A large majority of the public understands that piracy is a violation of intellectual property laws and therefore illegal. Currently a torrent client, like uTorrent, are used to download huge volumes of data from the web, the vast majority of which is acquired illegally. We will see here what makes a download of torrent is legal or illegal and that could potentially get you in trouble.
Privacy when downloading torrent
We are not here to judge what you do on the internet, it is none of our business. On the other hand, it is our business to let you know how anonymous you are on the torrent network, and to put it simply: you are not.
Le torrent protocol operation Somehow ensures a relatively high level of privacy since you are not downloading data from a particular server. For example, if you download a file directly from the Microsoft site, you are acquiring data from a central server. This server then has proof that you downloaded the entire contents of the file.
But with the torrent system, you download directions to a file. This means the torrent file is just a list of trackers and hashes. It doesn't really prove that you downloaded the torrent file. What you do in your torrent client is much more important and it's all handled from decentralized servers. Once you start downloading the file, you are actually downloading small portions of the file to multiple people.
And that's when the problem begins, in fact when you join these peer to peer networks, your IP address will then appear and allow ISPs or government agents to identify you.
In this case, in order to remain completely anonymous, you will need to mask your real IP address and use a VPN to download safely.
What is legal or illegal?
The short answer
Anything that is copyrighted and that you don't own is illegal to download for free through torrenting.
The long answer
It varies from case to case. Most countries have laws to protect intellectual property from theft. If a song is copyrighted and you haven't purchased it first, then you won't be able to download it for free, nor will movies, games, or software.
Typically, a copyright is registered in the name of an individual or organization that creates a work. This copyright has a time limit, usually equivalent to the life of the creator plus a certain number of years (in France, 70 years after the creator's death). Each country may have different laws on this subject, so it's important to educate yourself if you want to be sure. It is also possible that some countries do not apply a specific law for downloads on the Internet, this was still the case in France before the appearance of the Hadopi law.
But it can get even more complicated, if you take into account the works created under a Creative Commons license. This license allows the work to be freely distributed and consumed. It is sometimes difficult to know under which license a work was produced, so it is necessary to do some research to obtain this information.
However, in all cases, caution is required, indeed the laws do not care whether you were aware that the work you downloaded was free of rights or not.
Generally speaking, the latest movies or the last album of the international songwriter are without a doubt copyrighted and you will be in breach of the law if you download them.
One thing is certain, the use of torrents is not equivalent to hacking. The torrent protocol is only a quick and easy way to exchange files. It is the content (not the protocol) that can make the act of downloading illegal. And without adequate protection, it's relatively easy for authorities to identify you when you download.
So to avoid risking anything, two choices are available to you:
- Ensure that the downloaded work is copyright free (which as we have seen is not always obvious)
- Remain anonymous when downloading using a VPN