This article has been just updated: January 18, 2024

With the world under lockdown, businesses closed, and people staying at home due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), online piracy is surging across the globe. Popular torrent trackers have been reporting record numbers of daily users, who use them to download movies, music, video games, and any other content to make the pandemic more bearable.

 

Growing Demand for Torrenting

coronavirus and torrenting

It turns out that when a third of the global population is on coronavirus lockdown, the demand for online entertainment skyrockets. Many online streaming services, such as Netflix and YouTube, have voluntarily reduced video quality in certain regions to prevent the internet from collapsing under the strain of record usage.

But it’s not just legal streaming services that report record-breaking numbers. In northern Italy, the current epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, the content delivery network Cloudflare, which is used by many torrent sites for content distribution and DDoS mitigation, has reported a spike in traffic of more than 30 percent compared to earlier this year.

“As people are staying at home, content demand is bound to increase, and as it does, piracy is a continuing issue,” said Kieron Sharp, the CEO of Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the UK’s leading intellectual property protection organization.

Torrents are especially well-suited for meeting the current demand because of their peer-to-peer nature. In a nutshell, the more people download a torrent, the more available it becomes. Torrent sites themselves can easily handle more visitors because they don’t host any content on their servers. Their job is to simply help users find what they’re looking for and download it directly from other users.

Torrent sites argue that what they’re doing isn’t illegal because they’re essentially just glorified catalogs of links to files stored on other servers and computers. While the legality of torrent sites is debatable, what’s crystal-clear is that the act of downloading and sharing copyrighted content using the BitTorrent protocol is illegal in most countries.  

What Happened to The Pirate Bay?

Virtually all torrent sites are attracting thousands of new visitors every day, except for one: The Pirate Bay. For some time now, The Pirate Bay has been down and not working, displaying an “Error 522 Connection timed out” message.

covid-19 piratebay

As is always the case when the infamous torrent site represented by a pirate ship with the logo of the “Home Taping Is Killing Music” campaign on its sails becomes inaccessible, rumors have started to spread online about its possible end. Even the moderators on The Pirate Bay forum have no idea what’s going on.  

The only reliable information we currently have about The Pirate Bay comes from TorrentFreak, a blog dedicated to reporting the latest news and trends on file sharing and online piracy. TorrentFreak contacted The Pirate Bay’s operator, who goes under the name Winston, via a reliable source and found out that torrent site is experiencing technical issues and using the downtime caused by them to rewrite some of its code.

If that’s really the case, it’s likely that The Pirate Bay will be back online in just a few days. The good news is that the site is still accessible at its .onion address using the Tor Browser, a modified version of the Mozilla Firefox configured for the Tor network.

Top 7 Most Popular Torrent Trackers in March 2024

The ongoing pandemic has caused virtually all torrent trackers to surge in popularity, but some more than others. Let’s take a closer look at the top seven most popular torrent trackers in March 2024.

1. Pirate Bay (Alexa Rank: 90)

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1. 1337x (Alexa Rank: 313)

coronavirus torrent tracker 1337x

With The Pirate Bay temporarily out of the picture, 1337x has become the most popular torrent tracker in the world. The site has a group of dedicated uploaders who constantly supply it with fresh content, which is divided into the following categories: Movies, Television, Games, Music, Applications, Anime, Documentaries, Other, and XXX. For the last few years, 1337x has been able to maintain a great uptime because the torrent tracker has multiple domains to fall back on. In terms of design and usability, 1337x is one of the most modern torrent trackers in the world, and the people behind it seem to be determined to keep it that way.

2. RARBG (Alexa Rank: 495)

rarbg pandemic popularity

RARBG is known for its outstanding reliability and a curated selection of torrents. Whereas torrent trackers like The Pirate Bay are full of malicious torrents that often seem indistinguishable from legitimate torrents, RARBG takes great care to not allow them on its servers. RARBG is home to releases from the RARBG release group, which specializes in Blu-ray movies, transcoding releases from scene groups and making them smaller without sacrificing too much video quality. Because RARBG provides an RSS feed, it’s easy to track when RARBG releases a new movie or TV show episode using an RSS reader like Feedly.

3. YTS.lt (Alexa Rank: 568)

yts torrent tracker

On this torrent site, you can find movies released by the popular release group YIFY. All movies are available in HD, Full HD, or 4K, and their relatively small file sizes make YIFY releases suitable even for people with a slow internet connection. Many users are streaming movies directly from YTS using a Kodi addon, but copyright watchdogs have been trying to stop them. It’s important to note that there are many fake sites impersonating YTS and YIFY. Such sites are known for distributing malware and running crypto mining scripts, so make sure to avoid them.

4. NYAA.si (Alexa Rank: 802)

nyaa torrent site

If you’re interested in Asian (namely Japanese) culture, NYAA might just be able to keep you entertained during the coronavirus pandemic. On this torrent site, you can find everything from the latest anime to Japanese video games to manga and books. Some torrents are available in English, but most content is in Japanese, Chinese, or Korean. Because most torrents that are available on NYAA have never been licensed in the West, you can download them and rest assured, knowing that no anti-piracy organization won’t bother going after you.

5. Torrentz2 (Alexa Rank: 1,242)

best torrent tracker torrentz2

Torrentz2 isn’t like the other torrent sites on this list. It’s actually a torrent meta-search engine, which means that it aggregates torrents from other torrent sites, making it easier for its users to find what they’re looking for. At the time of writing, Torrentz2 indexes over 61 million torrents from 76 sites, which is by all accounts a respectable number. Because the indexing process is completely automatic, Torrentz2 sometimes displays low-quality torrents or even malware alongside legitimate torrents, so make sure to think before you click.

6. EZTV.io (Alexa Rank: 1,453)

eztv tv shows torrents

Pandemic or not, TV shows are always a fun way to spend free time, and EZTV is arguably one of the best sources of the latest TV show episodes on the internet. The site is named after the TV-torrent distribution group EZTV, which shut down in 2015 after a hostile takeover. It didn’t take a very long time for a new team to step in and claim the brand for themselves. While some may find a move like this to be immoral, most torrent users don’t care, which is evident by the site’s popularity.

7. LimeTorrents (Alexa Rank: 1,978)

limetorrents torrent tracker

LimeTorrents is a likable general-purpose torrent tracker that makes it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. Content on LimeTorrents is divided into several categories (Movies, TV Shows, Music, Games, Apps, Anime, Others), and users can see which torrents have been recently uploaded to the side and which torrents are currently popular. Even though LimeTorrents has been around since 2009 and was the target of many domain seizures, it has remained online for most of the time, and everything indicates that the site is currently doing great.

Most Downloaded Movies in March 2024

Even when a third of the world’s population isn’t forced to stay at home, movies are one of the most downloaded types of torrents, along with video games and music. Here are the top 5 most downloaded movies in March 2024.  

Jumanji popular movies1. Jumanji: The Next Level

Starring Jack Black, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan, Jumanji: The Next Level is the fourth installment in the Jumanji franchise and a sequel to 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. This time, there’s a new villain that threatens to destroy the fantasy world of Jumanji and prevent our heroes from saving their friend. Jumanji: The Next Level was a huge box office hit, grossing $796.6 million worldwide against a $125 million budget, so it’s no wonder that it also became the most downloaded movie in March 2024.

The Invisible Man torrent 2. The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man is a science fiction horror movie about an insane scientist who became invisible after staging his own death to stalk his ex-girlfriend. The Invisible Man was on track to become one of the most profitable movies in recent history, but the coronavirus outbreak closed cinemas across the globe and forced Universal Pictures to make the movie available digitally-on-demand. Clearly, many people would much rather download it from a torrent site than watch it on Netflix because it’s the second most downloaded movie in March 2024.

The Rise of Skywalker3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a somewhat disappointing conclusion to the Skywalker saga. As you probably know by now, it stars Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine, who apparently wasn’t killed by Darth Vader at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. The movie was criticized for its messy plot holes, crazy pacing, and disappointing conclusion. Clearly, many people decided to download it online instead of paying to see it at the cinema.

Harley Quinn4. Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, also called Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, is the worst-rated popular movie in March 2024, with an IMDb rating of 6.3 out of 10. The movie shows the events after Harley Quinn’s (played by Margot Robbie) dramatic breakup with Joker. The movie received a lot of praise for its visual style and Robbie’s layered performance, but it was criticized for feeling rushed and poorly produced.

Sonic the Hedgehog5. Sonic the Hedgehog

The star of countless 2024 memes, Sonic the Hedgehog is a live-action adventure-comedy movie about the famous blue hedgehog and the evil Dr. Robotnik, who wants to capture Sonic and use his special powers to conquer the world. The release of the first trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog sparked a huge internet outrage because fans of the video game franchise were appalled by Sonic’s character design. Paramount Pictures eventually decided to give Sonic a new look, which was well-received by Sonic fans and general audiences alike.  

Trending Virus-Themed Movies

It seems that one pandemic isn’t enough for some people because virus-themed movies have been trending on both torrent sites and streaming services in recent weeks.

virus-themed movies Contagion1. Contagion

It’s easy to see why Contagion is the most downloaded virus-themed movie at the moment. Its sobering portrayal of a worldwide pandemic caused by a virus with a significantly higher death rate than SARS-CoV-2 highlights how fragile humans living in a globalized world really are. It also helps that Contagion has an all-star cast that includes Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and other A-list actors and actresses. If seeing another pandemic destroy the world can help you forget about the pandemic that’s currently killing thousands every day and destroying the economy, go ahead and watch Contagion.  

Outbreak pandemic movie2. Outbreak

What if a deadly infectious disease similar to the Ebola virus reached the United States? That’s the question Richard Preston answers in his nonfiction book called The Hot Zone, on which Outbreak is based. The movie stars Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, and Dustin Hoffman, who must fight the virus and stop it before it’s too late. Because Outbreak received mixed reviews upon its release, you shouldn’t expect it to be flawless—just a fun movie to watch during the coronavirus lockdown.

28 Days Later zombie movie3. 28 Days Later

Written by Alex Garland, the man behind Ex Machina, Annihilation, and Dredd, this movie is a modern zombie classic that is just as entertaining as it was when it premiered in 2002. The movie is set post-apocalyptic London decimated by a highly contagious virus. Those who got infected by the virus turned into blood-thirsty zombies whose speed and ferocious nature make it difficult for survivors to stay alive.  

FAQ

The rise in piracy during the COVID-19 pandemic can be linked to factors such as increased internet usage due to lockdowns, people seeking free entertainment to save money, and disruptions to legal content distribution, prompting people to turn to illegal downloads. For more questions regarding COVID-19, the World Health Organization provides extensive resources.

Coronavirus lockdowns have led to people spending more time at home, resulting in a surge of online activity including torrenting. The lockdowns have created a captive audience seeking entertainment, and torrenting has become a method to access content not easily available through other means during this period.

Yes, the demand for streaming services has influenced torrenting rates. While many people have subscribed to streaming platforms, others have turned to torrenting due to the lack of availability of certain content on these services or to avoid paying multiple subscription fees.

Movies, TV shows, and video games have been among the most pirated content during the pandemic. There’s also been a notable increase in the piracy of software tools as more people work from home and seek software for remote working and entertainment.

Yes, economic factors such as job losses and reduced income due to the pandemic have led to individuals seeking cost-saving measures like torrenting to avoid paying for content.

The risks associated with the surge in piracy include potential exposure to malware, the likelihood of legal consequences, and the negative impact on the revenues of content creators and distributors.

Many content creators and distributors have responded by increasing their cybersecurity measures, releasing content through alternative platforms, and in some cases, launching legal actions against piracy sites.

The film industry has seen significant losses in revenues due to piracy during the pandemic, compounded by the closure of cinemas and delay in film releases, leading producers to explore alternative distribution methods, such as digital releases.

Yes, the torrenting of copyrighted materials without permission is illegal in many jurisdictions and can lead to legal repercussions for individuals caught engaging in such activities.

Law enforcement agencies have continued to take action against piracy rings and websites facilitating illegal downloads, despite the increased prevalence of such activities during lockdown.

Educational campaigns by various organizations have been launched to inform the public about the legal and security risks of piracy, as well as its impact on the content creation industry.

The shift to remote work and online learning has significantly increased the piracy of software applications, with many individuals looking for free access to tools that facilitate telecommuting and remote education.

Legal alternatives to torrenting include subscribing to streaming services, purchasing or renting digital content from established distributors, and utilizing free content provided by libraries or authorized platforms. For users interested in legal streaming options, visiting Netflix could be a starting point.

If lockdowns and social distancing measures persist, it is likely that torrenting will continue to rise as individuals look for convenient and cost-effective ways to access entertainment and software.

The pandemic may have altered some people’s attitudes towards copyright and piracy, potentially normalizing the concept of accessing content through illegal means due to the exceptional circumstances faced during the lockdowns.

Internet service providers have responded by managing their networks to accommodate the increase in traffic, but some are also cooperating with copyright holders to notify users engaging in illegal torrenting activities.

The surge in torrenting has contributed to increased internet bandwidth usage, leading to ISPs implementing measures to manage the high traffic levels and ensure stable connectivity for all users.

Innovation in content delivery, such as improved streaming technology and more flexible distribution models, could indeed help curb piracy by making legal content more accessible and convenient for consumers.

Torrenting during the pandemic has raised significant cybersecurity concerns, as the practice can expose users to malware, scams, and potential breaches of personal data.

As vaccination campaigns advance and restrictions ease, there might be a decrease in torrenting levels due to people returning to pre-pandemic activities like going to the cinema or engaging in outdoor entertainment, reducing the reliance on at-home digital content consumption.

Long-term effects of the pandemic on digital piracy could include sustained higher levels of piracy due to the establishment of new habits and the possibility of economic downturns making paid content less accessible for some consumers.