Bittorrent is still the most popular p2p/file-sharing technology in Europe, and many people download torrents in Germany. However, German torrent users have been facing increasing pressure, including: monitoring, and even legal threats, often for files they never even downloaded.
This article will teach you step-by-step, how to safely access torrent sites and download torrents anonymously in Germany. We’ll also discuss some misconceptions about torrent legality.
LEGALITY OF TORRENTS IN GERMANY
Torrents and p2p file-sharing is completely legal in Germany. If surprises you, let me explain:
Bittorrent is simply a filesharing technology. There is nothing inherently bad or illegal about it, and no European country bans the use of Bittorrent. It is illegal, however, to share copyrighted files via bittorrent.
In other words, if you stick to legal torrent sources, you’ll be fine. The problems arise when German citizens download copyrighted files such major theatrical movie releases, TV shows, and pornography.
Abmahnung in Germany affecting file-sharers
In recent years, there has been a major rise in the sending of ‘Abmahnung’ notices by German law firms. These ‘cease and desist’ letter often target bittorrent users, and usually include a demand for a payment of several hundred Euros (up to 1000 Euros or more).
But the Abmahnung culture has some major problems:
- Some law firms are sending copyright notices without actually having rights to the infringed work: In other words, some unethical firms are sending mass Abmahnung letters demanding settlements from filesharers, without the permission of the actual copyright holder!
- Many people who receive an Abmahnung notice (and pay), didn’t actually download the file — These letters are often very threatening, and recipients face a choice of ‘pay a few hundred Euro now or be sued for thousands’. As a result, many people have paid these settlement demands, even if they never downloaded the file.
While the torrent trolling practice has faced increasing pressure and roadblocks in countries like the USA, the German legal system seems to be tolerating, if not encouraging it.
As a result, there is very little accountability for the law firms issuing these notices, and since almost no cases actually go to trial, there is almost no downside to issuing fraudulent notices as well. In other words, there is a strong incentive for unethical firms to target IP addresses and users who have never downloaded the file in question, because many will choose to pay the settlement anyway.
This lopsided system is stacked against individuals who often can’t even afford to defend their innocence.
Follow these 3 steps to help protect yourself from these predatory Abmahnung letters:
- Only download legal torrents. High profile, copyrighted torrents are the #1 source of Abmahnung demands
- Protect your privacy online. Never use your real IP address while torrenting, and keep your web history private.
- Don’t pay wrongful settlement demands. Fight back, and take steps to protect yourself in the future
INTRODUCTION TO ANONYMOUS TORRENT DOWNLOADS
The rest of this guide will focus on the simple, powerful technique you can use to maximize your privacy while downloading torrents. You will learn to hide your ip address, protect your web history, and keep your internet provider from monitoring your internet activity.
Privacy is a right, but also comes with a responsibility to use your anonymity in a legal and ethical manner. We do not condone any illegal use of this information.
With that said, here’s what you’ll learn:
- How bittorrent users are tracked and targeted in Germany
- Why a VPN and/or Proxy is the most important tool for anonymous torrent downloads
- How to use a VPN with your favorite torrent software
HOW TORRENT DOWNLOADS ARE TRACKED IN GERMANY
There are two ways that torrent downloads are monitored and/or blocked in Germany:
- Your public IP address is visible to all torrent peers and can be harvested/logged by automated software
- If you don’t use encryption, your ISP can monitor your web history (torrent sites) and torrent downloads
Public IP address
Because of the way the Bittorrent protocol is designed, all peers sharing a file must know the IP address (physical network location) of every other peer sharing that file. If you don’t take any steps to hide your true IP address while torrenting, any peer can monitor your torrent history.
And you don’t even have to share the same file to monitor IP addresses in the swarm. IP addresses can be logged remotelywithout ever sharing the file if you use DHT for peer discovery.
The best defense against torrent IP monitoring?
Change your torrent IP address, so it doesn’t match your true IP address. We’ll show you how in the next section of this guide.
Monitoring by your Internet Provider (ISP)
Internet Service Providers in Germany have the ability to monitor subscriber’s traffic and online activity through the use of ‘Deep Packet Inspection’ because all your data flows through their network.
Furthermore, German ISP’s are now actually required to record information about their subscriber’s online activity, and keep those logs for a minimum of 10 weeks. German data records include: Web history, IP addresses assigned, data transferred, and could include files downloaded as well (like torrents).
And ISP’s frequently use a technique called ‘Bittorrent Throttling‘ to slow down (or completely block) torrent downloads on their service.
How to prevent torrent monitoring/blocking by German ISP’s?
By using a zero-log VPN service (like the one’s featured later in this article) you can make it impossible for your ISP to monitor your web history, since all your traffic will be encrypted when it flows through their servers. VPN encryption also makes it very difficult to block or throttle torrent traffic.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR TORRENTS COMPLETELY ANONYMOUS
The best tool for anonymous torrenting is a non-logging VPN. It will change your public IP address (which appears in torrent swarms) and encrypt 100% of your web traffic so your ISP cannot see what you’re downloading.
Several of our recommended VPNs also include free Socks5 proxy service, which can be used to change your torrent IP address a 2nd time, by configuring your favorite torrent client to use the proxy. This will run inside the existing VPN tunnel.
- NordVPN | Review — Affordable, fast, and very p2p-friendly. It even works with Netflix, Hulu and other geo-restricted streaming services. 30-day 100% refund policy.
- Private Internet Access | review — The original ‘non-logging’ VPN. Their v3.0 software is incredibly good. Torrent traffic is allowed on all servers and 2-year plans cost less then 3€ per month.
Once you’ve got yourself a torrent-friendly VPN service (like the ones listed above), all you have to do is follow the steps below to keep your torrent history private and anonymous:
Step #1 – Connect to a torrent-friendly server location
Some countries are more friendly towards file-sharers than others. Your VPN will allow you choose from some or all of these locations with a single click.
We recommend connecting to a server located in one of these countries:
Step #2 – Enable Kill-switch and DNS Leak Protection
All 3 of the VPNs we recommend in this article include 2 additional security features in their VPN software:
- A Kill-Switch – If you enable the software kill-switch, it will instantly kill your internet connection if the VPN accidentally disconnects, making sure that your real IP address never leaks to torrent peers. Learn more about Kill-Switches.
- DNS Leak Protection – Most internet providers try to intercept all DNS lookups (performed every time you type a domain name into your web browser) from their subscribers. Some VPNs can leak DNS requests, allowing an ISP to snoop on your web history. You can enable DNS leak protection in your VPN software to make sure this never happens.
Step #3 – Verify your IP address is anonymous
It’s easy to check that your web browser has changed its IP address by using a free tool like iplocation.net, but what about the IP address of your torrent client (uTorrent, Vuze, Bittorrent, etc)?
This step is optional, but it’s a good idea to do it, just to make sure everything is working properly.
Step #4 – Download torrents as normal
With the VPN active and connected to a torrent-friendly server location, you are now ready to download torrents anonymously.
All torrents will be encrypted, and your peers will only see the IP address of the VPN server, not your real IP address. And if you took our advice and chose a non-logging VPN, it will be completely impossible to trace your real IP from your virtual (VPN) IP address.
You will also find that any torrent sites that we’re blocked are now easily accessible. Because the VPN uses extremely strong encryption technology, it is now impossible for your internet provider to block torrent sites or throttle your torrent downloads.
BEST VPN FOR GERMANY (TO DOWNLOAD TORRENTS)
At their core, all high-quality no-log VPNs do the same thing, so as long as they meet these criteria you should be quite happy.
- A true ‘zero-log’ policy.
- Socks5 proxy included (an optional bonus feature)
- 256-bit encryption (same strength as US military encryption)
- Unlimited bandwidth and speeds
But for Germans, we recommend one VPN provider highest — IPVanish.
IPVanish (starts at $6.49/month)
IPVanish is one of our most-recommended VPNs. While a bit more expensive than competitor Private Internet Access, IPVanish is the fastest VPN we’ve tested. As of this year, they also have a free Socks5 proxy included, and more than 3 times as many countries with servers as PIA.
Read: our full IPVanish Review
Their software is excellent, and available on all major platforms, including: Mac, Windows, iOS, Android. You can even setup IPVanish on your high-end wireless router (if it has compatible firmware).
IPVanish also has more German server locations than its competitors. There is an IPVanish server in Dresden as well as 26 unique servers in Frankfurt, Germany. You can connect to a German server if you want local google results, access to local German websites, or just faster connection speeds.
Choose IPVanish if you want the fastest speeds possible and are willing to spend a little extra. Check latest deals »
SUMMARY: TORRENTING IN GERMANY
If you follow the steps in this guide, you have everything you need to download torrents safely in Germany. Please make sure to use this information ethically and responsibly. With great anonymity comes great responsibility.
You will be able to freely access any torrent site, without fear of being monitored by your ISP or any 3rd-party organization. Abmahnung are predatory notices, and are being sent with little oversight or verification. Using a VPN makes it much less likely that you will be unfairly or incorrectly targeted by one of these notices.