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
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
Sport
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
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: Payroll Officer - Part Time

£12047 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Part Time Payroll Officer required for t...

Recruitment Genius: Event Management and Marketing Admin Support

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Recruitment Genius: Lettings Negotiator

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Central London based firm loo...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot