Downloading torrents and sharing files via BitTorrent are a dangerous proposition. Over the years, various copyright infringement agencies have been hunting down the users of torrents. They have been holding them accountable for piracy by monitoring their network and prosecuting their actions.
By now, most of the BitTorrent or Utorrent users know of this danger and know that when you download a torrent, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to the risk of a lawsuit and DCMA notice. So how does downloading a torrent leave you exposed to such threats?
How are you Tracked while Sharing Files?
Well, once you download a tracker and add it to your BitTorrent client, your IP address becomes visible to everyone sharing the same file. This makes it very easy for the copyright holders to track and monitor the people that are downloading their content illegally.
They can easily track them down through their IP address and ask the respective ISPs to take action against these users. Worse, these copyright holders can ask the ISPs to hand over the identities of customers involved in infringing copyrights so that they can take legal actions.
Take, for example, the Australian government passing a law earlier this April against piracy and copyright infringement. Under this law, it ordered some of the largest Australian ISPs to provide information and details of around 4,700 customers that were accused of sharing the Oscar-nominated movie, Dallas Buyers Club through file-sharing services like BitTorrent. This lead to a series of fines, DMCA notices, and lawsuits against the majority of the customers involved in this act.
TorrentTags is Born
In wake of this problem, a team of Australian software developers created a website called TorrentTags. The purpose of this website is to warn you and other torrent users about how ‘risky’ the torrent is to download. How does it work?
The process for identifying the riskiness of a torrent is very simple. On the website, you can simply upload the torrent file or enter Info Hash of the torrent. TorrentTags will then process this information and advice you whether it is safe to download the torrent or not.
There are two ways through which TorrentTags determines how risky the torrent is. First, it checks the torrent against a database maintained by ‘Chilling Effects’. This database hold information about the torrents that have been served DMCA notices on major platforms such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook.
The second way TorrentTags checks the risk involved in downloading the torrent is by asking the copyright holders to submit details on whether they want their content to be shared by other users via BitTorrent. TorrentTags will then update this information in its database, warning users if the torrent is safe to download or not.
According to TorrentTags, the copyright claims should be made public before the online activity of a user is monitored. They explained this by stating that any monitoring done without a federal complaint is equivalent to ‘honeypot’ strategies and the control is done with the goal of suing.
This may be true as there are many copyright sharks that make money of such torrent users by taking them to the court and use a cash-settlements revenue stream. However, it is unlikely that such firms will register with TorrentTags service as it will affect their revenue stream, and the last thing they want to do is scare off a user before he or she downloads copyrighted content.