Germans like downloading movies, music, and games as much as the rest of us. But unfortunately, Germany may be one of the riskiest places to torrent.
In this guide, we’ll cover whether it’s safe to torrent in Germany, what the risks are, and how to avoid them.
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Is it Safe to Torrent in Germany? Risks of Torrenting in Germany
As far as torrenting risks go, Germany is one of the riskiest countries in Europe – and even the world. They are very active in pursuing torrenters and assessing fines up to €1,500 or more. But let’s take a look at the details.
Fines for torrenting
German law firms send out hundreds of thousands of fines for torrenting per year.
It typically starts with an Abmahnung letter, informing you of the fine and hoping you’ll pay it quickly. If that doesn’t work, they’ll take it a step further with an Unterlassungserklärung letter.
Ignore that one and you could find yourself being brought to court – or worse.
Torrenters are identified by monitoring illegal torrent swarms and identifying IP addresses, then using those IPs to get information about the person it belongs to from internet service providers. That’s why it’s crucial that you don’t download (leech) or upload (seed) torrents in Germany using your real IP address
Surveillance and data retention
Germany’s surveillance laws were already bad and are only getting worse. For instance, a 2021 law gave law enforcement and intelligence agencies the right to hack into people’s phones and computers using spyware.
Various data retention laws have also been put forth in recent years, including 2015 and 2017, though they’re still being debated in the courts.
Whether they’re officially enacted or not, it’s worth considering your online activities subject to intense scrutiny – unless you take steps to protect yourself.
Member of the “Fourteen Eyes”
Of course, Germany’s invasive surveillance laws are pretty much par for the course for a Fourteen Eyes member. They’re one of fourteen countries, including the US, UK, and Canada, which share surveillance data between each other and cooperate on similar privacy-invasive activities.
Since a huge portion of copyright lawsuits come from US companies and firms, this can have an impact on torrenting activity as well, since Germany has shown a willingness to work with the US on data sharing.
How to Stay Safe When Torrenting in Germany
We recommend using a virtual private network (or VPN) when torrenting for any country. But in Germany, it’s especially important, given how common IP address monitoring (and fining) is.
The VPN will change your IP address and encrypt your traffic, making it impossible for law firms to connect your torrenting to your identity or for your ISP to see what you’re doing – at least through the normal means.
But there’s a big difference in effectiveness, safety, and trustworthiness between VPNs. And while there are some general things to look out for when choosing a VPN, there are some specific things we want to keep in mind when finding a torrenting VPN for Germany:
1. Look for a VPN that’s not based in Germany. Even better if it’s not in another Fourteen Eyes country – or any other country with unfavorable privacy and surveillance laws.
2. Given how active firms are in monitoring IP addresses, you’ll want a VPN with a kill switch. This will stop your torrenting (and internet) if the VPN connection drops for any reason, so your real IP isn’t temporarily exposed to snoopers.
3. Ideally, you’ll use a VPN that has plenty of servers in both Germany and neighboring countries. In fact, we’d recommend using a non-German server (and thus IP address) when torrenting, since it'll further protect you from scrutiny. But your download/upload speeds could suffer if the server is too far away.
But don’t worry if that all sounds confusing. We’ve reviewed most of the best VPNs on the market, so we're able to recommend one for torrenting in Germany.
Note: If you’d rather not use a VPN, there is another option for downloading content safely that’s become quite popular in Germany in recent years – and that’s Usenet. It’s not as well known as torrenting, but Usenet is a great way to download movies and music that doesn’t expose your IP address or traffic. There are even some German Usenet indexers.
Best Torrenting VPN for Germany
- Prices start at just €1,92 per month
- Based outside of Germany and doesn’t keep logs
- Servers in Berlin and Frankfurt, as well as other European countries, including the Netherlands, France, Poland, and Hungary
- Built-in kill switch
- Torrenting and P2P friendly
You can look over our full review of PIA for torrenting if you want more info.
Is it Safe to Torrent in Germany? Wrap-Up
Whether you were born in Germany, are an expat, or are just visiting, hopefully this article has helped you understand the risks of torrenting in Germany – and how you can reduce them.
Of course, a VPN isn’t magic. But it will be able to hide both your IP address and your traffic from your internet service provider and third parties.