ads. 
  • BitTorrent is the best option to use. It offers incredible features such as scheduled downloads, comments, and more.
  • Vuzu offers magnet link support, an integrated search option, and more features. It is best to use on the Windows platform. It provides both free and premium versions. To prevent seeing ads and minimize the risk of viruses, use the premium versions. 

For additional security and online protection, don’t forget to connect to a VPN before using these torrent clients.

Use the Best Torrent Websites

Like torrent clients, you should also use the best torrent websites. As the name suggests, these websites help find the suitable torrent file you are looking for to download. Some of the best torrent websites include:

  • The Pirate Bay is the king of torrents because of its extensive content library that covers all content categories and helps download torrents quickly. But since it contains copyrighted content, it’s banned in several regions. 
  • Kickass Torrent also consists of an extensive content library that allows you to download torrents from various categories. Its servers got seized in July 2016, and the website became inaccessible to the users. 
  • LimeTorrents hosts torrent files from other popular torrent websites and lets you download torrent files in any category. It is safe to use because it doesn’t log the user’s IP address, but it is blocked in different regions because of pirated content. 

It’s advisable to use a VPN while using torrent websites because most don’t provide ad protection. Thus, threat actors can trick you into clicking and downloading some malicious stuff. 

Cap Your Uploads

Another best way to avoid the risks of torrenting is to cap your uploads. By limiting the clients’ seeding bandwidth, you can protect yourself from copyright violations. When you use a VPN and limit your uploads, the copyright owner won’t know who was the mastermind behind distributing the copyright content, and they won’t ever track your IP address to catch you. 

Here’s some more information you should know about torrenting. 

Can You Download Torrents Without a VPN?

If you’re torrenting without a VPN, your ISP can see your online activities, including the websites you visit and the contents you view and download. When the ISP learns that you’re torrenting, they might throttle your connection, and as a result, you experience a slow internet connection. Thus, it isn’t advisable.

How to Configure Your VPN for Torrenting?

As mentioned earlier, using a VPN is the best solution to enjoy a safe and secure torrenting experience. But you need to configure your VPN before you start with the downloading process. The following mentioned below are the most crucial VPN settings that need to be configured. 

  • Test your VPN for different leaks (IP, Torrent IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks) to ensure that it provides a top-notch security level. 
  • Check that the automatic kill switch feature is enabled and working correctly. It is a helpful feature because it prevents data/IP leakage when the VPN connection drops. 
  • Ensure that your VPN is set to AES-256 bit encryption.
  • Go to the setting menu and enable the split tunneling feature. It is a helpful feature that helps to speed the connection while you’re downloading torrents. 
  • Ensure that you connect to the P2P-optimized servers as these are specially designed for torrenting and make your downloading experience fast. 
  • Select a secure and fast encryption protocol for torrenting like OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2.

By enabling all these features, you can enhance your security and privacy level during torrenting.

Can I Download Torrents Publicly?

The majority of people use public trackers to download torrent files through BitTorrent. However, it is better to download torrents using private trackers instead of public ones. It’s because they guarantee a fast and secure torrent downloading experience. Unlike the public trackers, the private trackers only allow a specific group of individuals to join their network and contain verified torrent files, making it a better option to consider.

Can I Be Jailed for Torrenting?

It depends on the local laws of the country where you are living. In some countries, torrenting is legal, while in others, it is illegal. In the UK, the penalty for torrenting is a fine or imprisonment up to ten years by the Crown Court. Also, if you download a torrent file that is not open to the public and violates copyright laws, then you can either face a fine or, in extreme cases, end up in jail. 

Can You Get Caught While Torrenting? 

Torrenting is a risky business, and authorities catch people for downloading and sharing unsanctioned copyrighted material. 

The copyright holders, along with their representatives, look for people who download the copyrighted content. They often join swarms and track frequent torrent user’s IP addresses. The ISPs help them by providing requested account details of the IP addresses caught involved in torrenting. 

 They send you warning letters, DMCA notices, and even drag the culprit to court where they’re fined or, in extreme cases, end up in jail for piracy. 

Name Countries Where Torrenting Is Illegal?

As mentioned earlier, torrenting laws vary from country to country. It might be legal in one region but illegal in another country. Here are some of the countries where torrenting is considered an illegal practice and can lead to penalties:

  • UK
  • Germany
  • France
  • UAE
  • Japan
  • Finland

For more information about different countries and their narrative regarding torrenting, consider the table above. 

Does a VPN Protect During Torrenting?

A VPN masks your IP address and location and encrypts your data traffic to protect your identity while you download torrents. Moreover, the best VPN for torrenting uses many torrent-friendly features that boost your security while downloading torrents. 

How to Spot Fake Torrents?

The torrent websites contain fake and malicious files that can harm your device and put your privacy at risk. Thus, it is better to be careful and try to spot fake torrent files. Here are some quick tips to spot fake torrents:

  • Check the seeders and leechers ratio. If it is pretty low and there are no comments on the torrent file, assume it is fake. 
  • Be aware of EXE files, as malware can creep through these files into your system. 
  • If you download any video file, it comes with AVI and WEBM extensions. If you have the file in any other format like WMA or WMV, then know that they are fake because this format is no longer in use. 

By following all these points, you can detect a fake torrent and enjoy a hassle-free torrenting experience.

Final Thoughts

Undoubtedly, torrenting is a great way to download large files in a short time. But, there are always significant privacy and security issues associated with torrenting. For instance, there’s a risk of facing copyright violations, ISP tracking that leads to throttling and downloading malware. 

But, by practicing some effective methods, you can download torrents safely. The best way for this is to use a VPN. It not just hides your IP address but also encrypts the data traffic so no one can detect that you’re involved in torrenting. 

Other than using a VPN, you can also use antivirus software, reliable torrent clients, and websites to ensure a safe and secure torrenting experience.

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