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WB makes BitTorrent deal for movie downloads

Janet Babin May 9, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: If you’re into file sharing, you ought to try something called BitTorrent. It’s super fast. Way high tech. And very popular with people who trade pirated copies of movies on the Web. Mostly illegally, we should say. But now BitTorrent has landed a legitimate role at Warner Bros. Starting this summer, consumers will be able to use it to download the WB’s movies and TV shows on the up and up. From the Marketplace Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio, Janet Babin reports.

JANET BABIN: The technology BitTorrent created is known as “file-swarming.” It allows computers to team together to share the load of moving large files around, from many machines to the new user’s machine. By some estimates, BitTorrent downloads account for 35- to 50-percent of all the bandwidth used on the Internet on any given day.

Porter Bibb with Mediatech Capital Partners says it’s the fact that many of those downloads are done illegally that has given BitTorrent a bad name in some industry circles.

PORTER BIBB: BitTorrent has been the bad guy, the pirate, leading the piracy revolution on the Internet in terms of films and television programs, much as Napster did to the music industry.

Last year, BitTorrent agreed to remove links to pirated versions of movies from its Web site, clearing a path for the agreement with Warner Bros.

Brian Cooley with CNet.com says the WB is smart to offer people a legal option for downloading content. But Cooley says this new service has some savvy consumers asking . . .

BRIAN COOLEY: . . . Why would I want to pay a fee and have restrictions that allow me to only play it on one or two machines? Where all you gotta do is get the illegal copy which is often posted the day the movie releases, it’s free, and it has no restrictions.

But for consumers who do want to download legally, this may be the fastest choice. According to Warner Bros., once a movie is in the BitTorrent system, it’ll take as little as 10 minutes to download.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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