How to Tell Whether You Are Downloading Illegally

How to Tell Whether You Are Downloading Illegally

Downloading files from the Internet is not as easy as it sounds. You might be downloading something for a work or a project but the download might turn out to be illegal.

Does this mean you are breaking the law?

Is there are a chance that they can arrest you or fine you? What about the copyright holders, can they still sue you if you weren’t aware if downloading their media file was illegal?

Yes, downloading is hard, especially from file-sharing websites. Ideally, BitTorrent is a great downloading P2P environment as it allows you to download multiple files at a time.

Also, with BitTorrent networks, it is possible to download files at a speed of 1.5 Mbps which is comparatively faster than other download networks.

Plus, anyone from around the world can use this network to share and download the files, completely free of cost.

However, there are a few issues with using BitTorrents for downloads. You could be one of the few users who don’t want to get on the wrong side of the law but accidentally end up in illegal activity.

There are a lot of users who aren’t looking for an illegal download but get caught due to their ignorance. While a few others deliberately use the torrents network to download illegal files.

For users who are trying to download files legally and wish to stay on the right side of the fall, here is everything you need to know about torrents illegal downloads and how to ensure you are following the law by downloading legally.

Common Reasons for Illegal Downloads

Most consumers love getting products or services without having to pay for anything. Free products are the best for everyone – except the ones who worked on the product and would like to get paid for their hard work.

Here are a few reasons why people are so tempted to perform illegal downloads around the world:

Free Music

We all love hearing new songs and music, especially when it is free. After all, who wants to pay for an entire album or a single song on iTunes. As a result, people find it convenient and more budget-friendly to download the songs from P2P networks.

Napster was one of the first companies to offer peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing services to the users who wished to download popular MP3 songs. But since people like free music more, other P2P services are being used now to download the songs free of cost.

Free TV Shows and Movies

After music files started being downloaded for free, people started focusing on movie files next. Sure, movie files were larger but with the torrent network, it was possible to download an entire movie in just a few minutes. As a result, people started downloading movies and save some money on DVDs and theatre tickets.

Similarly, for TV shows as well. Users find it difficult to find all their TV shows at a single streaming website like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, etc. As a result, one has to take several subscriptions to get a varying range of content to watch.

So, people started downloading Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and other TV shows for free and stopped paying monthly dollars for these streaming apps.

Other Media

Apart from the major media like music, TV shows, and movies, there are other media files that can be easily downloaded illegally too. You can download video games, ebooks, speeches, and other work that have copyright laws on them.

However, following these copyright laws is not as easy as it sounds.

Copyright Laws

Copyright laws basically provide protection to creative artists and media companies from illegal activities that a few users might do with their copyright content. According to this law, you cannot share or download the content for free as the artists and the media companies should receive compensation for their work.

So, once a creator posts or publishes their content, the creator has the copyright to their own content for a specific number of years. Most of the time, the creators retain the copyright for their entire life along with another 50 years but the copyright laws differ, based on your location.

Another license that is popularly used by creators is the creative commons license. According to this license, the creator gives permission to everyone to share, use, and modify their content as per their needs. Sometimes, this license can be a bit of trouble because what the individual owner and the publishing company want might not be the same thing.

All the above-mentioned laws are here to protect the content owners. They ensure that each actor, artist, or content creator is paid their royalty checks as long as someone is using their content. For them, the pay is actually quite low because a lot of money goes into making these songs and movies. So, when users end up downloading the content for free, it is considered as stealing the content.

What is Illegal downloading?

While the act of downloading is not illegal, it depends on the content that you are downloading. For example, if your employer asks you to download company files then that is fine as you have permission from the owner. You need to download the files to get started on your work.

On the other hand, if you download a song or a movie or a TV show, then that would constitute as illegal downloading. This is because you don’t own or have permission to download it and haven’t paid for the content. So, if you get caught, you could end up in deep trouble.

If you are still confused about what constitutes as legal and illegal downloading, then here are a few simple questions that can help you out.

Do you own and/or create the content?

The first thing to ask yourself is whether you own the content or have you created it yourself. If not, then you should be paying for the content so you should download it from a website other than a torrents network.

Did you take permission to download the content?

Another important thing to note is that you need to get the creator’s permission when you wish to download their media for free. Now, most creators won’t give you permission because it takes a lot of hard work to create music, TV shows, and movies. They will definitely allow you to download the media once you have appropriately paid for it. As a result, people find torrent networks to download the content and that is illegal downloading.

You can always give asking permission a shot though. There have been rare instances when users have been able to download the content for free, just because they asked the artists nicely and respectfully.

What should you do if you get caught downloading illegally?

Sometimes, it could happen that a user might be downloading multiple files at the same time from the BitTorrent network. In the beginning, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) won’t pay much attention to what you are downloading, whether it is illegal or not. All they will notice is that you are downloading content from the BitTorrent network.

They will throttle your bandwidth if they observe you taking up bandwidth from other users on their network. However, ISP has the information on what are you downloading and they have a new technology that can even tell whether you are downloading pirated content or not.

A few years back, a Copyright System Alert agreement was signed by all the ISPs and the copyright holders. This was done to save media companies money as they had to sue a group of individuals every time they were caught downloading illegal media files. According to this agreement, a system was put in place so that it emailed the users about their illegal downloading activities.

This email informs them about their illegal downloads on torrent networks. In the beginning, you will receive a few email warnings to stop illegally downloading but after some time, the emails will stop. However, if you continue doing such illegal activities, you will be required to fill a form that mentions that you have already received 3rd and the 4th emails.

Finally, when you receive your 6th email, your bandwidth is severely impacted and you might get redirected to a different page. In worst-case scenarios, the media company could decide to sue you as you didn’t stop downloading content for free even after multiple warning emails.

How to download torrents safely?

There are other ways to enjoy music, movies, and TV shows without downloading them illegally. Here are a few that you can try.

Choose Spotify, Apple Music or Other Music Stream Apps for downloading music

If you really wish to enjoy the music for free, then just sign up at one of the music streaming apps like Spotify. Most of these apps have a free Sign up option. The only problem is that you will have to endure regular advertisements as well but the music is free and you won’t be doing anything illegal.

For getting rid of the advertisements, you can buy a subscription of the app and then listen freely to any song you like, without interruption.

Buy Netflix or HBO Go account for movies and TV Shows

Trust me, paying for a movie and TV shows streaming app is better and ethically correct than downloading it for free. If you really don’t think you will be using the app frequently, then ask if someone from your family or friends would be willing to share their account details with you.

Ask your near ones if you can borrow their HBO Go, Netflix, Hulu, or any other media streaming app account. After all, the worst thing that could happen is they say No.

Of course, we aren’t deluded that no matter how much we tell you not to do it, a few users will still opt for illegal downloads. You know the risks so it is up to you now.

For those who wish to only do legal downloads via torrent networks, here are a few ways to do that:

Research a little

First, you need to properly check all the torrent networks and find where they have legal content. A few networks might consider your content illegal even though you have been performing legal downloads for a long time. This usually happens when you accidentally get caught because there is some illegal content on a torrent network.

So, be extremely vigilant when you start downloading from any torrent network.

Just ask

Another good way to ensure that you download content legally is by asking the artists and the creators. If the content creators refuse you to download their content, then listen to them. Also, make sure that you politely ask them whenever asking permission to download their content.

Stay anonymous

It is important to keep your identity and information safe and secure. However, using torrents anonymously shouldn’t mean that you start downloading media files illegally. Just be anonymous when you are legally downloading the files so that no hacker or tracker is able to find you.

Here are a few ways in which you can stay anonymous effectively when downloading via torrent networks:

Tor browser

One of the best ways to stay anonymous online is by using the Tor browser which is capable of protecting you from the Internet traffic analysis surveillance system. This browser uses a series of virtual private tunnels to connect to the Internet and improves users’ privacy and security when using the Internet.

With Tor, you can use public networks to share and download files without compromising your privacy.


Another effective way to stay anonymous is by using a virtual private network or VPN. This network allows you to download files from torrent networks while keeping your IP address hidden and protected.

Similar to the Tor browser, a VPN also makes your data go through their virtual tunnels which helps in improved privacy and security.

Proxy Server

A proxy server acts as a middle man between your computer and the torrent networks. It hides your computer’s IP address and displays its own IP address instead. This can really mess with hackers as they might see that you are browsing the Internet from Argentina when you are actually chilling in Italy.

Another effective way to stay anonymous while downloading files is to use a seedbox. It is a dedicated server that allows you to upload and download media files using a BitTorrent network. A seedbox is a type of a dedicated VPN for anonymous downloading. The seedbox’s public IP address is found when downloading files and your private IP address stays protected.

And the torrent files are stored on a remote server and you can later transfer these files to your PC.

Virtual Machines

Finally, you can always use a virtual machine or a VM as well to keep your identity and information hidden.  A VM is basically a secondary computer that imitates your primary computer.

You can then use this VM to download files using the Internet connection and then later, delete the file and the VM once you have accessed it and used it.