Torrent websites have been a favorite tool of the online population for a long time. They have been used for sharing files for more than a decade, while some of them are hidden for quite a while. The oldest torrent file celebrated its 15th birthday last year. It’s a short fan film based on the cult classic The Matrix and was named The Fanimatrix.

What Is Torrent?

It’s a system for sharing and exchanging data and programs between Internet users. The files aren’t stored on the server but on the user’s computers. The most important task is to find the file or program you need. This requires an installed torrent file browser. Data is shared via a peer-to-peer communication protocol. Each file that you want to share must be indexed (the file is split into equal parts, SHA-1 checksum of all parts is done, and the resulting file is saved to the torrent file server). To further share a file, the person who shares it logs on to the tracker server, and then all those who found the torrent on the index server can start sharing the file, first from the source of the file, and then from each other.

When The Fanimatrix was made by a group of friends from New Zealand, web hosting was too expensive. However, the creators of the film soon found out about BitTorrent (who evolved into the leading torrent software company later on) to which they uploaded their files. The file was then downloaded 70,000 times in just one week. Thus, during all these years, the film crew has saved about $ 550,000, which they would spend on hosting, thanks to BitTorrent. It has kept its debut project since then.

Is Using a Torrent Legal or Not?

Using a torrent is absolutely legal. What is illegal is the downloading and sharing of material that is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). How is copyright protected? We should first know how content protection on the Internet actually works. Take, for example, the illegal download of a movie from a torrent site. Most often, the attorneys of the production company who own the movie send a letter to the Internet service provider whose services were used to download it, that is, the one who provided the Internet to a user. Up until that point, things generally work as they should.

When a letter or notice arrives at the Internet service provider, it should inform the user that what he or she is doing is illegal, and this is precisely where the problem arises. Internet service providers generally don’t pay attention to these offenses of their users, although they can detect who and when used torrent sites for illegal purposes.

How Does Hosting for Torrent Sites Work?

Many web hosts prohibit hosting a torrent site because of legal issues that might emerge from the content, which can be copyrighted material. So, those who own a torrent website would need to find hosting companies that specialize in torrent sites, which means providers who won’t avoid legal battles and won’t take a website off the air just because someone reported it.

Hosting a torrent tracker is legal because it’s just software. The problem occurs with the nature of files that are being posted. Your web host will likely notice that you’re running tracker software and might ask you some questions about that, but if you aren’t distributing illegal content, you should probably be safe. Many torrent trackers are written in programs that use MySQL as the database backend, so MySQL hosting is the option that you might think of to serve your torrent website. Their performance and the way they store and secure data are shown here. In combination with MySQL and, torrent sites trackers provide an RSS feed, optional support for HTTP seeding, detailed connection statistics, and much more. Basically, a tracker is a piece of software that clients of torrent websites communicate with to receive information about other people downloading the file.

For all your concerns as a torrent website owner, refer to your terms of service that you agreed to by signing a contract with the hosting provider or ask its support. Also, be aware that not all hosting sites who represent themselves doing this business are actual hosts. They might be just using several reverse proxies. Many hosts tend to hide behind Cloudflare, meaning you’ll never find their exact location. They can easily host the main server, for instance, in the United States, but use a reverse proxy in Germany or wherever. In case their proxy server is taken down, it can easily be replaced within a couple of minutes by another VPS. Bottom line: Their main server will never be found.

Why Do People Opt for Piracy?

Among the main reasons why people opt for piracy is the price of content. Considering that the average price of a song on iTunes is over a dollar, people have to spend about $15 to buy a music album from there. This is certainly not a justification for piracy. Still, for many people, especially for those who live in countries with a low standard of living, it isn’t something we could easily ignore.

Although downloading protected audio and visual content is permitted in some countries if such content is used for personal use (like in Spain or Switzerland). Generally, the authorities simply choose to overlook this practice, as is the case with Canada. Even in countries where it’s completely forbidden to use torrent sites, such as the USA (who introduced DMCA) or Russia, it’s possible to circumvent this ban by using Virtual Private Networks (VPN). In addition to using VPNs for greater privacy of Internet users, it’s also possible to virtually change the location from which someone accesses the Internet through these services. So, for example, users can create an illusion that they access the Internet from the United States. Still, they are actually accessing it from, let’s say the Czech Republic or some other country where the use of torrent goes unpunished.

Can Torrent Sites Be Banned?

Three years ago, the alleged founder of KickassTorrents was arrested by the U.S. authorities, and one of the world’s most popular torrent sites was shut down. However, as the previous examples (The Pirate Bay) showed, it’s tough to shut down these sites, especially if they are popular among users and build a good structure. At least two KickassTorrents clones have already been spotted upon shutting down the original one. The creators of one of these clones hosted it on multiple cloud servers to prevent blocking, and the hosting information was well hidden behind Cloudflare.

This shows that even a ban on torrent sites is no guarantee that content won’t be downloaded and shared illegally in this way, but such a “war” of pirates and authorities has been around for a long time and isn’t coming near its end. That’s because of the resourcefulness of hackers who are finding ways to play the law over and over again.

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George Meszaros is the editor and co-founder of Success Harbor where entrepreneurs learn about building successful companies. Success Harbor is dedicated to document the entrepreneurial journey through interviews, original research, and unique content. George Meszaros is also co-founder of Webene, a web design and digital marketing agency.