If you’re following the news regularly, you’ve probably stumbled upon horror stories about the UK government fining its not-so-law-abiding-citizens obscene amounts of money for the heinous act of illegally downloading movies or music from the internet through torrenting.
Which brings us to the question:
Is torrenting illegal in the UK?
The thing about torrenting is that, just like any other technology, it can be a benefit or a hazard.
And since torrenting is a file-sharing protocol, which uses special software (torrent clients like uTorrent or BitTorrent) to download content from other users – things like games, TV shows, music, movies, software – it is the nature of the respective content that either makes torrenting kosher or not. Basically, if you’re torrenting (read downloading) copyrighted content in the UK, you are breaking the law of the land.
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Torrenting in the UK
Even if the UK is known as the Big Brother state – one of the global leaders in terms of watching over its citizens, including online surveillance, torrenting is still a thing in Albion. According to recent piracy tracking reports, the UK is among the top-ten countries in the world with regard to downloading illegal content from the web.
The most popular form of internet piracy nowadays is video-piracy on rogue streaming sites, which broadcast TV shows, TV series etc. Nowadays, torrenting makes for less than half of internet piracy, but the fan-base is still significant and determined to hold its ground. When it comes to visits per country, the UK ranks 10th globally, with approximately 9 billion visits as per 2017 data. TV Shows, movies and music are the most popular content types.
The top torrent sites in the UK include the now-legendary The Pirate Bay, Torlock, LimeTorrents, RARBG (for movie enthusiasts) and YTS.ag.
Predictably, torrenting is the most popular among the 16-24 year old age group, and Manchester has the lead with the most downloads per capita. As per a 2009 survey, at least 29 percent of UK netizens admitted to illegally downloading music via P2P (torrenting), and at least 28 percent admitted to having downloaded miscellaneous copyrighted content.
Legal documents defining the use of torrent sites/files in the UK
File sharing aka torrenting in the UK is defined legally as it relates to the distribution of digital media. File sharing activity in the UK is addressed by two main pieces of legislation: The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Digital Economy Act 2010. The former protects intellectual property rights of the copyright holder or the creator, while the latter addresses the penalties related to copyright infringement, with an emphasis on copyright on the Internet. Unauthorized torrenting/file sharing is in direct violation to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Legal consequences of torrenting of copyrighted material in the UK
This is a very important topic for our UK readers, and it’s worth mentioning that the High Court has ordered Sky, BT, TalkTalk and Virgin (the UK’s top ISPs) to ban all torrent tracker websites, including ISOHunt, Torrentz, The Pirate Bay and many others. The reason for banning these sites was copyright infringement, and it’s funny that the censorship affected even legitimate websites like Crystal Palace F.C, Taylor Swift, Radio Times and hundreds more.
The United Kingdom is currently perceived as a global leader in terms of enforcing cyber laws. Copyright infringement via torrenting is regarded by the UK government to be as serious as real-life crimes. It may get you fined up to £50,000 ($71,670) for “online piracy.” What’s worse is that according to proposed legislation, copyright violations may result in jail time of up to ten years, which is kind of ridiculous, to say the least.
Torrenting-related lawsuit statistics in the UK
The top five internet service providers in the UK work closely with the movie/music/computer game industry to help them mitigate the scourge of online piracy. Internet users are regularly sent notices which claim copyright infringement related to people illegally downloading content via torrenting.
Back in 2008, approximately 25,000 British “pirates” were sued for £300/each by game developers claiming illegal downloads of their product.
How to torrent safely in the UK
Now comes the fun part, as we’ll teach how to torrent safely and anonymously in the UK. Provided you already have a BitTorrent client installed on your machine, here’s a short step-by-step tutorial:
Step 1: Choose the best VPN for torrenting and download/install the software on your computer by following the instructions.
Step 2: Choose a P2P server (keep in mind that the best VPN providers offer dedicated servers for torrenting) and connect to it.
Step 3: Check to see if your real IP address is hidden before starting torrenting. Click here to see your real IP address, then check it again with the VPN service started and see if it changes.
Step 4: When the VPN connection is established and your real IP address is changed, you can safely start torrenting.
Best VPN for torrenting in the UK
Since the UK government uses the most advanced censorship methods for blocking illegal file sharing sites, you must use a high quality VPN for torrenting safely and securely in the UK. And ExpressVPN is arguably the best of the bunch. Why? Here are our top-reasons:
- ExpressVPN is based in the Virgin Islands, which means your privacy and safety are guaranteed jurisdiction-wise.
- It offers a zero-log policy, i.e. they don’t keep logs of your internet activity.
- ExpressVPN uses industry leading 256-AES encryption and shared IPs, which means there are hundreds/thousands of customers using the same IP as you, making it very difficult to single you out.
- Perhaps most importantly, ExpressVPN allows P2P traffic on all servers and has great speeds.