This note tries to explain in layman’s terms what it means when you are told that your school is Torrent Downloading.
Torrent downloading in a school means that one or more computers in the school has a BitTorrent client installed which allows the computer to download/upload any type of file from/to the internet or another computer within the school at any time without someone having to be at the computer that has the BitTorrent client on it.
So someone in the school has installed a BitTorrent client on one of the school’s computers and has created a small file called a "torrent" (e.g. MyFile.torrent). This torrent contains information about the files to be shared and about the computer that coordinates the file distribution. Computers that want to download the file must first obtain a torrent file for it and connect to the specified computer, which tells them from which other computers to download the pieces of the file. To BitTorrent is not illegal, however the file that is being downloaded/uploaded to the internet maybe subject to copyright or its content may be illegal and hence downloading/uploading that file is illegal and the school may be liable. Torrenting comes to the NCTE’s notice when it is reported that files that are subject to copyright are allegedly being illegally downloaded/uploaded on the School Broadband Network.
Another problem with allowing BitTorrent clients is that it will affect the bandwidth (i.e. internet speed) of the school. Files being downloaded will impact speed but files being uploaded (and this is harder to control when this happens) will most probably use up the upload bandwidth of the school which will impact the overall speed of the internet in the school and the internet will appear slow in the school.
Also several studies on BitTorrent have indicated that a large portion of files available for download via BitTorrent contain malware which is malicious software designed to secretly access computers without the owner's informed consent. The NCTE recommends that schools think carefully before allowing BitTorrent clients on their computers.