Torrents and Child Pornography Charges in Pennsylvania

December 3, 2018By Brian Manchester

Torrents and child pornography charges often go hand-in-hand. Thus, it is important that you and your lawyer fully understand how torrents work if you are facing charges of downloading child pornography from torrents.

How Torrents Work

Since there’s no single, central computer controlling the Internet and (in theory) every computer that’s online is connected indirectly to every other one, it should be possible for any two computers to share information by communicating directly—and it is! This is called peer-to-peer (P2P) communication and it’s used by some of the more popular instant messaging (IM) chat programs (as well as controversial file-sharing programs, which earned themselves a bad name when people started using them to share copyright music tracks illegally).

BitTorrent is a set of rules that different computer systems agree to use based on P2P that can be used to share large files very efficiently. For example, if a band wants to use BitTorrent, they would upload a song and make it available on their computer as torrent file. Their computer, as the host of the original file, in its entirety, is called a seed. The seed splits the file up into lots of pieces.

Note: Other examples of these programs are uTorrent, The Pirate Bay, ExtraTorrent, Torrentz, RARBG, EZTV, and TorrentHound.

Anyone who wants the file uses a program (referred to as a BitTorrent client) to request it from a seed. The seed sends one of the pieces to the client. The client then gets all the remaining pieces, over a period of time, from other people’s computers through P2P communication. At any time, each computer is downloading some parts of the file from some of these peers and uploading other parts of the file to other peers. All the computers cooperating in this way at any time are referred to as a swarm. The more popular a file is, the more peers have the file. Therefore there are more computers in the swarm and the download process is quicker.

Law Enforcement Use of Torrents

Torrent sites such as Pirate Bay don’t store any material themselves, but the perpetrators and law enforcement can use these sites to find illegal content. Law enforcement can search the BitTorrent network in order to locate individuals sharing previously identified child exploitation material in the same way a user searches this network. By searching the network for these illegal torrents, law enforcement can quickly identify targets in their jurisdiction.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies use these search engines to find torrents that are known to link to child porn. They then load the torrent files in modified torrent clients and obtain IP-addresses and other information from the associated trackers. The software that law enforcement uses is modified to download complete files from a computer at a single IP address. This is in opposition to the typical P2P structure where a file is obtained from multiple peers on the BitTorrent network. This allows the investigator to be certain that the person on the other end has a full copy of the child exploitation material in question. This procedure allows for the detection and investigation of those computers involved in sharing digital files of known or suspected child pornography on the BitTorrent network.

What Should You Do if You Are Charged With Crimes Related to Torrents?

If you or a loved one are charged with downloading illegal material from torrents, you should consult with a lawyer that is familiar with the nature of these charges. The lawyer should be familiar with how torrents work and how law enforcement uses them. If charged, call Manchester & Associates for a Free Strategy Session at 800-243-4878 as soon as possible.

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About the Author

Brian Manchester is the owner of Manchester and Associates in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. His law firm practices DUI and Criminal Defense exclusively throughout the entire state of Pennsylvania in both state and federal court. He has a team of two other lawyers with a combined 50 years of trial and courtroom experience are also trained in science and many other skills that are relevant to criminal defense to include the psychology of persuasion as well. One of his associates is a former District Attorney (chief prosecutor) in central Pennsylvania.   Mr. Manchester and his team routinely handle serious felony cases including murder, manslaughter, sex crimes, complex financial crimes, and serious assaults. A large part of Mr. Manchester’s practice is the defense of alcohol and drug-based DUI offenses as well as drug cases using science and analytical chemistry. Mr. Manchester has training as a Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Instructor. He is one of a handful of Certified Lawyer-Scientists as recognized by the American Chemical Society in the United States. He is a member of NCDD and is a Founding Member of DUIDLA. He is also a member of the American Chemical Society with over 170,000 members across the world. To date, he is the only practicing criminal defense lawyer to belong to the Society of Forensic Toxicologist where he is an Associate Member. Mr. Manchester speaks nationally on the topic of blood and drug testing for alcohol as well as the metrological (measurement uncertainty) in forensic testing.

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