Are Torrents Illegal?

Time and time again I run into people who think "torrent" translates to "illegal". Is it?

Let’s find out what this all means by examining the definitions.

A torrent is a small file usually ending with the file extension .torrent. You use the .torrent file with a BitTorrent client. BitTorrent itself is a peer-to-peer file sharing protocol. The .torrent file is used to get a larger file you want from the peer-to-peer network using the BitTorrent client that "understands" the BitTorrent protocol.

The Big Question however is: Are torrents illegal?

No. And they never have been.

Using BitTorrent is the most efficient way of getting large files on the internet without having them hosted in any centralized location.

The best example of this is Linux distributions. For example, Ubuntu themselves (as do all other Linux distros) offer a way to get their OS via BitTorrent. It’s fast; it works; it’s probably going to be faster than downloading via a direct HTTP. And obviously, downloading Ubuntu or any other Linux distro via a torrent isn’t illegal.

People assume torrents are illegal because many files are traded illegally via that particular peer-to-peer network. But does this mean all torrents are illegal?

Not by a long shot.

BitTorrent is a protocol and nothing more.

It is wrong to assume "torrent" = "illegal" because it just isn’t true.


  1. But they may become illegal if “ACTA” passes. Read this. Then write your congress person.

  2. It’s a protocol that gives people the exuse to download illegally/ nothing more nothing less. If people want to share files then they can use IM or swap through the big download servers.

    • Actually, there is no ‘excuse’ really for downloading and re-seeding illegal content. Sharing large files via IM though isn’t something any smart person would do – for a number of reasons.
      Depending on the file size, file hosts such as Rapidshare, Megaupload etc. may be adequate, but torrents in their own right are not illegal and are a much smarter use of bandwidth vs P2P direct files sharing, like IM.

      • I just don’t like the idea of leaving a port open on my system for hours on end. If you are downloading a large file, say 300 to 400 mb it can take days to complete.I am always wary of security protocols and beleive this is a juicy prospect for any hacker to get into your system. On the legality issue i beg to differ, it depends what you are downloading, i know many big company’s are very agressive towards dowloading their movies or music or software. If you check any number of bit torrent sites you will come across many bootleg and pirate copies of various media being swapped.

        That being said there are ligitimate dowloads that take place on a regular basis, the trouble seems to stem from the younger community who just don’t seem to care.

        • Where are you getting these 400 mB torrents that take days? I’ve found 3 gB torrents that download in 3 or 4 hours.
          Also you don’t need to open a port, unless you are uploading and seeding. My anti-virus (AVG) prevents people from connecting to and downloading from me, but I still get speeds of 300, 400, even 500 kB/s.
          And yes. You will find bootleg copies of music, movies, and games at almost all torrent sites. But that isnt the fault of the company or developers. It’s what the users have turned it into.

  3. Larry Thompson says:

    good point cars and aircraft are not e legal either but they can be used for such purposes .

  4. Here’s a link to another scary article about torrents.

  5. If bit torrents are not illegal what is the problem with using logging on to an academic network – community college level and accessing them. I ask because, I thought it was a matter of bandwidth, but no I am not sure. Where I work students are discouraged from doing this and may be subject to academic discipline. From what I understand that were loading movies and music. The film and music big dogs contacted our school and wanted to file a law suit if the college did not prevent the downloading of the music. Please shed further light on the bit torrent situation. Thank you

  6. Pleiades as was stated above its the content that you are downloading that is illegal not the torrents . If you own a car and use it to drive to work and around town for pleasure . thats perfectly fine but load it up with drugs and drive around town distributing them its a whole different story. owning the car is perfectly legal , The drugs aren’t. If you where only downloading Ubuntu or other open source software the “Big Dogs” would not be threatening your College with a lawsuit.

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