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Are torrents illegal?

File sharing has changed dramatically over the past few years. Not least because of the numerous warning waves against users of file-sharing networks. But is the use of torrents in the context of a swap meet illegal at all? We clarify what you have to look out for when using torrents and what penalties can be imposed.

A P2P application, also known as a file-sharing exchange, is quickly installed and used. But only a few users actually take care of the legal aspects behind the use. The use of a P2P exchange can be problematic.

What are torrents?

Torrents are small files that can be compared to a shopping list. The torrent files contain all the relevant information that leads to the download of a large file, such as a video. Torrent files are used by BitTorrent file sharing networks.

With the help of the torrent file you can generate the download. The torrent file itself acts as a guide, bringing together all the relevant parts of the file that is actually to be downloaded.

Do torrents always lead to the correct files?

Files can be named freely. Therefore, torrents are problematic, although these path files themselves are not illegal. However, it is possible that a torrent file should lead to a freely available image according to the file name. In reality, however, the download contains a copyrighted film work.

Can torrents be used legally?

Of course, you can use torrents to download or distribute free files yourself without any problems. However, you need to make sure that you really have the permission to do what you want with the file, so it can’t be a copyrighted work.

How do you track users of torrents?

Users of BitTorrent file-sharing services are not anonymous. After all, the individual files have to reach your PC. Private investigators and law enforcement agencies can also use this method to collect your IP address easily and even fully automatically. Nothing else is already the case, if you think here for instance of the warning waves of the past years.

The IP address is an easy game for private investigators and law enforcement agencies to finally get to your connection data and prosecute you.

What penalties are in force?

  • This depends on what crime you committed and whether you distributed the file or just downloaded it. As a rule, however, you also automatically upload files in file-sharing networks, so that there is always room for distribution.
  • Criminally, the risks of copyright infringement are rather low. Only a few public prosecutors will issue an order of punishment for a downloaded and distributed MP3 file. In the case of a large number of files, you are threatened with a fine or imprisonment.
  • On the other hand, the civil law steps can be much more extensive. From warnings to claims for damages, the portfolio of legal options is extremely extensive and costly.

Is it necessary to be afraid because of the upload?

In many cases the upload is the critical point. Because here nothing else happens than the distribution of the work. So you offer the work to many users. The damage is calculated on the basis of the license analogy. A pure download, on the other hand, is less problematic because the calculated damage only occurs once – through your download. Sometimes also a reason for the fact that there are no warnings for Downloads. Here we are always talking about uploading.

If you use torrents to exchange files via BitTorrent, you usually distribute these files. So you become an uploader, with all the resulting risks. Provided, of course, that you distribute copyrighted content.

How torrents work

Unlike HTTP or FTP downloads, Bit Torrent does not transfer the file from one source to the PC. Rather, it comes from different users who participate in the individual network for the respective file. Not even the entire file has to be on the computer. It is sufficient if the user has a fragment which he passes on to other users who may already have other parts.

The chance of getting all parts of a program together is therefore greater than with other exchange systems, where only owners of the complete file also pass these on.

Unique identity:

Bit Torrent exchanges files in a networked environment. One or more vendors make a file available for download, and Bit Torrent clients then download the file to your PC. Torrent technology generates a control file (.torrent) a few KB in size for each file provided. This metafile contains a unique ID (hash) with information about the file itself and the download address. The download sources are hosted by a so-called tracker.

  • It makes it possible for a client to find the respective data file in the first place.
  • In the first step, the torrent file is loaded from a homepage via a web browser and then opened with a torrent client.
  • Only then does the download of the actual data file start.
  • The sources are differentiated between “Peer” and “Seed”.
  • A client is a peer if it is still loading the data file.
  • Seeds are users who have already completely loaded the data file specified in the torrent and only offer it as a source for the peers.
  • At least one seed is required to complete the transfer successfully.

As fast as a download manager:

After you have downloaded parts of an archive yourself, these parts are also distributed to other Bit Torrent users. The more peers help with the distribution, the faster the download will be. The transfer principle is similar to a download manager. First, the client creates a local file, which is then composed of different individual file segments (chunks). Because the tracker knows the active sources, the Bit Torrent client does not have to constantly search for new sources and thus reaches much higher speeds than are possible with conventional file-sharing networks, for example. There is no search function in the torrent network. The client only knows the sources that are listed in the torrent file or known to the listed sources.