BitTorrent has been a catalyst for much debate about copyright, though it is also a good way to keep up to date with downloads of the free and legal kind. Australia's TV show Underbelly 2 was even offered for download online (with DRM), and fans were encouraged to even share it via BitTorrent.
Sites such as LegalTorrents offer lots of legal content such as short form video and independent movies, while movies such as The Corporation have been officially offered via BitTorrent. Fan films are another popular source of free entertainment to find online. As an aside, these sites can be especially handy for getting hold of the latest big Linux software releases, such as Ubuntu.
uTorrent: the basics
It's little wonder that uTorrent is the BitTorrent client of choice for the majority of file-sharers. Not only is it light-weight, but it offers two essential features for any decent BitTorrent client - bandwidth scheduling and RSS subscriptions. Version 1.8.4 of uTorrent was released for Windows recently, while there's also a Beta version (0.9.1.2) for Mac.
Bandwidth scheduling means you can throttle your BitTorrent downloads during the day, or block them completely, and then ramp them up in the middle of the night. It's an especially handy feature if your ISP offers offpeak downloads, so you can squeeze the most out of your data cap without running out before the end of the month. Rather then just offering 'on' and 'off' times, uTorrent lets you customise your BitTorrent download speed for every hour of the week.
The other key ingredient of the P2P Season Pass is RSS subscriptions.
Point uTorrent at a BitTorrent RSS feed and it will automatically pull down each new file as it appears. Combine this with bandwidth scheduling and you can ensure files are only downloaded in the evenings when you've got bandwidth to spare.
Creating a P2P Season Pass was a simple task when sites such as FeedMyTorrent and TVrss maintained hand-crafted RSS feeds for individual categories - ensuring you didn't double-up or download duds - but these were popular for copyrighted content, and were shut down because of copyright infringement - as we imagine will happen to other sites like EZrss and ShowRSS.
Creating your own customised feed
The alternative, if you're still hankering for downloads (of the legal variety), is to create your own customised BitTorrent RSS feeds. You can start with a general feed from Mininova, BT Chat or ISOHunt.
Once you've added it to your uTorrent download list, you can right-click on it and filter it by name, the format and keywords such as the name of the crew that uploaded the file. There's also the ability to set the minimum interval between downloads, to minimise the chances of downloading the same torrent twice.
If it's media, then point your media player at the download folder and your favourite torrents are just a button press away. If you find uTorrent's filters don't offer enough flexibility you could also try Yahoo! Pipes, which is an amazingly powerful RSS feed creator.
It takes some tweaking to get your filters right, but the result is that your downloads automatically appear on your PC each week - ready for your watch at your leisure.
Also in this series, Picking the Perfect Home Entertainment Box:
Part 1: Internet video on the PS3
Also see our series How to Pick a Great Flat Screen TV, And Not Get Sucked In By Marketing Hype