The High Tech Society

The Ultimate Guide to Free & Legal Torrents

Torrents Part 1: Introducing Torrents

Torrents are almost always connected with illegal pirating, but the truth is, there are hundreds of legal applications for torrent software. In fact, there are over 100,000 free and legal downloads that you can get without breaking any laws. Over the next few articles we are going to talk about the differences between piracy and torrenting, finding legal torrents, checking to ensure that they are legal, and even torrent etiquette. We’ll also throw in some software and upload tips for you as well. Ready? Let’s get started.

Pirating

Pirating is illegal and always will be. Pirating is the process of buying something, ripping it to a computer, and then distributing it to someone else without paying the publishers for it. While torrents are often used for this purpose, piracy is also associated with home made DVDs and CDs, and even illegally printed CDs and books that have been stolen or printed without the artists knowledge. Piracy is widespread and is a form of stealing because it takes revenue away from the people who put work into making it. The most often pirated items? Porn and TV shows.

Torrents

Torrents are something entirely different from pirating. While some websites dedicate themselves to hosting pirated content because they believe that all media should be free (A.K.A. the Pirate Bay), others dedicate themselves to finding free and legal content (Check out Archive.org) that you can download without hurting a publishers revenue.

How Do Torrents Work?

In order to upload or download torrents you will need a tracker and a bittorrent client like Vuze, UTorrent, or Bittorent. Vuze and Utorrent are our personal two favorites for a number of reasons, but we will cover software reviews in another article. Once you have a bittorrent client, you can download a torrent.

Torrents are a form of P2P sharing (Peer 2 Peer) because they rely on a user to upload content. When one user uploads content via a tracker or client, it automatically begins to upload to a number of different servers. When someone downloads this file, they automatically begin ‘seeding’ which means that they are reuploading parts of the file, usually before they even have the whole thing. The bittorrent client handles this part, and the torrent tracker handles the data and the server. The more people who download and seed, the faster the file can be downloaded, which means that it is easier to get. So, in theory, the more popular a file, the easier it is to download. This theory only works if everyone seeds, which is unfortunately not the case. Most torrent clients penalize anyone who doesn’t seed with slower downloads, so seeding is in your best interest when downloading torrents. In addition, seeding allows you to support future downloads, and in a way, say ‘thanks for the free stuff’.

What Torrents are Legal?

While you can find out more about finding legal torrents in our next article, we’ll cover the basics here. A legal torrent is any torrent that is:

  • In the Public Domain
  • In Creative Commons
  • Has Permission from the Artist To Be Downloaded for Free

Essentially that means any books, media, or movies with an expired copyright, any images, videos, or music that were uploaded in the creative commons, and any works that authors have specifically said that they want to be free. Don’t think that’s ever going to happen? More than thirty big name artists like the Counting Crows have actually done so at one point or another. You can also legally download any ‘free to use’ software, and any ‘shareware’ so long as you do not also download a crack or keygen, which would mean that you are ‘stealing’ it.

Safety

Finally, some people think it’s fun or think that they can earn money off of you by giving your computer a virus. Some torrents are infected with malware, trojans, and other viruses. For this reason, it is in your best interest to have an antivirus program before you start downloading torrents. Just remember to scan each file before you open it and you should be good to go.