The short answer is yes, it's 100% legal! Keep in mind that the BitTorrent protocol is the technology, a tool that allows users to share files via P2P.
For example, famous artists, like Madonna, use it to release some of their works. Thom York (from Radiohead) also made his most recent solo album available via BitTorrent, in the fall of 2015.
Big enterprises use it in their major deployments all the time. This is the case of Facebook and Twitter. When they update their software internally, they use BitTorrent to push the new version to all their servers.
Blizard Entertainment is another big company using this protocol. If you buy a game such as World of Warcraft, Starcraft II, and Diablo III, you will be using a BitTorrent client. It handles the download of the game and updates it automatically in the future.
These are just a few of the many examples of big enterprises and artists using this protocol. As we mentioned before, there is nothing illegal about the protocol or the clients. It’s just technology, a file distribution system.
Why all the legal fuss around Torrenting?
It’s not a matter of how you download, but what you download. The reason why sometimes torrenting is considered illegal is because of the download of copyright materials. In many countries, it’s illegal to download material protected by copyright.
On the other hand, in a few countries, copyrighted material is legal to download for personal use.
Is Torrenting an ethical thing to do?
Opinions are divided, it’s a matter of personal point of view of each one of us. And of course, everyone should use their best judgment.
As in every fight, there are 2 sides. Let’s have a deeper look at their arguments on this continuous copyright battle:
On one side, there's the entertainment industry. They claim that they are losing money because their material is being shared for free.
On the other side, there are people defending that file sharing does not harm the entertainment industry. There are even the ones who go further. For example, the London School of Economics and Political Science conducted a research on this topic. The results surprised many people. They concluded that file sharing helps to boost the entertainment industry.
This sounds surprising and hard to believe to some people. So let's have a look at the main conclusions of such studies:
Take the music industry, for example, file sharing helps the content to spread, artists are easily discovered. As a consequence of that, concerts have more people than ever. The concert revenues are increasing every year, putting more money in the pockets of the musicians, the real artists. Some musicians are actually sharing their music for this purpose, to be known, to take people to their concerts. Torrenting is still the best way of music promotion, which is great for new artists.
Another interesting study shows that P2P users are more willing to pay for music than non-P2P users, by a difference of 30% in the US alone. In some countries, this difference is even bigger. The reason is that many times, downloading a song is just a free trial before buying the CD. Some users are just exploring, discovering new artists. Of course, many people won’t buy, but the torrent users who do are a lot more than people think.
The movie industry has a new revenue record every year. With file sharing and streaming services (some legal and some illegal), it’s normal that the sales of DVDs and movie rentals went down. But the truth is that more and more studies show that this loss is compensated in box office revenues. The several billion dollars increasing every year are the proof of that.
Let’s put it like this, when you go to the movie theater, chances are that the majority of people in the room are BitTorrent users. According to these studies, these users are the biggest movie lovers, and they are more willing to pay to see new movies in the theaters.