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BitTorrent P2P Store Goes Live

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
2/26/2007

BitTorrent Monday launched its entertainment storefront based on the popular peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing protocol of the same name. (See BitTorrent Video Store Delayed.) As previously reported in Light Reading, BitTorrent had confirmed the launch was imminent. (See BitTorrent Preps February Launch.)

The launch may mark a turning point for P2P, which has been widely used to share copyrighted material on the Internet.

BitTorrent has worked diligently over the past two years to assure large entertainment companies that P2P can deliver their content safely and for pay.

The result is a "legit" P2P-based store featuring video from big Hollywood content owners like Warner Bros., Paramount, and Fox Studios.

But the buy-in from those content owners has come with a cost. The first thing long-time BitTorrent protocol users will notice is the Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) digital rights management (DRM) wrapped around the content. The files are playable only on the Windows media player.

BitTorrent founder and CEO Bram Cohen has publicly acknowledged that the DRM detracts from the user experience at the new store. But the big content owners insisted on it, BitTorrent tells Light Reading.

Under the DRM rules, users can download TV shows for $1.99. Movies are for rent only, and expire 30 days after download or 24 hours after first play. It's the same model used by Movielink and CinemaNow .

BitTorrent's problems may go beyond DRM. While the BitTorrent people invented the most popular P2P protocol, they don't have exclusive rights to P2P distribution. There's nothing stopping the large content owners from building P2P store-fronts of their own.

VeriSign Inc. (Nasdaq: VRSN) VP of global marketing Todd Johnson says content owners "across the industry" are now discussing that possibility. If it happens, Johnson says, only the big third-party aggregators like Walmart and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) are likely to survive.

Smaller aggregators like BitTorrent and Joost , he says, might find their niche selling harder-to-find or specialized content. (See Joost Signs With Viacom and Skypsters Fast Forward to Internet TV.)

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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