Metroplus

The age of torrents

If you were one of those who relied on file-sharing sites such as Torrentz or Kickass Torrents for your daily fix of entertainment, gaming and music, the past couple of weeks must have been terrible. Close on the heels of the arrest of Kickass Torrents founder Artem Vaulin in Ukraine, Torrentz.eu, one of the largest aggregators of torrents, also announced that it was shutting down.

The site disabled its search operation on August 6, with a message on the landing page saying “Torrentz was a free, fast, and powerful meta-search engine combining results from dozens of search engines. Torrentz will always love you. Farewell.”

Unlike The Pirate Bay or Kickass Torrents sites, Torrentz.eu was merely an aggregator of torrents, much like Google or Make My Trip, and one wonders what made the makers pull the plug on the service.

What are the ramifications of the crackdown on torrents? Does the shutdown of popular torrent sites mean that piracy online will be defeated?

IT professional Sridhar P explains, “Torrents are not illegal per se. They are just files situated on a a server with limited connections. The torrent separates the files into pieces that are shared from all computers. It makes the task of downloading very easy. It is perfectly fine to use it for legal downloads. When movies and music are shared online illegally, the authorities may occasionally step in and block certain torrent sites. Piracy must be fought, but getting rid of popular torrent handles will not be very helpful.”

He adds, “Another risk someone downloading torrents faces is fake torrents, which may harm your computer or tablet by installing malware or viruses. I lost my laptop’s hard disk and data after a vicious malware attack. It is safer to use trusted torrent sites only.”

Sales professional Narayan Hari points out, “It is really sad that the best torrent aggregator sites have shut shop. Torrents are helpful in ensuring that lesser-known artistes and independent movies get noticed. It is a good technological tool. A complete ban on torrents is akin to banning YouTube or Google. It is not workable in the long run, and mirror sites will come up soon. Many torrent sites have been revived. In a country like India, with broadband speeds at the mercy of the fair usage policies of the Internet service provider, such sites are a life saver.”

On a personal level, the influx of streaming websites such as Netflix and Hotstar in India has meant that you no longer have to scrounge the web for torrents to find out what happened in the latest episode of your favourite show, with a legal live stream just a click away. I watched all of the latest season of Veep and Silicon Valley on Hotstar, at the same time as the series was aired in the United States, complete with HD quality visuals, English subtitles and the works. Similarly, Netflix prompted me to watch Stranger Things, a Netflix original horror thriller that could have never been discovered if torrents were my only go-to tool for finding new web series.

I doubt anyone would deliberately go looking for illegal streams, when legal streams are available for a small fee.

Having said that, a complete ban on torrents is not a workable solution and is impossible to implement. A solution must be found by enforcement agencies to ensure that a war on piracy does not kill the technology itself.


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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 4:25:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/The-age-of-torrents/article14572801.ece

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