BitTorrent: Useful or Criminal?

techabstractCopyright violations are serious concerns that need to be addressed. Theft of intellectual property is always a criminal event. However, not everything labeled as a copyright threat is actually such. Case in point: BitTorrent.

BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol designed to distribute files of any size over network connections in a fast and efficient manner. The primary benefit of BitTorrent is that the distribution of large files is no longer dependent upon a single server with a single network connection. BitTorrent operates by dividing files into segments and then offering those segments to peers (a.k.a. leechers). The initial system offering the file is labeled as a seed or a seeder. Once a peer has retrieved a segment, that peer can now seed that segment to other peers, while downloading additional segments. This process continues until a peer has retrieved all of the segments of the file. Then the peer becomes a seed, able to offer any segment of the file to peers. As more seeds are created, the swarm of seeds and peers is able to offer ever faster throughput.

BitTorrent is arguably the most successful form of peer-to-peer file-sharing solution yet devised. But it is also the most derided. BitTorrent is a protocol, a tool, a means of data conveyance. While plenty of disreputable people use BitTorrent in the act of committing the crimes of piracy and copyright violation, such behavior is the responsibility of those individuals, not of BitTorrent.

Should you use BitTorrent? Even with the pale of disreputable uses? Yes, absolutely yes. Don’t allow the media or copyright holders to change your opinion of a technology by casting false accusations at a perfectly viable and useful tool just because criminals can use it for unlawful purposes.

How can you use BitTorrent to its full potential while being legal and ethical? Easy. Just follow a few basic guidelines:

  1. Read up on the BitTorrent protocol to understand that it is a technology, not an evil tool. You can do that at as well as via Wikipedia (be sure to follow the links out to the references).
  2. Use a well-known BitTorrent client, such as Vuze or µTorrent.
  3. Seek out and use BitTorrent files (i.e., .torrent) to download files whenever offered by legitimate media and file services.
  4. Avoid using torrent search engines that are known to host unauthorized content.

By following these simple guidelines, you can gain full use of BitTorrent without having to walk on the shady side of the Internet.

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