Disclaimer: This post does not provide legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.
Torrenting itself is usually not illegal. Some countries allow downloading a wide range of content for personal use, while others - as it is difficult to determine the legality of the shared content - decided to ban torrenting entirely.
In most countries though, like the US, the UK, Australia and Germany, torrenting unsanctioned copyrighted material is illegal.
Is torrenting necessary?
If you are simply interested in watching Movies or TV Shows, listening to Music or trying the latest Games, you can find other ways to do so.
Check out our article on Is Torrenting Necessary?.
Is torrenting safe?
You can get in trouble pretty fast if you are torrenting illegally. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may send you a warning letter, or throttle (slow down) your internet connection. Upon that, you can also be charged with piracy, and face legal action along with fines, and even imprisonment.
How can I get caught?
When you are torrenting, you are downloading and uploading content with the other peers in the swarm. Peers use IP Addresses to communicate with each other.
As all IP Addresses are publicly available, it is quite easy to monitor the swarm, and use that information to identify people who are transferring the content illegally.
What happens if I get caught?
There are people and businesses out there making money out of going after illegally torrenting people.
As an example, copyright trolls monitor these peer-to-peer networks, gathering IP Addresses from swarms, and subpoena ISPs using this information to get in touch with people via mail, email and even personally.
Then they use scare tactics like settlement offers, basically threatening to sue you for $100,000 for downloading copyrighted content and offer you to settle for something like $2,000, and of course, as you want all this trouble to go away, you are inclined to pay the smaller fee.
However, these letters are not legally binding documents. If you receive one, you might get away with ignoring it, but if things are getting serious, do not hesitate to get in touch with lawyers who specialize in these sorts of cases.
Is there a way to avoid all this?
One way to protect your privacy is hiding your real IP Address with a VPN. As soon as your IP Address is hidden, you can do your thing without having to worry about your ISP or copyright trolls.