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With major film studio backing, BitTorrent goes legal

Mon, 02/26/2007 - 7:20am
Brian Santo, CED

As it promised, BitTorrent has finally repositioned itself as a legit network - the BitTorrent Entertainment Network.

BitTorrent has already negotiated legal access to films and programs from 20th Century Fox, Lions Gate, MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment; and the company just added content from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM).

Users of the BitTorrent network will be able to rent - but not download-to-own  - movies; purchase television shows and music videos; and publish and share their own content.

BitTorrent told The New York Times (story here, registration required) that it has rights to sell movies, but it will not because the studios are charging too much. It also told the paper that the current DRM system is too cumbersome from the standpoint of the user interface.

At launch, the BitTorrent.com network will feature more than 5,000 titles of movies, TV shows, PC games and music content. Over 40 hours of high-definition (HD) programming is promised. Available films include "Superman Returns," "Mission: Impossible III," "World Trade Center," "Jackass: Number Two," "An Inconvenient Truth," and TV programming will include "24," "Celebrity Deathmatch," "South Park" and "SpongeBob SquarePants."

Movie rentals are $3.99 and $2.99 for new release and catalog titles, respectively. TV shows and music videos are download-to-own at $1.99 each.

BitTorrent's peer-to-peer network has as many as 135 million users. The company claims to represent anywhere between 40 to 50 percent of global Internet traffic.

For all that, the news has been met with no small amount of skepticism by the technical blogosphere. Those millions of BitTorrent users use it because they get to download - not just rent - movies for free.

Om Malik asks if they are going to start paying for access. (BitTorrent says about a third of its users have indicated a willingness to pay for content.) Will new users, presumably the ones willing to pay for access, have the patience for BitTorrent? And perhaps most importantly, will service providers put up with BitTorrent clogging their pipes?

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