Blog Post

The Torrent Dilemma

Bit Torrent, one of the companies I am a big fan of made a joint announcement with the Motion Picture Association of America that it would no feature any illegal searches via its search engine, and will also work with the Hollywood doyens to distribute movies etc.

It is a well intentioned announcement, but as Xeni Jardin points out over on Wired News, this is actually nothing. Techdirt says that it “won’t do anything to stop piracy.”Brad Hill, over at The Digital Music weblog sums it up best, when he writes, “Cohen takes his medicine.” He sees shades of Napster agreements here, which obviously didn’t work.

I see a bit more trouble looming – the more Bit Torrent goes legit, the more users it will lose, becoming less and less important as a distribution network. It happened in 2005, when the MPAA cracked down on major torrent tracker sites. The file swappers moved on to eDonkey. The next generation P2P networks are already evolving. Freenet is a good example. So here in lies the Catch-22: to be legit or not to be legit.

Update: Mike and Brian point out that the decision to go legit will impact the company not the protocol. They are right, however I wonder if this does create some confusion in the minds of users who only know Bit Torrent, the website. I think it would be great for Cachelogic or others who track the P2P traffic to do breakout of the torrent clients. I did want to point out that as the MPAA cracked down on various torrent sites, the traffic shifted to other networks. In other words, genie is finding new bottles, and then breaking them-up …. okay now I go and be jolly for rest of the evening.

14 Responses to “The Torrent Dilemma”

  1. I’ve been fantasizing about torrent radio and video broadcasts for the little folk that can’t afford large bandwidth. “Realtime and previous” shows with tiny bandwidth. Create a proprietry player based on VLC, Bittorrent and micropayments or subscription… Makes me wonder why Peercast isn’t more popular.

  2. mike, you are absolutely right about that. as an aside, i wonder if the commonality of the name of the torrent protocol and the company will create confusion in the minds of less savvy users who are likely to end up at the

  3. Yeah, it seems like a lot of people are confusing BitTorrent the protocol and BitTorrent the company. This agreement just impacts BitTorrent the company, which has little to do with most of the infringement using BitTorrent the protocol.

  4. Cohen’s version of Bittorrent is one of many other (IMHO better) open source versions. As long as those remain unaffected, and there is no reason why they won’t continue to be, Bittorrent as a company may wither and die, but as a protocol, it will remain strong, useful and popular.

  5. As the first browser to include BitTorrent support, we’re following these developments closely. BitTorrent is a great protocol that fits naturally with the other download protocols we support in the Opera browser (user feedback has been great). So chances are the BitTorrent protocol will survive and thrive on the merit of its quality alone.

  6. I thought the agreement was a sham when I first heard about it the day it was signed, and said so on my blog. As for going legit making the network less useful, I guess maybe Bram is hoping that he can find a saw-off between fewer (copyright-infringing) users and maybe more revenue.