Torrenting and Privacy in the UK: Is It Illegal?

It’s better to be safe than sorry… My advice is – just use NordVPN and enjoy peace of mind each time you use torrents.

BitTorrent technology isn’t illegal.

So, using torrenting software like BitTorrent to share files is in itself not against the English law.

However, if it’s used to share copyrighted files like movies, music or books, it does become illegal.

The laws that make it illegal are the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) and Digital Economy Act 2017 (DEA), as well as case law.

Attention Torrenters!

Downloading Torrents without a VPN is very risky!

Whether you are downloading music, e-books, comics, TV shows, movies copyright trolls, and ISPs are in hot pursuit of torrent users. You should always use a VPN while torrenting, so your identity remains hidden and no one can read the contents of your internet traffic through encryption.

People often share files through a process called torrenting, or P2P file-sharing.

It’s a quick and convenient way to share content.

However, this method does pose some legal challenges in many countries and can even be unsafe.

In this post, I’m going to answer some questions about torrenting in the UK.

Specifically, I’m the dangers it can pose and what you should do to stay safe, and the legal implications.

Is Torrenting Legal In The UK?

What Laws Regulate Torrenting In The UK

BitTorrent technology isn’t illegal.

So, using torrenting software like BitTorrent to share files is in itself not against the English law.

However, if it’s used to share copyrighted files like movies, music or books, it does become illegal.

The laws that make it illegal are the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) and Digital Economy Act 2017 (DEA), as well as case law.

Legislation

The CPDA aims to protect all intellectual property works, subject to copyright, from infringement.

Infringement can involve copying the work or giving it to the public without authorization.

Torrenting is all about sharing files peer-to-peer.

Therefore, using this technology to share copyrighted files does amount to infringement.

The DEA goes even further by introducing stricter penalties for infringements.

It does appear, though, that it’s not targeting users who share copyrighted content specifically.

Rather, its goal is to punish those who monetize illegal content.

But more on that below.

Case Law

The BPI case stipulated that both operators and users of a known torrenting site were liable for copyright infringement.

The court ordered the ISPs to adopt technical means to block trackers that support the BitTorrent network.

Does UK Government Track Your Torrenting Activity?

Short answer – yes.

The UK is in the 5-eyes/9-eyes/14-eyes alliance.

In 2016, it also implemented The Investigatory Powers Act (IPA).

The law requires internet and phone operators to store records and websites visited by ISP’s customers for 1 year.

Those records include IP addresses – the very thing that’s openly on display when you torrent.

And certain authorities can access them without a warrant.

So yes, the British government does have the power to track your torrenting activity.

Getting Caught Torrenting In the UK

So, what actually happens if you get caught torrenting?

As we stated earlier, the first body that’ll detect you torrenting is your ISP.

And in 2017-2019, it would’ve mailed the owner of your Internet account an infringement notice.

This was possible thanks to the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme.

However, last year, the providers have stopped sending out these letters.

Instead, their plan is to inform about the affordable ways to enjoy copyrighted content legally.

But the authorities still have the right to access information about your IP address’ activities.

They can do that under the IPA through your ISP.

And it’s not clear what the next stage of the government’s efforts against infringement is going to be.

It’s best, therefore, to take preventive measures, which we’ll discuss in this article.

What Are The Penalties For Torrenting In The UK?

The owner of the copyright material can bring action against you for infringement by torrenting.

In that case, you’d have to defend yourself in court and pay damages if you lose.

That’s a more common scenario than criminal proceedings.

The CDPA provides the basis for the criminal proceedings.

They include:

  • monetizing copyrighted materials and sharing with the public.
  • knowing that the material is copyrighted and either intending to profit off it or knowing that sharing will cause losses to the owner.

The CDPA penalties are:

  • 6 months and/or an unlimited fine upon sentencing in Magistrates Court OR.
  • 10 years and / or a fine upon indictment by the Crown Court.

What Are Copyright Trolls?

Copyright trolls are companies that owners of copyrighted materials hire to scare people who torrent and make money off them.

The owners themselves can also engage in such practices.

It’s completely legal for them to contact these persons.

It’s called “speculative invoicing” and involves threatening litigation if people don’t settle.

However, the only way copyright trolls can get to people who torrent is through their ISP.

And they only retain records of Internet accounts.

That’s why there’s no way to know a specific account user that’s been torrenting.

The only way the trolls can get this information is if they know the time and date of a specific violation and can match it to the IP address.

This requires obtaining a court order, and there’s no guarantee of success.

Since such letters come from private companies, they have nothing to do with any criminal proceedings.

They can signify a start of a civil case, but they don’t require payment of any “fines”.

Understandably, there’s a lot of potential for “speculative invoicing” scams.

Yes, copyright trolls may be genuine.

But they can also be frauds using intimidation and fear to get a user to pay up – the system isn’t foolproof.

Here’s an example:

This is why it’s very important to take measures to protect your online activities to avoid being penalized, sued or scammed.

Even if you don’t torrent, there’s no guarantee that someone else isn’t using your network connection to torrent.

How To Be Safe Torrenting In the UK?

To shield your online activities from your ISP and other parties, you should be using a VPN service.

A VPN:

  • encrypts your traffic
  • re-routes it through a different server
  • changes your IP address
  • ensures that your ISP doesn’t see what you’re browsing and downloading.

NordVPN – How Can It Help You?

When I started looking for the best VPN for torrenting in the UK, I tested a few services.

My conclusion was that NordVPN was the best choice.

Here’s an overview of why:

CriteriaDescription
JurisdictionPanama, which is not a 5-eye/9-eye/14-eye state.
Servers5043 servers in 59 countries.
EncryptionAES-256 – industry standard for optimal encryption for your traffic. Enabled by default.
Logs No-logs policy, confirmed by independent audit.
UX5/5
Protocols OpenVPN and TCP/UDP (can switch).
Leak TestsDNS Leak, IPv4/IPv6 Leak, WebRTC Leak - All Passed.
P2P File Sharing Yes, dedicated servers.
PriceCheck the Price
Free Trial30-day money-back guarantee.
Supported PlatformsWindows, Mac, Linux, OS, Android, Chrome, Firefox.

As you can see from the data above, NordVPN uses the highest standards of encryption and doesn’t keep logs.

Also, it offers servers dedicated to P2P file-sharing (torrenting).

The dedicated servers provide you with a new IP address to keep your actual one private.

It’s very easy to connect to a NordVPN P2P dedicated server.

On your Desktop, you simply click on the P2P option and it’ll connect you to the best server.

Or if you want to choose a specific server, click on the three dots and it’ll provide you with the options available.

But what about NordVPN P2P servers’ connection speed?

Security is very important, but download speed is a close second when it comes to choosing a VPN service.

And it depends on how many servers a VPN service has.

NordVPN offers 5073 servers in 59 countries.

It offers P2P servers in 51 countries.

Therefore, it takes speed quite seriously.

I tested the speed of two NordVPN P2P servers.

One was selected by NordVPN as “fastest” server in the “fastest” country, which was a server in Latvia.

Another I chose myself, in the United States.

LocationPing (ms)Download (Mbps)Upload (Mbps)
Speed without NordVPN P2P Server238.640.48
P2P Server in Latvia11910.791.13
P2P Server in the USA3615.021.02

Understandably, the US server was the slowest since it’s quite far away from my location.

However, on the optimal server that NordVPN has selected, the speed was quite decent.

I appreciated having a tool that determines which server in which country is the fastest for P2P file sharing.

Conclusion

Using of torrenting technology is not illegal in the UK.

But it’s often used for sharing copyrighted materials.

That’s why it draws attention from the ISPs and in turn, the authorities. By exposing your IP address when torrenting, you’re making yourself vulnerable to ISPs and copyright trolls.

That’s why we recommend that you use a VPN.

Choose a service that can conceal your IP address and encrypt your traffic, whilst still providing you with a decent speed at a reasonable price.

NordVPN’s dedicated P2P servers do just that.

That is why I recommend NordVPN for torrenting in the UK.

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