Torrenting is the most popular way for internet users to share files of music or film for free. Does that sound too good to be true to you? Read on to find out more about the legal implications.
Is it legal?
Straight to the main point, and the answer is both yes and no. Torrenting fills that wonderful void known as a ‘legal grey area’. Torrenting itself isn’t illegal, but downloading any material is. It isn’t always obvious which content may or may not land you in hot water, but there can be consequences so it’s best to make sure.
In most cases the user of the torrent service is simply viewing content that’s already there and it’s the person who uploaded or shared it in the first place who has committed the crime. But things aren’t always so black and white and it might not be a defence which will stand up in a court of law.
Is it safe?
Again the answer is both yes and no. There are plenty of legitimate and safe torrenting sites that are perfectly great to use. But there are also some shady types lurking in the back alleys of the internet who are going to spam you, hit you with viruses or annoy you with an endless stream of pop up ads.
Consequences of torrenting
While it is in a legal no man’s land, torrenting is not without its pitfalls. Some owners of copyrighted material did go after individual users at the start of the millennium in quite an aggressive way, delivering threatening letters and demanding a settlement. Many of these were paid although they weren’t legal and binding and would probably never have seen the inside of a courtroom if the initial request had been ignored.
Companies didn’t give up and have outsourced some work to so called copyright trolls. These will again send threatening letters demanding money, but they aren’t legal and binding either. The whole business is seemingly built on extortion, but some people will pay to make it go away and so the business keeps on ticking over.
Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) take a dim view of torrenting though and they will also threaten you, but this time it is with cutting off your internet service. The legality of torrenting isn’t necessarily what concerns them though, it’s more about the massive amount of bandwidth that torrenting uses which ultimately costs them money.
There is little to no chance of ever being taken to court for torrenting though.
How to torrent safely
If you’re worried about getting into trouble with your ISP or simply don’t want to end up in any kind of murky water there is a way though. You can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which hides all of your browsing from third parties. This is the ideal way to torrent to your heart’s content without anyone ever knowing.
It also pays to use a legitimate torrenting site too. Read reviews on the site you’re thinking of using before you start just to be on the safe side.
It also pays to avoid any films which were released on DVD within the last 60 days. This is the period during which a film makes the most revenue and it’s the time when you could most likely expect a copyright troll intervention. After this time period expected revenue drops dramatically and you will be a lot safer.
We don’t advocate in any way the theft or misuse of copyrighted material, but while it is still just about within the law, torrenting is a great way to watch all of your favourite movies for free.