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The answer is YES! Downloading copyrighted files over torrent network is now illegal in Canada since the 1st January 2015.
If you download a “tracked” torrent files (games, movies, softwares, etc..), the copyright holder can ask your ISP to send you a notice.
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Bittorrent technology is the best way to share a file to multiple recipients. It does not help when there’s only one recipient. It is a modern take on peer-to-peer sharing, and it is file sharing in more ways than one. However, even if it is very efficient, the problem with bittorrent is that it authorities frown on its use because it is too efficient, and it is used in forwarding files with existing copyrights.
Bittorrent has nothing to do with copyright infringement. It is a neutral technology with plenty of uses. Yet, it is the most widespread tool used to go around copyrights. Large files are now more accessible on the web through the use of bittorrents.
Bittorrent is a technology which allows a single file to be shared with many users. The process starts with only one file owner which holds the original copy. There are several computers involved in the process. The original seeder is the computer which first uploaded the file for sharing. The seeders are computers which have already finished copying the whole file and are now sending pieces to other computers. The leechers are computers which are still receiving separate pieces of the file, in the meantime, these computers are also sending copies of the pieces they already have. The trackers keep track of the movement of pieces. These computers have a list of the pieces, the active seeders, the leechers, and their respective pieces available for upload and their download requests.
Before sharing the file, it is analyzed and sectioned off into pieces. The sectioning or mapping is stored in a bittorrent file. When somebody is interested in downloading the large file, they download a copy of the bittorrent file. A bittorrent client is a software which seeks out the trackers and compares the bittorrent file to start the download of the file pieces.
The core of torrenting is the simultaneous sharing of pieces from the different leechers and seeders. The traffic is maintained by the trackers and these ensure that the pieces go to their requester.
Transferring from one computer to only one other computer is faster via FTP. But, if there are a lot of requesters, sharing the pieces between requesting themselves allows more requests to finish downloading in a shorter amount of time.
Bittorrent as a technology and software is not illegal. What is illegal is when a person or website stores the copyrighted material and sells it to others, or otherwise earns from forwarding the file to others. The concept of ownership revolves around copyright. It protects the creator, the licensed distributor, and the copyright owner. They worked hard to create the material, and they earn from distribution and presenting the media in established channels.
In most instances, the use of bittorrent software is considered illegal because of the content being shared. Most bittorrent sites provide access to copyrighted materials. If you’re downloading these content via bittorrent, you can get caught, prosecuted and fined large amounts for each file that you share.
To fight illegal downloads, some countries have passed laws which prohibit bittorrent sites. Although these sites do not house the files, they are used as conduits for sharing bittorrent files and in some instances trackers as well. Bittorrent sites have been shut down in the United States, Australia, Malaysia, China, Portugal, Italy, Russia, South Africa, and Latvia.
The nature of bittorrents makes it easy to track the users. Trackers log the IP addresses where the torrent pieces are sent. Checking the log history will show which computer is very active as an original poster, or as a seeder. Content companies like film production, music studios, and their distributors have been trolling the internet investigating for leads on active posters and seeders. It is easier to apprehend, punish and ban torrent sites. Some torrent sites have been forced to move their registration to countries which allow torrenting.
Other countries have made it illegal to download copyright content. These countries include the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Finland, and the UAE. At the same time, there are three countries which permit downloading for personal use only: Spain, Poland, and Switzerland.
There is a long list of countries where downloading is overlooked. Downloading via torrent is a gray area in the following countries: Canada, Mexico, Columbia, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Netherlands, Romania, Greece, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Denmark, Singapore, Israel, India, Philippines, Iran, and Egypt. In these countries, torrenting is either tolerated or not clearly specified in their local laws. Additionally, it is hard to enforce laws against downloading if privacy is a big concern for the populace.
Copyright owners, production and distribution companies estimate that piracy losses run into billions of dollars a year. They compute this in terms of an estimate of the number of times that a movie, series or music is played or watched after it has been downloaded. This is an overestimate and is used for illustration purposes to sway the courts of their potential losses. Studies have shown that people are more inclined to watch a movie in cinemas or buy a DVD or BlueRay disk after they have watched a downloaded copy. The same is true of music downloads, buyers want to buy their own copy of the music after listening to a downloaded music file.
These companies had previously been going after bittorrent companies to force them to stop operations. ThePirateBay is one bittorrent site which has been changing its base and servers after continuous harassment from lawyers. Other big bittorrent sites like IsoHunt, Mininova and KickassTorrents have shut down due to legal actions.
Torrent sites argue that they do not store any of the media files in their servers. The legal action against these companies was based on the facility they provide in sharing copyrighted material. Although there is a legal ambiguity, some torrent sites preferred to close down rather than go through with legal actions and face fines and penalties.
Nowadays, most legal action is from copyright trolls who aim to make money out of litigation for unauthorized use of copyright materials. These are entities are either owners or lawyers of copyright owners who search for those who may have downloaded files through torrents. In some cases, copyright trolls may also be small companies who have been contracted to go after torrent users.
Originally, copyright trolls own material which was not licensed out or otherwise produced. They owned the copyright because they made the material, or they bought the copyright from the original owners or creators. When they find that the material was used for commercial purposes, the trolls go after the unauthorized users and demand payment of a license fee, otherwise, they would institute legal action.
Modern internet copyright trolls do not need to own the copyrights. Instead, they search for potential cases of piracy and their IP addresses. Starting with these, they talk to the copyright owners to allow them to sue the supposed copyright pirates. The trolls then proceed to email or otherwise send a letter to the torrent user. These letters threaten to sue the torrenter for a large arbitrary amount.
Using scare tactics, the torrenter is forced to negotiate a settlement, for fear of going to court. The trolls would threaten to sue the torrenter for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But, during settlement, they would ask for less than $5,000. This looks like a bargain because it is more expensive to go to court.
The above are shady tactics used by copyright trolls. When you receive a letter threatening legal action because your IP address has been identified in copyright infringement, the best course of action is to do nothing. In the US, the law states that the IP address is different from a person. This stems from the random nature of assigning IP addresses. Additionally, more than one person may be using an IP address. A demand letter threatening a lawsuit over copyright infringement, with only an IP address does not have any support. It is less of legal action and borders on extortion.
The ambiguity of the legality of torrenting has made it necessary that downloaders should hide their IP addresses. Hiding their IP addresses would prevent any invasion of privacy about their downloading habits, especially about the files they download. The easiest way to hide IP addresses is with the use of VPNs.
A VPN makes use of a client app and a server. The client app encrypts all the data being transmitted on the computer. This information is forwarded to the VPN server. The server would decrypt the information and then request for the HTML files and other internet traffic in the name of the client computer. This relationship between the client and the VPN server is called the “tunnel.” The being passed between the client computer and the server is encrypted and readable only between the two computers. Although the data between client and VPN server passes through public internet, the data encryption prevents anyone else from reading the data.
Since all the unencrypted data and HTML requests come from the server, the rest of the internet thinks that the server IP was the original requester. The VPN client is hidden from view from the public internet. This effectively masks the current location and the identity of the client computer.
For downloading via torrent, the torrent trackers would believe that the seeder or leecher is the VPN server. The communication between VPN server and client is invisible to the torrent tracker. The VPN client could be anywhere in the world. Those in countries where it is illegal to use torrent software to download media files, they can use this VPN feature to bypass these laws and regulations.
The most important feature of a VPN for torrenting is the IP address masking. Although the torrent software resides in the client computer, the request going out to the internet is from the VPN server. The IP address sent to the trackers is that of the VPN server. The VPN can be located in a country which allows torrenting. As far as the trackers are concerned, the pieces are being sent there. The pieces are then forwarded by the VPN server to the client in encrypted packets.
VPN servers typically route traffic to and from several clients. Depending on the size of the server, it can serve as many clients. With a mix of hardware technologies, including the use of clusters, multiple processors, and virtual machines, VPN servers can route upwards of a hundred clients for each IP address. The client further achieves anonymity due to the number of other clients whose traffic goes through the server.
Anonymity through the use of a VPN is achieved through several means. These different methods are part of the nature of a VPN. Anonymity through the use of encrypted communication via a tunnel to the VPN server, IP spoofing, and multiple other users sharing the same VPN server. The remote location of the server also helps keep the user isolated and hidden.
VPN is a technology which uses an intermediate computer or server on one end like a tunnel. All the internet traffic going to and from the computer passes through the tunnel and goes out through the server. The incoming data is encrypted at one end and decrypted at the other. This ensures that the data is secure from one end to the other. However, the obvious disadvantage of this technology is the extra step of having a tunnel.
The concept behind the internet is that a requested is sent from one computer, and this request reaches another computer which compiles and sends back a reply. What is unique about this technology is that there is seldom a direct connection with the web server. The request is sent out and is received by a server, which sends the request forward. This is repeated several times until it reaches the intended server. The information requested is sent back to the internet, passing through different servers. In most instances, the various files included in the reply passes through different paths in getting back to the client computer.
Since all data which passes through the internet is forwarded from one computer to another, any speed loss due to the tunnel is negligible. Additionally, VPN service providers have made every effort to make a connection as fast as possible. In most instances, the users don’t even notice any difference in speed between using a VPN and without a VPN. Fast VPN services rely on gigabit broadband backbones. Any server performance issues are offset by the fast broadband speed the server is connected to.
Related to the above, bittorrent use is sometimes throttled by the user’s ISP. The ISP does this by analyzing the data going to the client computer. Due to the nature of torrents, the pieces are a dead giveaway. ISPs know if a customer is downloading via torrents because the pieces are small, discrete and come from multiple sources. The pieces are all of the same sizes. This is a characteristic that is unique to torrent downloads.
Depending on the ISP policy, it can throttle the internet bandwidth, or totally ban the user from using the internet and close out the service. ISPs may invoke the principle of fair use, and resort to throttling the subscriber for excessive usage and data volume. Other policies may apply including higher rates or charges if the user exceeds download limits. There are also some ISPs which cooperate with copyright holders and copyright trolls in going after torrent users. They would be instrumental in sending the copyright infringement letters to the subscribers.
Using a VPN, the ISP only sees that the pieces all come from one IP address -- that of the VPN server. The downloaded files do not fit the signature of a torrent download.
Another feature which the user should consider is if the VPN keeps an activity log. Some VPN servers keep an activity log of all the traffic going to a client. This is a default feature which was carried over from older implementations when VPN was almost exclusively used by corporate users. When downloading using torrents, this logs the various files or pieces which goes through the server. This information can be requested by government agencies or the courts in making a case against potential bittorrent downloaders. Choose a VPN service which does not use logs.
There are several steps to using a VPN for downloading using torrents:
Download and install a VPN. Preferably, it should have a server located in your state or country. The VPN should also have servers in countries which allow bittorrent use.
The VPN should have a kill switch. A kill switch is a feature of the VPN client which shuts down the internet connection when the VPN connection is lost. Without a kill switch, a client computer will connect to the public internet. In turn, the computer will be sending and receiving data through the public IP address, instead of the VPN server’s IP address. The worst part about this is that the user would not even notice that the VPN connection has been lost and the computer has reverted to a public IP address. When the VPN server connection goes down, the kill switch will effectively close the internet connection, whether the computer uses a WiFi or a LAN connection.
From the VPN client, choose a server located in a P2P country. Preferably, connect to servers located in Poland, Spain or Switzerland. You can also connect to a server in any of the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, or Uruguay.
Start downloading once the client is connected to the server.
For the torrent user, this is a simple VPN setup which assures anonymous browsing and torrent downloads. There are multiple levels of security, which helps to secure client anonymity. At the same time, there is an almost unnoticeable speed degradation due to the VPN tunnel. Encryption assures private internet browsing and secure torrent use.
VPN is a separate technology which is older than bittorrents. It was a way to secure corporate communication through public IP internet networks. Since it was offered to the public, it has been used in different ways which help those who require anonymity. The nature of a VPN also helps those who need to download files via bittorrent.
Using bittorrents is not illegal, but its current situation requires the use of a VPN to keep the users safe from legal issues. What is illegal is sharing copyrighted materials. Those who use bittorrents need to keep their IP addresses hidden. Hiding the IP address would help prevent copyright lawyers and trolls from sending threatening letters to the user. Most letters from these trolls use the IP address without real proof of any copyright infringement. But the important part is that if no obvious torrent data goes to the user’s IP address, then the copyright trolls would not have any reason to send a letter.
There are other benefits to having a VPN. Mostly, these make use of the VPN server’s location. Additionally, a VPN helps to keep communications secure even while using public WiFi. With encrypted communication tunneled to the server, local snoopers would not be able to access the user’s device. For some people, these benefits may seem excessive or extreme. But with the threat of identity theft due to open access wifi, secure communications are required when using public WiFi.
VPN is easy to use and configure. It also allows the user to use VPN servers in different countries, without any discernible loss in speed. Depending on the apps running, there are some VPNs which fit these needs more than others.
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