BitTorrent, whose software has been used for years to illegally swap millions of movies and other pieces of content, insists with a straight face that it’s actually part of the solution to piracy — and that it’s now offering a new way for content owners to monetize their assets online.
The San Francisco company took umbrage with comments by Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos, who said in an interview this month with British ladmag Stuff that BitTorrent traffic declines in countries after Netflix offers its subscription streaming service.
“When we launch in a territory the BitTorrent traffic drops as the Netflix traffic grows,” Sarandos said. “So I think people do want a great experience and they want access — people are mostly honest.”
Netflix, like virtually every other content company on the planet, has itself been stung by torrents: Tens of thousands of copies of its exclusive series “House of Cards” showed up on rogue file-sharing sites within weeks of its debut.
But BitTorrent resented getting tarred with the piracy brush, and claimed Sarandos’ statement about Internet traffic patterns was wrong.
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“BitTorrent was designed to move data. It was not designed for piracy,” marketing veep Matt Mason wrote in a blog post this week. (Netflix declined to comment.)
According to BitTorrent, its software and related file-sharing protocol are just tools, like web browsers. The company says it has never hosted, promoted or indexed infringing content.
In fact, it’s now hoping to persuade Hollywood and other media companies to test out a new concept for distributing digital content: the BitTorrent Bundle, which can function as “a standalone storefront,” according to Mason. With the new format, promotional content — like a movie trailer — could be available for free, but higher-value material can be locked, accessible only if a user enters an email address or pays for it.
Music label Ultra Music is the first to experiment with BitTorrent Bundle with dance deejay Kaskade (pictured above). The label has launched a bundle with video and music from the artist’s 2012 Freaks of Nature tour, designed to promote the May 14 release of documentary on his tour. If users enter their email address, they can access unreleased footage from Kaskade’s perf at L.A.’s Staples Center plus a digital tour booklet.
“Our goal is to move the interaction to where it matters, making it a property of the file versus the distribution framework,” Mason said.
BitTorrent still has a steep uphill battle in making the case that it can be a cause for good, not evil. But some content owners have been receptive to working with it. For example, Cinedigm last month used BitTorrent to distribute a 10-minute preview of “Arthur Newman” that was downloaded more than 1 million times leading up the premiere.