The first thing that comes to mind for many when thinking of torrents is the sharing of copyrighted materials. The real economic effects of online piracy are not clear, and people discuss them for decades. Still, countless people find themselves in a courtroom after sharing copyrighted files.
It's important to remember that P2P filesharing, in itself, is entirely ethical and legal. It's merely a method of file transit that has the potential to be abused. There are plenty of legal torrent sites that host hard-to-find content. P2P communities can be used to keep content available when it wouldn't be profitable for a centralized file host to keep it. These are a few sites where you can get such torrents.
The famed Archive.org, also known as “The Internet Archive” has been preserving cultural and artistic history for decades. It also maintains databases of long-closed websites, such as Yahoo's old GeoCities, that otherwise would only be memories now. There are many public domain movies, TV shows, comics, music, and other media that are 100% legal available on the site.
Unfortunately, since the project has no advertisements and hosts giant files, there is an enormous strain on their available resources. That is why the site encourages users to use torrents to get larger files. Some of their huge files are only available via their torrent page.
Archive.org is considered the most stable, legal preserver of public domain content. As file sizes grow larger and bandwidth grows more expensive, P2P is one of the few solutions that will pan out in the long run. That's because it utilizes Internet resources of those uploading and downloading rather than the Archive.org servers themselves.
Legit Torrents has a very similar look and feel to torrent sites that are a bit less scrupulous. Advertised as containing completely free media, moderators review all torrents to ensure that they don't include copyrighted content. Though Archive.org dwarfs Legit Torrents with respect to search options and site design, Legit Torrents gives users the same experience they would have on illegal torrent sites without the risk.
Although the site states that it hosts torrents of all kinds of media, one type dominates: operating systems and software. Many Linux distributions are hosted here and can be downloaded much faster than through the Linux projects' sites. For example, it has the Windows 1.0 source, which has been made public domain.
Unlike Archive.org, torrents are sorted by the date they were uploaded. Many people visiting the site for the first time may get the impression that it has nothing of use. After all, you're likely to see indie music and other odd content you're probably not looking to download. It looks like content gets approved in spurts, so releases of things like new Linux distributions may not be available on the same date.
However, by taking advantage of the search function, users can find and download many torrents containing similar content to those found on Archive.org.
Public Domain Torrents
Public Domain Torrents has a nearly infinite load of valuable, public domain content. Its main detractor is that the site looks like it was designed three decades ago. Though the site takes some getting used to, it's packed with movies. Unlike services like Archive.org, this is its sole focus.
Users are free to comment on torrents, improve upon what's available, and interact. This makes for more of a community atmosphere. For example, many of their movies are ripped from DVDs purchased at stores, but they're in old formats or low quality. Other users who see this often upload higher quality versions of the same movie to provide everyone with a better viewing experience.
This site also focuses on explaining to novice users how to use torrents in an ethical manner. It also offers live, streaming versions of most torrents on its site. Public Domain Torrents is a great resource as long as you're willing to invest some time and energy and want to watch some older movies.
Vuze has the same name of a P2P client, and it has a unique interface. It looks like an older desktop app and contains a variety of media ready to download. Vuze doesn't cater to mostly either old content or movies, unlike most sites in this list.
Users can download almost anything, from indie music, to podcasts, to independent films. Notably, popular and modern content is also available legally. For example, some prominent MSNBC newscast team members have agreements with Vuze to host news snippets as torrents on the platform.
Out of all the sites, Vuze takes the cake for having the most diversity in types of content. It doesn't have the sheer volume that Archive.org has, but its nature is quite different. For example, no other torrent site would have the category “Girls, Motors, and Sports” like Vuze does. This torrent archive's entire purpose is to provide unique, engaging, and entertaining content to its audience.
At first, Vuze was supposed to be an embedded portion in the Vuze P2P client. Eventually, it broke off into its own website due to popular demand because of the bizarre but entertaining content it has. It's perfect for those looking for unique content on torrents that isn't too serious!
Though somewhat obscure, Etree has managed to make a splash in the P2P scene. As many recall, the first attempt to curtail music piracy was through various music organizations and record labels suing downloaders. Back then, services like Napster openly allowed unlawful sharing of music files.
Etree is a tribute to the old music torrenting sites with a twist: it only hosts torrents to music that anyone can legally upload and download. Called “trade-friendly artists” by the site, some musicians share their works for free, hoping to attract more fans. The band “The Grateful Dead” is an excellent example of that.
With a similar look as older piracy sites did, Etree isn't too advanced. But it has just about every discography that it could legally have. Moreover, there's an active community surrounding it. The main reason that music files are required to be shared as torrents is that many are FLAC files. These are fully lossless audio files with quite a big file size, making it infeasible to host on servers.
Many so-called “audiophiles” would enjoy this site. It's a unique opportunity to hear music in the best quality possible, provided one has the proper listening equipment.
Many see lists of legal torrent sites and are disappointed because of a perceived lack of content. For example, you won't see the latest theater releases available for sharing on these sites.
However, they provide entertainment of a different form. With virtually limitless sources, anyone can find a song, movie, book, or other media item that stands out and has meaning.
If you have issues with downloading content on websites that share pirate files, this list might be for you.