BitTorrent is a type of file sharing protocol which was created in a fashion similar to direct file sharing protocols, though it uses a slightly different method of file distribution among several users. Created by Bram Cohen, BitTorrent relies on several users to transfer small fragments of files to each other until each user has a complete copy of the file. There are dozens of BitTorrent software clients available for download today which all provide the same function, making BitTorrent one of the most widely used ways of transferring data on the internet.
BitTorrents were created with the transfer of extremely large files in mind. Most peer-to-peer file sharing programs require that two users directly connect to each other, one user being the uploader and the other the downloader. The uploader is required to send the entire file to the downloader, while sometimes slowing down his or her computer’s resources. BitTorrent, on the other hand, allows for multiple users to enter a BitTorrent portal with multiple users and each user transfers fragments of the file to each other, freeing up resources to each uploader. Even users with narrow bandwidth can contribute to the distribution of the file.
Once a user has downloaded the entire file, he or she becomes a “seeder”. A seeder is a user with the entire file that contributes parts of the file to new downloaders, allowing them to receive parts of the file until it is complete on their computer. The more users within a torrent, the faster the file spreads to those users. Without seeders, torrents would not work, which is one of the only drawbacks of using BitTorrent. Sometimes, old torrents lose all of their seeders and the entire file cannot be downloaded until a seeder enters the torrent.
BitTorrent and Copyright Infringement
Due to the nature of BitTorrent and its design, upon its introduction it was immediately put to use for downloading motion pictures, music, and other copyrighted work. It was not long before the Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America took notice and began investigating BitTorrent tracker websites.
What is a BitTorrent Tracker?
A BitTorrent tracker is a website which acts as a search engine for users to find torrent metafiles. These metafiles are then downloaded and give torrent users access to the files within the BitTorrent. Technically, BitTorrent tracker websites do not list copyrighted data. They are the subject of controversy, however, because those metafiles lead users to the copyrighted data.
Famous BitTorrent Copyright Infringement Cases
The most popular BitTorrent trackers are Suprnova.org, The Pirate Bay, Torrentspy, and Mininova.org. Some of these BitTorrent trackers are no longer functioning after the MPAA hit them with lawsuits, forcing shutdowns. Suprnova.org was the first major BitTorrent tracker to emerge from the rise of BitTorrent technology. After being threatened with legal action from the MPAA, it was quickly shut down. The Pirate Bay, a Swedish company, was raided by Swedish police, though today it is still functioning normally and is the most popular BitTorrent tracker.
Limiting Searches of Copyrighted Content
Some BitTorrent tracker websites began censoring their search capabilities as a result of pressure from the MPAA and RIAA. Mininova.org, as a result of their continuing difficulties, has censored their search results to avoid any appearance of copyrighted material. BitTorrent.com, the founding company of BitTorrent, has signed a deal with the MPAA limiting the number of movies from the seven major Hollywood studios that can be offered through the BitTorrent tracker. BitTorrent.com also has an extensive copyright infringement policy on its website, giving users information about what to do if they are a copyright owner whose copyrighted work has been violated.