15:01 PM

2.26.07 BitTorrent brings P2P to Hollywood

If you went to BitTorrent.com last night you saw this message:

BitTorrent will return in a few hours as an entirely new entertainment experience.

Today, BitTorrent launches its "entertainment network," 3,000 new and classic movies, thousands of TV shows and, of course, tons of user-uploaded content.

From the Times:

The programming comes from studios, including Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount and Warner Brothers, that previously announced their intention to work with BitTorrent. There is also a new partner: the 83-year-old Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which will take part by making 100 films available on the site from its 4,000-movie library. "Somebody once said you have to embrace your enemy,” said Doug Lee, executive vice president of MGM’s new-media division. “We like the idea that they have millions of users worldwide. That is potentially fertile, legitimate ground for us.”

BitTorrent EN of course has lots of competition, not only Apple's iTunes but Walmart, Amazon, studio-owned MovieLink, etc. And with the sound of Steve Jobs' call for an end to DRM ringing in Hollywood's ears, BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen says:

“We are not happy with the user interface implications” of digital rights management, or D.R.M., Mr. Cohen said. “It’s an unfortunate thing. We would really like to strip it all away.”

This is the big-time for P2P. As more users sign up, there are more sources for the chunks of data that make up a movie, so theoretically at least, BitTorrent could offer much faster download speeds than traditional competitors. The Times tested BT against Walmart and found "X-Men 3" was 33% faster to download from BitTorrent.

While the studios insist on DRM to protect their property, that may be the very thing that keeps online video sales from succeeding. The Times quoted a 36-year-old programmer named Aaron, who beta-tested the new BT and said he would keep downloading illegally.

“The sad thing is, it’s not about the money,” he said. “I’m not interested in renting a movie. I want to own it. I want total portability. I want to give a copy to my brother. Digital convergence is supposed to make things like this easier, but D.R.M. is making them harder.”