An illegal torrent is a file or multiple files downloaded without the permission of the copyright holder. In layman’s terms, the person downloading the files did not purchase them, nor were they gifted these files. The term illegal torrent is somewhat misleading because a torrent is simply a file that tells a BitTorrent™ client where to download the actual illegal files, i.e, music, games, or movies. Most people, however, refer to torrents as if they are the actual copyrighted music, game, or movie files that are downloaded illegally. Due to this, torrents in general have developed a bad reputation, even though plenty of files available through BitTorrent™ technology are purchased, no longer copyrighted, or available free to use in the first place.
Torrents are downloaded using BitTorrent™ protocol, which enables a person to download from hundreds of other people’s computers at once. BitTorrent™ technology was developed in the early 2000s and became extremely popular because, in many situations, it lets people download files more quickly than just downloading it from one computer. Not all files are shared through BitTorrent™ protocol are legally owned by the sharer, however, which leads to Internet piracy. It also leads to more infected computers; studies show that a healthy percentage of torrent files — both legal and illegal — contain malware, which can range in severity from pop-up ads to software designed to help the intruder gather credit card numbers.
In some countries, there are repercussions for downloading an illegal torrent. For example, in the United States, some people have been given hefty fines for illegal music downloading. These repercussions are few and far between across the world, however, because of the sheer number of illegal torrent downloads. In fact, it is estimated that about 50% of the Internet’s total traffic is caused by torrent downloading, though many of these downloads are legal.
There are various reasons why copyrighted files are shared on BitTorrent™ protocol so often. Many people disagree with copyright laws, especially those of the United States, and view them as a form of censorship. Sometimes, the downloaded digital media is not legally available in the user’s own country but is available for download via BitTorrent™ protocol, or the person cannot afford to pay for the software. Still, other times an illegal torrent is downloaded, shared, or both out of apathy or ignorance of copyright laws. Whatever the reason, illegal torrent downloading is a widespread crime.