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What is torrent file sharing?

Sooner or later, many Internet users think of getting files from the Internet for free. Despite the real risk of being punished for illegal acts, the temptation on the World Wide Web is great.

Newcomers who deal with the topic of file sharing quickly stumble across the term “torrent”. But this is often passed over with a shrug: Whether the music download runs via a torrent program or not is not relevant for many.

With Bit Torrent, the file does not get to the PC from only one source as with HTTP or FTP downloads. Rather, it comes from different users who participate in the individual network for the respective file. The entire file does not even have to be on the computer. It is sufficient if the user has a fragment that he passes on to other users who may already have other parts. The chance of getting all parts of a program together is therefore greater than with other exchange systems, in which only owners of the complete file also pass it on.

Bit Torrent exchanges files in a network. One or more providers make a file available for download, Bit-Torrent clients then download the file to your PC. With torrent technology, a control file (.torrent) of a few KB size is generated for each file provided. This metafile contains a unique ID (hash) with information about the file itself and the download address. The download sources are hosted via a so-called tracker. In the first place, it makes it possible for a client to find the respective data file. In the first step, the torrent file is loaded from a homepage via a web browser and then opened with a torrent client. Only then will the download of the actual data file start. The sources differentiate between "peer" and "seed". A client is a peer when it is still loading the data file. Seeds are users who have already loaded the data file specified in the torrent and only offer it as a source for the peers. At least one seed is required for the transfer to complete successfully.

What is a torrent download? Different definitions

Since many laypersons deal with illegal downloads at short notice, the definition of the torrent has become somewhat softer. Depending on the context, the term takes on a different meaning.

The torrent as a miniature file In their original definition, torrents refer to a certain type of directory file. This file is usually very small and only contains information that is required to download the data that is actually requested.

That means: Downloading a torrent file alone is not illegal. However, the torrent itself is worthless for the user. He needs certain software - a so-called BitTorrent client - to use it.

For many users, the term torrent is synonymous with the program that evaluates and uses the torrent files.

The software reads the information from the torrent and starts the actual download accordingly.

Well-known clients include Utorrent (also called µtorrent), Vuze and eMule.

The torrent file tells the clients at which points of the network the desired data is located. They consider what appropriate computer at this time with the network connected are and upload the files to the fastest possible way down.

The torrent client must be adapted to your operating system. Most BitTorrent programs are compatible with Windows in 2015. For other systems, finding the right software is sometimes more difficult. Utorrent or µtorrent works as one of the largest applications on all common operating systems.

The BitTorrent protocol

Finally, the term torrent can also mean the protocol with which the software works. The principle, the functionality of the download process can be understood as a protocol.

Most torrent clients use the BitTorrent protocol. This is based on the creation of a so-called peer-to-peer network (also called peer-2-peer - or P2P network). Such a network is created by connecting a large number of computers to one another in order to enable a faster download rate.

When does BitTorrent lead to a warning? The P2P principle is not always illegal How does the BitTorrent network work? One of the most important features of the network is the comparatively decentralized structure. A server coordinates the requests, but the data is pulled from all connected computers.

This is why the torrents for a download are so elementary: They contain the directions to the right computers, so to speak.

Another peculiarity: The desired data is usually not drawn from a single source. The torrent software divides the final file from many different partial downloads.

This procedure enables the BitTorrent applications to achieve their high speed.

Warning: Movies downloaded via BitTorrent

Basically, file sharing - i.e. exchanging or sharing files over the Internet - is not prohibited. So you can safely forward your own pictures to friends and colleagues via an exchange and distribute them online.

It is different with files that are subject to copyright. This includes films, music albums, PC games and software. These products can usually only be purchased by purchase - the creators earn money with them.

It is illegal to exchange, distribute and obtain these files through file sharing applications. Basically, the authorities focus on those who make the illegal content available. However, even a torrent download without upload is never considered legal if copied material is copied.

Nevertheless, the download by torrent can lead to a warning : The principle of the protocol is based on a simultaneous distribution. This means that users who carry out a download (called "Leecher" - German: (blood) sucker) also continue to offer the data they have obtained for download.

The IP address as the key for the investigators

Contrary to some assumptions or wishes, the web is anything but anonymous. Your steps on the Internet leave traces that can usually be traced back to you.

A so-called IP address is assigned to each device that connects to the Internet.

This represents your ID card on the net, so to speak.

Unless you use your address to be obfuscated, all of your network activities are carried out using your router's IP address.

Investigators could trace the data stream of the illegally shared content back to a specific network address. You then only have to assign one person to the address.