What is a torrent?

For those of you that aren’t knee-deep in tech news, you’ve probably heard the term Torrent before but have no clue what it means. The term probably came up during a discussion or article about pirated software, music, or movies. 

So what the heck is a Torrent and how is it different from simply downloading something?

Think of it this way. Imagine you wanted to put together a puzzle that had 100 pieces. But rather than buy a box that had all 100 pieces, you asked 100 people on the Internet to each send you a single piece to make the whole puzzle. That’s what a Torrent is — using a master Torrent file, the Torrent application looks at all users currently on the network and sees who can contribute a piece to the overall puzzle.

In legal terms, this technically gets around copyright violation because no one is actually sending you a complete file or program — they’re just sending you chunks of random data that your master Torrent file assembles.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop people from inserting viruses, trojans, or other such illicit things within the file. In fact, Torrents are a common place to traffic such files. By using Torrents, you’re opening your network up to such things — and the problems that they cause.

Now, keep in mind that I’m not advocating using this for illegally downloading media. I’m providing this info for the average computer user and other people who might see this type of activity on their network. And I’m no legal expert, so I don’t know how well the “It’s not illegal” argument would actually stand in court, but it’s a good idea to educate yourself on these things should you encounter it. It may have technicalities that skirt the issues but it’s still essentially stealing.