Copyrights and Concerns: Legal P2P Downloading Step by Step

You download a game from the Internet. You start playing. But, then you stop to think about it. You didn’t actually pay for it. Oh no! You’ve just downloaded something illegally. This kind of thing happens all the time, but did you know that there are very serious criminal penalties for doing something like this? You probably remember, if only vaguely, the Napster debacle.

Napster was a huge file sharing application and site, comprised of users who could, and would, share mostly music with other people. Because the music wasn’t being paid for, much of the sharing and downloading was illegal, but it wasn’t until heavy metal band, Metallica, discovered that their demo song, I Disappear, was available before its official release, that it became a national issue.

Of course, today, a site like the old Napster could never exist. Today, when using bittorrent, you need to take responsibility for the content you download, and pay attention to the site you’re accessing. Assuming you’ve found a torrent site that respects copyright laws, the actual downloading process is simple.

Here’s how to download a legal P2P file:

Step One

Surf the Internet to find special torrent search engines that will help you find the .torrent files you need and want. A .torrent is a text file that acts as a marker containing information about the specific location of the file you want to download. The files themselves vary from 15 to 150 kb in size.

Step Two

Download the target .torrent file. The process should take approximately five seconds per .torrent file at normal cable modem speeds.

Step Three

Open the .torrent file using your torrent software. Typically, all it takes is a double-click on the .torrent file icon to automatically launch the client software. Sometimes the torrent software will open the torrent file for you.

Step Four

Wait for the software to talk to a tracker server. This takes anywhere from two to 10 minutes. It will also find a swarm to make the file sharing possible. Swarming is when the software breaks larger files into smaller pieces to share with others who are linked by the same .torrent file.

Step Five

The tracker will locate torrent users to swarm with, and then each user is automatically labelled as a leech, or a seed. Torrents actively encourage users to share, or in other words, seed their complete files, while at the same time penalizing users who leech, meaning they take the completed files and run, blocking others in the swarm from accessing them.

Step Six

Let the torrent software begin the file transfer. Sharing happens in both directions. You upload something, and you receive a download. The tracker will label each user in a swarm as either a leech/peer or a seeder. Leeches or peers have only one piece of the target file, whereas seeders possess the complete target file. The more seeds you connect to, the faster you can download.

Expect about 25 megabytes per hour transfer speeds, unless you have more than three seeders. The usual numbers are at least 10 peers, or leeches and three seeders per swarm for the downloading of a single movie or song. Optimally speaking, you can download a 900MB movie in about 60 minutes, and a 5MB song in about three minutes.

Step Seven

Once the download is complete, you need to do your own seeding by letting your torrent client run for a few hours. This is payback time – now that you’ve gotten what you want, you need to pay it back by allowing your computer to share your complete files with other users in the swarm.

Step Eight

You may need to download and install codecs to convert and play your downloads, depending on the file type.

The process of downloading media becomes easier the more times you do it. If you plan to torrent download often, you may want to get a second hard drive. Songs and movies take up a good amount of disk space, and the average P2P user usually has between 20 and 40 GB of media files at any given time. A second 500GB hard drive is not only quite inexpensive, it will give you the space you need.

Lastly, it is a good idea to start your downloads before you turn in at the end of your day in order to seed completed files and increase the upload/download ratio. You will wake up with your completely download files, all ready to go in the morning.

Julie Brunet has years of experience as a web manager. She enjoys putting her work to wider use blogging about common questions for making the most of the internet.