Copyrights and File Sharing: Legally Downloading Files on P2P Networks

When it comes to copyright law, you don’t want to get anywhere near the edge of the “grey zone.” Most copyright holders, especially large corporations, have teams of lawyers on their side. And, they’re willing to pay millions of dollars to protect their copyright. If you’re doing any kind of file sharing, you’ll want to know where the boundary of the law lies, and how to stay far, far, away from it.



What Is P2P?


P2P refers to “peer-to-peer” technology. It’s a way of directly communicating with another computer, rather than using a third-party service for file transfers. Most P2P networks and file sharing software, like Vuze, are actually on the side of copyright holders. They do not promote the downloading or uploading of illegal (copyright protected) content, or where downloading or upload would infringe on copyright. But, some companies, like Vuze, take it one step further – they actively educate users about copyright laws and discourage users from infringing on copyright, and downloading or uploading copyright protected content unless the rights holders have authorized that.


If you want to share files with other people, it’s hard to go wrong with a company willing to educate you and help keep you out of hot water.


Get Familiar With Search Filters


When you go out into the wild, and hunt for torrents to download, you’re going to come across a lot of sites with search features that will return just about any result. Most sites won’t filter what is infringing copyright-protected content out of the results by default. So, it’s on you. You have to become familiar with a site’s advanced search options and use copyright filters to attempt to ensure you’re only getting legal, non-infringing content.


Stick To Known Good Sites


Another good way to stay clear of trouble is to only frequent sites that serve up legal, non-infringing content. Alternatively, only use sites with the option to filter out copyright protected material.


So, for example,, the Internet Archive, is a treasure trove of information. All of the torrents here are safe, and there are a lot of them. The site boasts over a million ebooks, and over 100,000 music and audio torrents. There are even several thousand videos – all free for the taking without infringing on copyright.


Of course, there are other sites, like Fanatics4Classics,, ibiblio torrents, and that deal almost exclusively in open source, public domain, or otherwise non-infringing free content. With the exception of the Internet Archive, most sites are niche sites and cater to a particular demographic, interest, or genre.



When In Doubt, Don’t Download


If you have any doubt about the legal status of any file, do not download it. Some websites are crawling with law enforcement, waiting for users to download copyright-protected material. Once you’ve started the download, you run the risk of being prosecuted. How bad can the consequences be? Well, you could end up in jail, paying hefty fines, or both. It’s just not worth it.


Jason Boger has a great knack for maximizing technology’s potential for the everyday user. From security and file sharing to useful apps and entertainment, he often blogs about the tips and tricks of making the best of tech’s resources.


Leave a Reply