Are you a torrenting holdout? Even though your “techy” friends are saving thousands of dollars on music, movies and software? And getting movies faster than you can download a song?
Yes, most people use torrenting to share stolen files, but there’s nothing inherently illegal about the process. And getting started is easier than you think.
When you open a torrent, a BitTorrent protocol downloads the file from peers who already have them. As soon as you have those pieces, you start uploading and become a peer. Having the whole file makes you a seeder.
If the torrent is for stolen media, then seeding is the dangerous part of the process. Just as police would rather snag the dealer than the junkie, authorities target seeders because they are hosting and distributing copyrighted material to leechers.
Torrenting on the school network will trigger an automatic warning email from the Northwestern IT “Be Aware You’re Uploading” system. The goal of these emails, says NUIT director Wendy Woodward, is to educate and remind students that “just because they can [torrent] doesn’t mean that they should.”
In most cases, NU-BAYU won’t punish you for downloading. If they do, don’t shoot the messenger. An NU-BAYU hold on your NetID is often a slap on the wrist meant to appease a media distributor who’s caught you stealing their content. “We are not going and telling [on you],” Woodward says.
In one case last year, HBO noticed a student was downloading a TV episode and, within 15 minutes of the act, sent an email to NU Student Affairs with the computer address, username and name of the show. NUIT put a security hold on the student’s NetID, locking her out of the university network. Woodward says NUIT usually pardons the offender when they watch a few informational videos, delete downloaded material and show they’ve learned their lesson.
But here’s the real lesson: If you torrent, do it off campus. Smart seeders commandeer public WiFi so they can drive-by download. If you go bootleg crazy in your dorm or apartment, there’s a small chance the school or your internet provider might shut you down. You’re a seasoned pirate now. Why risk jail when there’s so much left to plunder?