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Can you safely visit file-sharing sites and download torrents in the United States? Before you install a BitTorrent client and start sharing files, you should explore the legal issues associated with it. Security threats, lawsuits, and reduced Internet speeds are a few of the potential problems you may face.
Is Torrenting in the US Legal?
Yes, downloading files through P2P (Peer to Peer) is legal in the United States. BitTorrent technology and protocols are not illegal, but the content you download may be.
You can find many legitimate torrents. Some content creators use P2P file-sharing to distribute their digital work efficiently. It reduces the demands for creators or developers while giving users a faster way to download files.
You can find music, independent movies, software, free trials, and other digital goods distributed legally through torrents. However, this process becomes illegal when you attempt to share copyrighted material without the copyright holder’s authorization. Downloading such content is considered illegal.
Despite the legal concerns, millions of users still use BitTorrent programs to download their favorite media. In fact, about one-fourth of all torrenting in the US includes copyrighted television series and films.
Laws Against Copyrighted Content in the USA
Over the years, legislators passed several different laws to help combat piracy. These laws include the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which punishes for distributing copyrighted works. However, the DMCA laws typically pertain to the sites that host torrent files and individuals who upload the protected content.
Individual users may face prosecution under the No Electronic Theft Act (NET Act), passed in 1997. This law allows lawsuits against users that download illegal movies, TV shows, games, and other copyrighted digital content.
ISPs and Copyright Watchdogs Monitor Trackers
The most significant risks of torrenting include malicious attacks and legal threats, depending on the content you download. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and monitoring agencies (copyright watchdogs or trolls) monitor public torrent trackers.
The trackers contain the IP addresses of the peers in the swarm. Anyone following the activity in those trackers can see the IP addresses. The monitoring groups look for cases of copyright infringement. ISPs and attorneys representing copyright holders send notices to discourage torrenting activity, but they can take additional action, such as filing a lawsuit.
Torrenting Lawsuits Rarely Make it to Court
In 2011, a judge granted a $20,000 judgment for copyright infringement in a file-sharing case with two defendants. However, in most cases, lawyers file lawsuits against an entire swarm of file-sharing users. The lawyers that pursue these cases are nicknamed copyright trolls. However, most of these cases have never proceeded, as several judges dismissed the lawsuits.
Besides these lawsuits, copyright holders typically go after the sites that host the torrents. Movie studios and other companies work with ISPs to block known pirate sites and trackers. Some torrent sites voluntarily remove links to illegal content. For example, Mininova only hosts freely licensed digital content. In 2005, BitTorrent signed an agreement with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to remove illegal links.
What does this mean for you? If you attempt to download protected movies or shows, your ISP may send a threatening letter. There’s also the possibility of becoming a defendant in a lawsuit that could never proceed to court.
ISPs May Throttle Your Speeds or Cancel Your Services
When your ISP detects illegal downloads, you may receive a warning notice. However, it doesn’t necessarily arrive immediately. Most ISPs retain data related to your internet activity for several months or longer.
For example, Comcast retains data for about six months, while AT&T keeps a log for one year. Keeping the data for longer gives copyright trolls more time to track down users that downloaded protected content.
They use deep packet inspection (DPI) to monitor your downloads and the sites you visit. ISPs can throttle download speeds and even restrict access to known trackers. In some cases, they have canceled the services of users who downloaded such files.
How Can You Protect Yourself When Sharing Files in the USA?
You can do quite some things to be on the safe side when torrenting in this country. The most basic actions you can take are getting an antivirus and downloading torrents from reputable sources.
But, when it comes to protecting yourself against monitoring agencies in the USA, the most important thing is to use a Virtual Private Network. This software changes everything about how others identify you on the Internet. Instead of seeing your IP address in the swarm of seeders and leechers, ISPs and watchdog groups see the server’s IP address that you’re connected to. In other words, a VPN helps you remain anonymous by not showing your real IP.
What is the Best VPN for Torrenting in the USA?
These are our favorite VPNs for torrenting in America. Not only do they allow file-sharing in the USA, but they also have a combination of features, tools, and server locations that makes it ideal for this region.
- Several P2P-optimized servers in North America
- Essential safety tools and a strong encryption
- Based in Panama, a location with no data retention laws
- Fast servers in this part of the world
- A comprehensive set of features
- No logging policy and and a modern encryption
Key Takeaways for Torrenting Safely in the USA
Torrenting in the USA is risky and can result in legal consequences. Copyright holders actively monitor torrent trackers and can use visible IP addresses to sue users. Sometimes, you may even unknowingly download an illegal torrent without realizing it.
To ensure your safety, you need to take extra precautions when torrenting. One effective way to stay safe is to use a reliable VPN service that masks your IP address and encrypts your online activity.