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Torrenting is the peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing of files over the internet. Through torrent apps like Popcorn Time, internet users upload and download movies, TV shows, and other files. So, torrenting itself is not illegal around the world.
However, sharing copyrighted materials without proper permission over the internet is illegal. Therefore, there is a lot of grey area around torrenting being legal or not. In any case, uploading or seeding copyrighted material is always illegal and can result in a financial penalty or even imprisonment.
Some countries allow downloading copyrighted content for personal use, such as Spain and Poland. On the other hand, there are some other countries that shut down torrenting sites completely, such as China and Russia. The consequences of torrenting where it is illegal vary from one country to another. However, in some places, it may include fines and imprisonment.
Where is Torrenting Legal and Illegal?
Torrenting is not illegal anywhere in the world. It is just a process of sharing files over the Internet. It is the file that you are uploading or downloading that may cause you trouble. If it is a copyrighted file, you may or may not share it, depending on the country that you are in.
So, no country across the globe marks torrenting as an illegal activity. But, some countries implement laws that prevent you from sharing copyrighted material. Below is a table that classifies some countries according to laws.
|Countries with no law on downloading copyrighted material
|Countries where downloading copyrighted content is allowed for personal use
|Countries where downloading copyrighted content is always illegal
|United States of America
|Other EU States
*Countries allow downloading only some kinds of copyrighted material for personal use.
Torrenting Laws and Punishments
There are several laws that countries implement to prevent users from torrenting copyrighted material. While some of them just ban the users’ internet for some days or a month, others might go as far as giving the user imprisonment for about a decade. However, generally speaking, such extreme punishments are highly unlikely to be brought against individual torrents.
Several countries across the globe use something called a “Three Strikes” system. This means that users caught torrenting will get three warnings from their internet service providers. And, if they still continue, they might receive a short internet ban or fine.
Torrenting laws in the United States prohibit downloading or sharing of copyrighted files over the internet. There are two main laws that work in the US that affect P2P sharing and torrenting – DMCA and NET Act.
The DMCA or Digital Millenium Copyright Act aims at sites hosting illegal torrents that allow the uploading of copyrighted material. The NET Act or No Electronic Theft Act aims at users that download protected files and content.
The internet service providers or ISPs monitor users’ activities continuously and if they’re caught torrenting, it sends a warning to them or throttles their internet connection speeds. But, if the users still don’t stop, they might have to face legal proceedings. And, if found guilty, the punishment can include a penalty of $250,000 or up to five years of imprisonment, or both.
Similarly, different countries have different laws, such as in the UK, the guilty might have to face a penalty of up to £5000 and up to five years of imprisonment.
How do you Get Caught Torrenting?
Copyright trolls are parties, companies, or individuals that enforce the owned copyrights through strategic litigation. These trolls keep a check on who shares their copyrighted materials over the internet.
They identify people uploading or downloading them across the internet through their IP addresses, which are publicly visible while torrenting. Then, they contact the ISP, which warns the user of sharing the copyrighted material and further even bans them for not stopping.
However, if you somehow hide your IP address, your online identity isn’t revealed to anyone, not even to your ISP. Therefore, the risk of getting caught while torrenting fades away. Though that doesn’t mean we endorse torrenting protected files, this method is just to protect you from accidentally downloading a copyrighted file or content.
How a VPN helps in Torrenting?
A VPN or a virtual private network is software that hides your IP address and encrypts your internet traffic before it is sent through an encrypted tunnel over a remote server. The encryption process conceals your identity over the internet and the connection to the remote server makes you look like accessing the internet from some other country.
Thus, if you torrent from the Popcorn Time app by using a good quality VPN for Popcorn Time, your IP address is hidden and you are given a new IP address that belongs to the remote server that you choose.
So, even if a copyright troll identifies your IP for accidentally downloading a copyrighted file, your ISP won’t be able to locate you and so you will be saved from the copyright infringement issues.
Other Benefits of Using a VPN
A VPN is not just helpful for torrenting safely, there are several other benefits that it offers.
- Secure internet connection – When you use the internet, especially via public Wi-Fi, you expose your system and internet activities to a host of cyber attacks. But, a VPN encrypts your internet activities, hiding them from cyber criminals.
- Privacy – Since a VPN masks your identity, your activities remain private and no one would be able to trace them.
- Access geo-restricted websites – If you are traveling, you might want to access some websites, such as banking, that are available in your home country. With a VPN, you can easily pose to be located in your home country and access geo-restricted websites.
- Access geo-restricted content – Most streaming services offer different content in different regions. So, if you want to watch a movie or a TV show that isn’t available in your country, simply use a VPN to change your virtual location to the country where your favorite movies and shows are available and start streaming.
Torrenting isn’t an illegal activity. However, it is illegal to share copyrighted electronic files through torrent clients in several countries. So, the best way to protect yourself is to use a VPN while torrenting to hide your identity from your ISP.