How safe is torrent now?
June 25, 2007 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend, and as an update to old askme. Since it's been more than a year, how hazardous is it to continue to use the p2p torrent sites?

Setting aside the general "piracy is bad" argument, is it still pretty safe for someone to download files provided they don't ever originate a torrent stream? Since everyone who participates in the torrent networks uploads by design, isn't everyone an uploader? And is there any legal leg to stand on if you close down the transfer of a particular file as soon as it's finished?
posted by Dave Faris to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Well, if you're in the United States then no; it's never safe to download via a torrent stream. There are companies that cater to rights owners that do nothing but scan both public and private bittorrent networks for infringements. Now I don't (personally) think its terribly likely they'd do much more than contact your ISP and have you sent a nastygram... but even if you use an IP blocker like PeerGuardian its never safe.
posted by tundro at 11:29 AM on June 25, 2007

the MPAA are certainly not giving up their efforts: TorrentSpy and its users are now in their crosshairs, and our court system is making some really odd decisions to support their crusade.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:47 AM on June 25, 2007

tundro: "...even if you use an IP blocker like PeerGuardian its never safe..."'s not? Oh, crap.
posted by Zephyrial at 11:49 AM on June 25, 2007

There's more legal torrents out there than you can consume in a lifetime. I don't know why you'd risk severe fines and legal hassles for illegal crap.

It's tres dangerous. TPTB are cracking down hard on illegal P2P torrents.
posted by unixrat at 12:16 PM on June 25, 2007

My friend has Comcast as an ISP and he recently got a nastygram for P2P'ing TV Shows. At leasti it wasn't the MPAA, ugh.
posted by joecacti at 12:18 PM on June 25, 2007

The big public sites (TorrentSpy, Mininova) will be continually targetted by legal action. That shouldn't concern you. They might get closed down, but you aren't gonna get sued for it. Not directly.

The private trackers, like Oink or TorrentLeech or [insert personal fave], are generally going to be ok unless you're an original uploader. If you just use them to grab and seed stuff, you'll probably be ok. Many of them don't keep much in the way of logs, though don't believe site admins who tell you they don't maintain any logs because most have something that records an IP address somewhere, if only to stop duplicate accounts.

What you are at risk of doing this is complaints from copyright owners to your ISP. "This IP address was downloading file X". Get too many of those and your ISP might cut you off. That will increasingly be the case as time goes on and ISPs increasingly try and work out content deals with studios, tv networks, music companies, etc.

When people say 'uploader' with BT, what they generally mean is the person that makes the torrent file in the first place and is the original seed of the content. Yes, everyone uploads, even if they don't have the complete file. But not everyone creates torrents and ups them. And even then, the movie studios or record company are only ever really interested in the people who make the very first copy of the very first leak of their brand new content. And that's "interested" as in "may go after them personally in a court" rather than "send nasty letter to ISP".

RIAA tend to be a bit different, and may end up trying to pursue cases against you. However, most of those are still centred on Kazaa, eDonkey, Ares, etc.

If you want to be safe, use Peer Guardian - it's better than nothing. If you want to be really safe, use Peer Guardian and a private tracker (smaller ones are safer still). If you want to be really safe, get yourself a dedicated server and download to that and then ftp to your home (or use it as a proxy to d/l). But then, Usenet's probably cheaper...
posted by humuhumu at 12:21 PM on June 25, 2007

getting true stats on this issue is all but impossible.. you ask the music companies they'll tell you billions are using p2p.. the same is true if you ask ISPs.. if you take the figures they give.. and cut them in half.

Then divide that number by the actual number of prosecutions. Then youre hell of alot safer downloading p2p than you are walking down the street.

and that is a fact.!
posted by complience at 12:43 PM on June 25, 2007

There's more legal torrents out there than you can consume in a lifetime. I don't know why you'd risk severe fines and legal hassles for illegal crap.

Where are these legal torrents of which you speak? Cos if you mean Joe Unsigned and His Mates With an 8-Track Play The Blues or Look Mickey Got a Handycam and Made a Rilllly Funny Star Trek Rip then you're basically saying "There's more grass and mud out there than you consume, I don't know why you'd try and get a sandwich."

My take on this is same as usual: I'm not cheap, I'd buy the stuff, but get off my lazy ass and go to an actual shop? No ta. I want it internet, and if they don't make it available for money, I'll take it from the people who do make it available. I might get sued, but the chances are higher that they might eventually try selling it to me, who has the money they want, first. It's starting to work with music, at least.
posted by bonaldi at 2:14 PM on June 25, 2007

Although I feel a little weird about the software, apparently "tor" offers a way to do everything on the net anonymously, including uploading and downloading torrent files.

There are quite a few tor/torrent guides out there.

Guide on

PC World article
posted by allthewhile at 2:36 PM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would not agree that private trackers are safer. From what I've read, getting an invitation to a private site is very easy.

In fact, what's stopping the **AA from putting up their own private site? (Personally, I think that's a double-plus good idea.)

If they can get a guy from Australia extradited to the US for a crime that didn't involve the big T, guns, drugs, or violence, they can do anything.
posted by who squared at 6:05 PM on June 25, 2007

Don't use tor for bittorrent. It won't work very well, & it slows it down for everyone else.
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:11 PM on June 25, 2007

They don't go after downloaders, they go after uploaders and seeders. If you turn off upload you can still 'leach', but your download rate slows so dramatically that it takes hours for an mp3. For people who always leave their systems on, this isn't that big a deal, but it is too much of a pain for me.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:57 PM on June 25, 2007

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