Legaltorrents.com, one of the oldest and most prominent destinations for legal BitTorrent downloads, is relaunching today, and its new version offers a bunch of new features for users and content creators alike, among them a donation system to offer content creators a way to monetize P2P. Advanced community and content discovery features are slated to be added in the coming months.
When Legaltorrents first launched, back in 2003, the services and functions it offered — such as seed hosting for content creators, and enabling users an easy way to download a gigabyte’s worth of Creative Commons-licensed music in a single torrent — were remarkable and somewhat revolutionary. Legaltorrents was also one of the first sites to experiment with the combination of BitTorrent and RSS enclosures to automatically subscribe to downloads — a technology that today is at the core of players like Miro, and as well as numerous TV torrent download sites. The notion of legal content distribution through torrent sites has since moved into the mainstream as well; the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recently openly embraced The Pirate Bay and Mininova, while Vuze.com carries shows from the likes of PBS and Showtime alongside user-generated content.
So how is the new Legaltorrents going to compete in this new, BitTorrent-friendly world?
Legaltorrents owner Jonathan Dugan believes one key way the site differentiates itself from the likes of Vuze and The Pirate Bay is with its non-commercial look and feel. It’s not featuring any ads, and will take just a small cut out of the donations. “We see the site maintaining a marginal cash-flow positive position to cover costs and support the community,” Dugan told me on Friday, when he gave me a preview.
The other big difference is that you won’t have to deal with content of questionable origin, legality or quality. While no one will be using Legaltorrents to upload gigabytes of low-lit home videos, you won’t find any
pirated time shifted-copy of American Idol, either. “We are a participatory community to discover high-quality media where all of it is creator-approved for sharing,” explained Dugan. “Community members will be encouraged to participate in the discovery, evaluation, and assisting in the publishing of content with the cooperation of the content creators.”
The site doesn’t really feature any new content yet, but Dugan promised to add a few select titles every week from now on. The team spent the previous months building the infrastructure, he told me; now it’s time to build the catalog and the community as part of an extended beta test. He plans to fully launch and more broadly solicit content owners by summer — provided, of course, that they haven’t all joined The Pirate Bay by then.