It’s no secret that BitTorrent users have been flocking in droves to non-logging VPN services like NordVPN.
But a few brave souls have resisted the flight to safety, and decided to roll the dice. Many of those have ultimate regretted it. Which begs that question:
What are the risks of downloading torrents without a vpn?
The risks of getting caught (and penalties you might face) vary drastically by country (and even by state). But this guide will clarify the risks you run by continuing to torrent unprotected.
We’ll go more in-depth shortly, but these are the key takeaways:
- If you stick to legal torrents, your risks are minimal.
- Risks from other files can range from mild (loss of internet access) to severe (Lawsuits or Jail).
- Risks and legality vary by country.
- Proper use of a torrent-friendly VPN makes torrent activity very difficult/impossible to trace.
- Most (probably 99+%) of people caught torrenting were NOT using a VPN.
Note: This article is not legal advice and is for educational use only. This website does not condone the downloading of copyrighted materials. We do, however, advocate for your right to online privacy while torrenting.
LEGAL vs. ILLEGAL TORRENTS
While many people use BitTorrent to share copyrighted files, not all torrents are illegal. There are dozens of sites with completely free and legal torrent sites, consisting of public domain or creative commons licensed works.
And even ultra-popular sites like ThePirateBay host a mix of legal and copy-protected works. The trouble is distinguishing between the two.
Even more confusing, is the downloading (and sometimes sharing) of copy-protected works may be legal depending on what country you live in. For example, in The Netherlands it is legal to download copyrighted works of art (like Music or films) for ‘personal’ use as long as there isn’t a commercial motive.
But in most countries, frequent torrenters will risk running afoul of copyright law. And the penalties for doing so can be quite harsh, and often aren’t proportionate to the infringement.
PENALTIES FOR DOWNLOADING TORRENTS
Unprotected BitTorrent users or open to a range of potential penalties ranging from inconvenience, to civil lawsuits, to criminal punishment in the most extreme cases.
Here are common penalties from mild to severe:
Internet Service Disruptions
Most Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) monitor their subscribers web traffic using a process called ‘Deep Packet Inspection.’ This allows them to see what types of traffic you’re transmitting. It also allows them to throttle (slow down) or block certain traffic.
Many ISP’s will throttle all torrent traffic, regardless of whether you’re downloading fully legal torrents or not. And repeated torrent downloads can even cause your ISP to suspend your internet access altogether.
The good news is that a VPN will fully encrypt your torrent traffic, so that your ISP cannot see what you’re downloading (or even that you’re torrenting at all).
Lawsuits & Fines
There has been a growing epidemic of copyright trolls targeting bittorrent users. In fact they’ve turned it into a pretty lucrative business. This is especially true of small pornography production companies and some independent film studios. And the business model is simple:
- Produce of piece of content and charge an exorbitant price for it (few people pay).
- Wait for it to get distributed as a torrent (or leak it yourself).
- Monitor the public IP addresses in the torrent swarm, then sue those users en masse
- Demand $1000-3000 to settle the lawsuit (calculated to be below the cost of hiring a lawyer).
In fact, many of the people who have settled these lawsuits didn’t even download the infringing content at all. That’s why it’s a predatory tactic. One notorious troll Prenda Law extracted millions in settlements until collapsing from a criminal probe.
Of course, it stands to reason that few or none of the people who settled were using a non-logging VPN (which would have shielded their public IP address).
Recommended: IPVanish VPN (one of our favorite torrent-friendly services).
WHY MANY BITTORRENT USERS CHOOSE TO USE A VPN
By their very design, p2p networks like BitTorrent are very exposed to 3rd party observers. In fact, there are many organizations and even public websites that track torrent downloads. You can even check I know what you download to see (a small percentage) of the files specific IP addresses have downloaded (even yours!).
So the benefits of a VPN are obvious:
- Encrypts your torrent traffic so your ISP can’t read/block/throttle
- Hides your public IP address in torrent swarms (peers will see the VPNs IP address, not yours)
- If the VPN keeps no logs, there is no link between your public torrent IP and your identity
And don’t worry, using a VPN isn’t complicated or confusing…
Most VPN’s come with easy-to-use software that makes encrypting your torrents as easy as a 1-click.
But if you want to go more in-depth, we have complete VPN setup guides for all of the most popular torrent clients:
If you’re ready to level up your privacy and protect your torrent history, these are some of our favorite torrent-friendly VPN providers. They’re all true ‘Zero-Log’ VPN services, and most of them cost less than $5/month if you choose a 1-year subscription.