Filesharing networks (like BitTorrent) are popular worldwide, but there’s no unified rule about how torrent websites (or torrent users) should be regulated.
This is especially true when it comes to the gray area of sharing copy-protected materials. Laws are different in every country. Some countries outlaw torrenting altogether (even from legal sources) while others (Switzerland, Spain) allow the downloading of copyrighted materials for ‘Personal Use.’
In this article, we’ll cover:
- Overview of the legal status of torrenting
- How to use the information in this guide (change your IP-address location perhaps?)
- BitTorrent Policies by Country
- The Best
- The Rest
- United States
- The Best
Disclaimer: Disclaimer: Neither the author of this article nor the owners of best-bittorrent-vpn.com endorse the downloading of copyrighted material in any jurisdiction, whether legally or not. This article is provided for informational purposes only. BitTorrent is legal, piracy is not. Please use responsibly. We’re not legal experts, nor do we claim to be. This article is opinion and represents our current understanding of file-sharing laws in certain countries. We may interpret the legal climate in a country different than a the exact statutes (or a judge) might. Do your own research. Download only LEGAL torrents. And get yourself a VPN. It’s only $40 per year.
Torrent Legality: an overview
First off, let’s be clear: BitTorrent is only file-sharing protocol. It’s not a piracy tool, just like a web browser isn’t a piracy tool. The BitTorrent protocol is legal in most countries around the world, and so are torrent downloads from legal sources.
Laws are changing dramatically, worldwide, trying to keep balance between entrenched corporate interests (like content/media products) and then constant evolution file-sharing technologies.
Some countries (like the United States) are struggling to update old laws designed for decades-old varieties of copyright infringement, which are now (unfortunately) being misapplied to file-sharers with no criminal or profit intent.
Other countries, where the internet is still new, had few or no intellectual property laws in place, and are now making strides towards defining them.
Still other nations (most notably Switzerland) and taking a very progressive stance, that downloading of files for ‘personal use’ should be entirely legal. In other words, if you aren’t profiting off another persons creation, it’s legal.
HOW TO USE THIS INFORMATION
If you’re located in a country that isn’t particularly torrent friendly, you can still virtually download torrents from within torrent-friendly countries thanks to the geo-switching capabilities of Virtual Private Networks. If you’re not familiar with VPN technology, here’s a quick intro into how VPN’s work and why you might want one.
Hopefully you only download legal torrent files (there are 10’s of thousands of them). Even if you only download 100% legal torrents, countries like the United Kingdom and United States still frequently disrupt the your ability to torrent legally, the same as others who download copyrighted material.
In the U.S. many major ISP’s throttle all torrent traffic on their networks, regardless of the type or legality of the content.
In the U.K. many of the top torrent sites are blocked, even though they host many legal torrent files.
By using a VPN service with servers located in a ‘torrent-friendly’ country, you can:
- Avoid monitoring by your Internet Provider and other 3rd parties
- Get the full benefit of your bandwidth instead of getting throttled to much slower download speeds.
- Download files from a server in a country where file-sharing isn’t monitored.
- Encrypt all data transferred, so your ISP cannot see sites you visit or files you download.
- Unblock geo-blocked or firewalled sites, including torrent sites.
- Check out our Top VPN’s for Torrents Recommendations.
It’s important to note, that even if you download copyrighted material via a VPN server in a country where doing so is legal, you may still be doing so from a country where it is still illegal. Please support content creators and only download legal torrents!
Safest countries for torrenting (the best)
There are the countries where file-sharing (even copyrighted files) has the most favorable status. Internet Providers in these countries don’t block or throttle torrent sites.
Switzerland is by far the safest country for torrents. According to Swiss law, downloading music and movies (even copyrighted works) ‘for personal use’ appears to be completely legal.
‘Personal Use’ is a bit of a general definition, but generally if you aren’t attempt to profit from the download, or distributing it to a large number of people, it’s you’re likely ok.
But the Swiss will take your online freedom even further…
The monitoring of peer-to-peer downloads by a 3rd party is actually illegal!
According to this article on Torrent Freak, IP addresses are considered personal information (your IP address is the only personally identifying information available in a torrent swarm). Since collecting personal information without consent is illegal under Swiss law, 3rd party monitoring agencies are actually committing a crime if they do so. This effectively kills the ‘business strategy’ used by a number of ‘Copyright Trolls‘.
Though there are new laws under consideration that will help rightsholders remove copyrighted material from web servers, the Swiss protected personal freedom to download files for personal use will likely remain legal for the foreseeable future.
Spain is nearly as safe as Switzerland when it comes to downloading torrents for personal use. In a series of cases in 2006, a Spanish Judge ruled that downloading copyrighted files for ‘Personal Use’ as long as there’s no intent to profit.
There are similar protections for personal information as well. Personal data associated with an IP address can only be revealed in the course of a criminal investigation. File-sharing is considered a civil matter. It should come as no surprise then that nearly one-third of Spaniards use file-sharing websites. Double the European Average. (Source: Wikipedia)
Downloading of copyrighted works for ‘personal’ use is a gray legal area in Poland. Let’s be clear, there is no written law that creates a ‘personal use’ exemption. However, there are several legal opinions that seem to legalize downloading for private use.
In the middle (torrents tolerated or ignored)
Generally speaking, these are countries with no clear policy, or no enforcement mechanism for p2p downloaders.
Regulators and lawmakers in Mexico have mostly ignored the rise of file-sharing. As of 2019 there aren’t any laws that specifically forbid it. Torrents in Mexico are not blocked by most ISPs nor monitored in any official capacity.
The Netherlands used to be one of the most torrent-friendly countries, and downloading for personal use was explicitly legal (you just couldn’t upload). In 2017 all that changed, but the Netherlands still has a relatively free internet and minimal enforcement of p2p downloads.
Two Dutch ISPs (Ziggo and Xs4all) were ordered to start blocking The Pirate Bay (which ironically started as a Dutch website). https://thenextweb.com/insider/2017/09/22/pirate-bay-blocked-netherlands-dutch/
Much of Eastern Europe
Countries like Slovakia, Greece and Romania largely ignore filesharing. An exception is Russia, which has forced ISPs to block numerous torrent sites.
The Rest: Less safe for torrents
The bulk of countries fall into this category, but not all are created equal. Some (like the U.S. and Canada) rarely enforce file-sharing violations criminally. Other countries have gone for torrent site bans (India) and/or overzealous enforcement.
Australia has unfortunately followed the USA’s example, and allowed torrent trolls to run rampant. ISP’s in Australia retain usage and connection logs for up to 2 years. The government doesn’t directly enforce torrent violations but instead has allowed torrent trolls to flourish, with mass lawsuits asking $100’s or $1000’s for downloading a single file.
Learn More: Torrenting in Australia
Canada overhauled their copyright law with the Copyright Modernization act. One of the most relevant changes for Bittorrent users was the beginning of a ‘Notice and Notice’ regime, which requires Canadian ISPs to forward 3rd-party infringement notices customers. Critics say this opens the door for trolls and extortion letters.
Learn More: Torrents in Canada
England and the UK have been on the hard edge of p2p enforcement from the beginning. Most UK ISPs and mobile carriers have implemented blockades of torrent sites at one time or another. Many VPN services won’t even allows torrents on their UK servers.
UK BitTorrent enthusiasts often to VPN usage to circumvent torrent blockades and 3rd-party monitoring of downloads.
The U.S. is an interesting case study. There was very little direct enforcement of torrent violations by US-based ISPs, other than throttling torrent downloads.
Instead, most monitoring and enforcement activity is handled by rightsholders (or companies that merely claim to hold the rights). This means the U.S. was (and largely still is) a safe-haven for copyright trolls). Fortunately, some jurisdictions are wising up, after the Prenda Law scandal, and making it much harder for bad actors to extort downloaders.
Digital file-sharing has exploded with worldwide as broadband speeds have become globally accessible. The growth of peer-to-peer technologies like BitTorrent have disrupted traditional media distribution strategies, and BitTorrent users have faced increasing pressure from old-guard content owners who aren’t ready to change their business just yet.
Several countries are taking a stand, however, and saying that downloading content for personal use isn’t a crime.
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