There was a time when Bittorrent traffic accounted for a huge share of all internet traffic in the US. It’s not quite as widespread these days, with streaming having muscled in, but it’s still plenty popular.
But are those dedicated torrenters at risk? Or is it safe to torrent in the USA?
We’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about torrenting in the United States – and how to stay safe when doing so.
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Is it Safe to Torrent in the USA? Risks of Torrenting in the US
The dangers of torrenting in the United States can range from minor hassles to significant legal issues. Let’s find out what you need to look out for.
Five Eyes, DMCA, and the NET Act
If you haven’t heard, online surveillance is quite common in the US these days. It’s a trademark of the Five Eyes agreement that the US is a part of. But it’s not just the government trying to snoop through your emails, collect your data, and analyze your browsing history. Tech companies, hackers, and your internet service provider are in on it too.
But when it comes to torrenting, your government and ISP are particularly concerning. If your P2P traffic accidentally includes copyrighted material, that could put you at odds with laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) or No Electronic Theft Act (NET Act).
Lawsuits and legal trouble
The biggest worry for torrenters in the US is being sued. “Copyright trolls” file thousands of lawsuits per year against users based on their IP address, and the amounts sued for can get into the thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars per person.
That’s on top of the legal fees and hassle of being brought to court. Plus, there can be other legal trouble if you don’t have a few hundred thousand dollars lying around to pay up.
Fortunately, these lawsuits are becoming a little less common in recent years – and a little less likely to succeed. But no one wants to be the unlucky fellow (or gal) who gets served with a lawsuit.
Data throttling or service cancellation
While lawsuits are a little rarer these days, data throttling remains quite common. This is when your ISP limits your internet speeds when downloading torrents. This can be a massive pain if you’re trying to download (or upload) a relatively large file.
Some ISPs and networks can even block P2P traffic entirely.
In more extreme circumstances, if you receive and ignore a warning letter from your ISP about torrenting, they can even cancel your service entirely. That means you’ll have to find a new internet service provider, which can be quite difficult in some areas.
How to Stay Safe When Torrenting in the USA
As always, the best way to protect yourself when torrenting is with a reliable virtual private network (or VPN). The benefits are twofold: it “hides” your real IP address, so copyright trolls can’t connect your identity to your downloads/uploads; and it encrypts your traffic, so your ISP can’t see what you’re doing.
That means no warning letters – or even throttling.
That’s what makes a VPN such an incredible tool, whether you’re torrenting in the United States or anywhere else. It’ll also greatly improve your privacy.
What to Look for in a VPN for USA Torrenting
However, there are a couple things to keep in mind when choosing a VPN for torrenting in the US.
1. You want a VPN with a proven no logs policy. Because while most VPNs claim not to log your activity, many of them still do it anyways. And this can land you in trouble.
2. You should also look for a VPN with a built-in kill switch. This will “kill” your internet connection if your VPN protection drops, so that your IP address isn’t leaked.
3. Finally, plenty of nearby servers is a huge plus. Fortunately, most major VPNs have lots of US servers, as well as some in other parts of North America, like Canada and Mexico.
Of course, with all of the info and misleading advice out there, it can be hard to narrow down the list of potential VPNs and choose one. Fortunately, we did the work for you, in order to highlight our favorite VPN for torrenting in the United States.
Best Torrenting VPN for the USA
Our top pick is PIA VPN, and here are some of the reasons why:
- Prices start at just $2.03 per month
- Based in the US and has proven their no logs policy in court
- Servers in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii
- Comes with a built-in kill switch
- Torrenting and P2P friendly
You can check out our full PIA torrenting review for even more info.
Is it Safe to Torrent in the USA? Wrap-Up
Now that you know the risks of torrenting in the US – and how to avoid them – we hope you’ll take the appropriate steps to keep yourself safe.
To be clear, a VPN isn’t going to make you untouchable or even completely “anonymous” online, but it will hide your Bittorrent activity from your ISP and other snoopers, allowing you to download in peace without throttling or other hassles.