BitTorrent is a great technology to share large files with a massive audience, but it’s also one of the least private tools for communicating on the Internet.
It therefore makes sense for frequent BitTorrent users to use anonymity services such as VPNs and proxies. But those who sign up with a VPN should take a good look at the fine print, as not all VPN providers allow BitTorrent traffic across their entire network.
TF is currently compiling our latest overview of logging policies at various VPN providers, and by popular demand we also asked whether these services allow BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic. The responses received thus far confirm that BitTorrent traffic is not welcome everywhere.
While VPN providers often have BitTorrent-friendly servers, many have chosen to block file-sharing traffic on U.S. and U.K. servers. The main reason for these policies is piracy related.
VPNs Blocking File-sharing traffic
It appears that companies who offer VPN services in the US are often flooded with DMCA notices. This causes issues with the ISPs, as Unspyable explains.
“The issue is simply that the U.S. ISPs forward all the DMCA complaints to us. This forces us to deal with them which wastes time and effort, as we do have to send them a response,” Unspyable says.
“Since we don’t track anything we have nothing to give them in the response to the DMCA. However, many times that is not sufficient and we have had ISPs shut down our servers several times. This results in having to find new ISPs and the expense of setting up new servers,” the company adds.
NexTGenVPN notes that they block file-sharing traffic in the U.S. and U.K. because of bandwidth restrictions. The company also mentions that banning this type of traffic helps them to prevent being flooded with DMCA requests.
“The reason is quite simple actually. UK and U.S. are the only two locations where our bandwidth allocation is not really extendable at the moment, and we cannot accommodate massive transfers speeds there. Also, this prevents us from being flooded with DMCA complaints. Not that we really care, but it gets annoying in the end,” NexTGenVPN explains.
HideIPVPN doesn’t allow file-sharing traffic on all servers either. The company notes that downloading copyrighted content is prohibited by law in the US, UK and Canada, so has decided to block both legal and unauthorized BitTorrent traffic on these servers.
“As you know uploads and downloads of copyrighted content via P2P and torrent networks is considered illegal in the U.S. With that in mind and also the fact that we do not wish to monitor traffic and data exchanged by our users, the simplest solution was to ban such traffic on some servers,” HideIPVPN tells TF.
While unauthorized file-sharing is against the law in most countries, rightsholders mostly send their takedown notices to U.S. ISPs. This is one of the main reasons why several VPN providers block BitTorrent traffic there.
NordVPN provides a similar explanation. The company currently blocks all file-sharing in several places.
“We only allow P2P traffic on servers that are located in the countries where there are no restrictions on the content downloaded via BitTorrent or other file-sharing applications,” NordVPN informed us.
File-sharing traffic is a no-go on EarthVPN‘s U.S. servers as well. The company mentions the DMCA as the main reason for this decision.
“Torrent and other file-sharing traffic is only allowed on Canada, Panama, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Luxembourg and Romania locations as of now due to the DMCA,” the company explains.
PureVPN takes it a step further. In addition to blocking file-sharing traffic on their servers in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and elsewhere, they also block various torrent sites on these connections.
“We have blocked torrents on some of our servers. If users want to use BitTorrent, they can connect to our servers in Turkey, Sweden, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany (Frankfurt only) or Russia and enjoy P2P/file-sharing there.
Not all VPN providers are blocking file-sharing traffic in the U.S. and elsewhere though. Private Internet Access, for example, prides itself on providing unrestricted access to the Internet on all servers.
“We do not discriminate against any kind of traffic/protocol on any of our servers, period. We believe in a free, open, and uncensored internet,” PIA notes.
Ipredator, the VPN that was launched by a founder of The Pirate Bay, doesn’t have any file-sharing restrictions either.
“Besides filtering SMTP on port 25 we do not impose any restrictions on protocols our users can use on the VPN, quite on the contrary. We believe our role is to provide a net-neutral access,” the company told us.
TF’s full report on the BitTorrent and logging policies of several dozen VPN providers will be published next week.