Is Torrenting Illegal? Tips to Torrent Safely and Securely

TORRENTS Updated on: 17 October 2018

The most straightforward answer is “Yes and No”. I hope that helped.

Downloading material protected by copyright claims is forbidden by the law in most countries. While most torrenting sites aren’t openly stating the underlying risks, the truth is much bitter.

I agree, being able to get your hands on Cyberpunk 2077 before it hits the market in your area is extremely tempting, but torrenting the game goes against the copyright policies and is, thus, illegal.

But you do want it, and countless others have downloaded illegally, with no repercussions whatsoever.

That may be so, but do you know why others haven’t been caught? Because they’re protecting their online traffic, making sure that they leave no traces at all of their activities. Or they were just lucky until now.

How long before they’re found out and fined or even worse?

As such, what are the exact boundaries between what is permitted and not? And how can you be sure of your safety and privacy even when torrenting illegal material?

The answers to these questions are extremely important in this day and age when the majority of people with access to the internet use programs like uTorrent to download various materials illegally.

However, before answering them, I will first explain how torrenting works, the dangers it brings, how you can get caught red-handed and what can happen as a result.

1. What is torrenting and how does it work?

Torrent is based on the P2P principle, more commonly known as peer-to-peer file sharing. The way the whole system works is this:

  • The file you’re trying to download is no longer put on an individual server, but on many different ones.
  • Your torrenting software connects to those computers on the internet and downloads chunks of data from each of them.
  • Putting together all the little bits of information, the software recreates the original file.

The person trying to download the file is leeching, and the ones supporting this file-sharing process are seeding. Once you finish downloading the file, ideally, you would keep on seeding the files for other people to download (leech).

There are multiple websites that compile lists of .torrent files, material that you can download using this P2P principle, through a torrenting client like uTorrent. However, they are closely monitored by the authorities and closed down one after the other.

Kickass Torrents was one such website that got shut down, with Pirate Bay following soon after.

As you can notice, there is no main distributor that shares the file, but that all the users that have downloaded the file contribute in its distribution onward. This means that it’s exceedingly difficult to shut down torrenting for good since there’s no single location where the file is being shared from.

The only efficient thing that can be done in this sense is tracking down each individual user.

Let’s see what this process boils down to.

2. How can you get in trouble for illegally torrenting?

Downloading copyrighted material such as music, movies, games, can get you into serious trouble with the authorities, besides being an immoral practice to begin with.

It is against the law and this is unlikely that’s ever going to change.

As such, since you’re also not going to give up on your torrenting activities, it’s good to know how you can be tracked down.

Usually, it’s your Internet Service Provider that’s going to disclose data about your online traffic and activities to the people who can really do something about it.

When you’re participating in the P2P file-sharing system, your IP is out there for everyone to see. Seeding, leeching, both activities are tied to your IP and are thus enough for the ISP to come knocking right on your door.

Even more importantly, this is just enough to file a complaint and start a legal pursuit against whoever is found to engage in illegal torrenting.

It’s no surprise that the torrenting industry’s resounding success makes it so that content creators all around the world are enraged and yell at the top of their longs for piracy to stop.

What’s interesting is that this whole situation gave birth to a whole new “occupation”.

These are the copyright trolls, but what part do they play in the whole scheme?

3. How do copyright trolls fit in the grand torrenting scheme?

These people, justice fighters in appearance but money-driven schemers, in reality, are part of a company or working independently to track down and extort money, preferably, from people who torrent illegally.

They could even work for the content creators themselves or the copyright holders who want to chase after those who have downloaded their content illegally.

This works based on the following formula:

  • First, the trolls investigate the online activity of a group of people then narrow down the numbers to a few who are most likely engaging in illegal torrenting
  • Then, they send fear-inducing letters or e-mail, threatening to find and put you against the wall, to legally pursue and make you cough up your last dimes
  • Unless, of course, you’re willing to come clean and confess or better yet, send a sum of money so that they stop the harassment

In essence, we’re talking about blackmailing, pure and simple.

But, many times these trolls manage to act within the boundaries of the law and bring illegal torrenting out into the surface. It’s growing harder and harder to engage in piracy, torrenting material protected by copyrights without being caught.

Now, let’s see what actually happens when you get caught.

4. Warning – Mine field ahead!

Getting caught while torrenting illegal material can have many repercussions from your internet speed being taken down a notch, courtesy of your ISP, to fines. Of course, this is only after you refused to listen to the warnings.

In India, for example, whoever is caught visiting a torrenting site, even without actually downloading anything, will get a three-year prison sentence.

There are different penalties, depending on the country, its legal principles and the legislation it enforces.

Even more, only recently a new alliance of content creators came to life to fight against the threat of illegal piracy. It brings together names like Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, Netflix, BBC, MGM, HBO, and many others.

Things are getting more serious with each passing day, and the time has come to discuss what can be done to avoid the impending catastrophe.

In other words, we’ll talk about the best methods and measures to be taken when torrenting so that you won’t be caught.

Even streaming movies falls into the same category.

If people are increasingly becoming aware that it’s getting harder and harder to download movies off the internet, then why bother at all? Why not watch it online?

Sure, that’s one way to look at things, but it’s really the same thing. The content is still protected by copyright regulations, the streaming website’s illegally putting it there for free use.

And you, as the user, are also illegally accessing it.

5. How to dodge the bullet of righteousness

We’ll just assume that, despite all the warnings and risks involved, you are still going to keep on torrenting material off the internet. After all, with unlimited access to every piece of media and creative content in the world, all for free, how can you not be tempted?

This is why I’ll point out some of the precautions you should take in order to lessen the odds of you being found out and punished. Before getting to actual, tested-for method of dealing with the risks for good that is.

Bear in mind, this doesn’t mean I’m condoning piracy or illegal torrenting in any way shape or form.

Think it through before downloading copyrighted materials:

  • Think about using Tor as a way of staying under the radar. The anonymity network encrypts your traffic and uses other privacy-oriented methods such as the always-active Private Mode to make sure you are safe.
  • Do be careful, though, of the notorious Dark Web, the onion encrypted links that are the breeding ground of criminal activities and felons in the making. Obviously, government agencies are watching it 24/7.
  • A good antivirus will also keep you secure enough, at least in the sense that it’ll check the veracity and safety of the downloaded files. All the possible malware and viruses will be kept at bay.
  • Unfortunately, a lot of those who participate in the P2P file-sharing community don’t have your wellbeing in mind, and they will readily include invasive programs into the downloaded materials.
  • Also, you would do well to refrain from torrenting the fresh content that’s just out. They are constantly kept under strict watch by those copyright trolls we’ve been talking about. The latest movies or music albums are fiercely protected by them.

However, these are still not enough from putting you out of harm’s way, not by a long-shot.

As such, you should consider using a VPN right from the beginning.

I can’t even dumb down the advantages that a reliable Virtual Private Network brings, from encrypting your traffic to giving you a totally new IP to use, and basically making you completely untraceable.

Increased security, handy warnings, kill switches, no records and ultimate protection against leaks. One switch of a button, and you’ll become a cyber-ninja.

It even hides your activity and uses such strong encryption methods that not even your ISP will be able to tell what you’ve been doing. Your traffic is made inaccessible and hidden from the rest of the world.

For good

Put some thought into choosing a good VPN though. Claiming that the free ones are absolute garbage and will only lure you into a false sense of security is already redundant; it’s a fact. They offer second-rate services, insufficient options to choose from, and they’ll most assuredly work behind your back as well, overflow you with cookies and sell your information to the highest bidder.

NordVPN, ExpressVPN, IPVanish, CyberGhost, PrivateVPN. These are the top 5 VPNs that you can find. They are highly acclaimed as the very best in the business, offering impeccable services, bulletproof security, unassailable protection, and incredibly complex encryption protocols.

Deciding to enlist the aid of a good VPN will be the best choice you’re going to make for some time now, given the ever-expanding scope of the digital world and its underlying risks.

In the end, it’s your choice alone whether you’re willing to ignore the risks and engage in illegal torrenting. With all the methods presented, it should lower the dangers of you being caught quite considerably.

The moral implications are still present and accountable for, though. This is, just as well, a personal choice that’s entirely yours to make.

You might think that downloading a movie or two now and then can’t even come close to other illegal activities, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still crooked, underhanded, and liable to be prosecuted.