Rhodri Marsden: Cyberclinic

I'm addicted to downloading stuff via BitTorrent. Will I be prosecuted?


DOWNLOAD DILEMMA

I've become addicted to BitTorrent, and use it regularly for downloading movies, TV shows, comics, music and software. Am I likely to be prosecuted?

This anonymous question provoked a number of comments from BitTorrent users wishing to remain similarly anonymous; they, at least, are aware of its dubious legality. BitTorrent, for those with squeaky-clean internet habits, is an internet protocol that's particularly suited to sharing hefty files such as videos and albums. "I keep telling myself that there are millions of others doing it," writes one reader, "but I don't imagine that nothing is being done about it." He's right on both counts.

"Although downloading copyrighted material is a breach of the law," explains Simon Baggs at media law specialists Wiggin & Co, "uploading is a bigger issue for copyright owners, because it makes that file available to thousands of people." And those who use BitTorrent are exposed to legal challenges, as they're all responsible for the distribution process. Once you've searched on a BitTorrent website for, say, a film, downloaded the small "torrent" file and launched it, you're immediately connected to everyone who is downloading the same thing. Your collective uploading and downloading power is then harnessed for its distribution. "And what makes BitTorrent so fast," writes another reader, "is that you can't choose not to share [or upload] that file." The majority of users download copyrighted material with the mere defence of safety in numbers - or maintain that downloading US TV shows that haven't been broadcast here yet isn't illegal. (It is.)

There are two consequences of copyright infringement: one is civil - you can be sued - and then there's criminal liability for breaking copyright law. How would you be tracked down? Most BitTorrent software displays the IP addresses of fellow file-sharers, and some copyright owners have started to monitor these by themselves becoming BitTorrent users. And as another reader comments: "Once they have IP addresses, it's easy to obtain a court order revealing names and addresses." Simon Baggs says: "Each time you do it - just as with shoplifting - you're taking a calculated risk. The chances of your getting caught are not high, but it could be you."

cyberclinic@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test