Issue: Time Warner Inks Agreement with BitTorrent
Commentary by: David
BitTorrent, for those who do not remember its earlier incarnation as a prime target for the anti-piracy movement is the invention of Bram Cohen. It is a clever method of distributing very large streams of data by using peer-to-peer connections rather than direct delivery (at least that is the best technical description you will get in this advertising blog. Try here for more technical details.)
This is big news for technologists and content providers because Bittorrent promises significantly faster delivery times than conventional file transfer options. In fact, a movie could be downloaded in this manner in as little as 10 minutes (although most will take longer).
But the announcement is much more important because of the unmistakeable signs it provides that at least someone in the motion picture industry is waking up to reality. This advertising blog has been very critical of the industry for inadequately addressing the challenges and opportunities of the Internet and the implications of piracy. We have previously suggested that distributing movies more widely in more formats earlier and for a lower price might actually expand the size of the industry rather than shrinking it. We bemoaned the possibility that Hollywood was going the way of the music industry and copyright-protecting itself into irrelevance.
Fortunately, Time Warner is proving us wrong with this significant deal with Bittorrent. We like it much better than the Movielink deal because it allows for simultaneous release of online movies with DVDs but at a lower price. It will also allow you to burn a playable DVD from the Internet. The pricing issue is a key one because without a lower price for Internet-delivered movies there is no market. The lower price creates the opportunity to build a strong market for movies on the web which may be complementary to the Theater and DVD markets. It also decreases the barrier to viewers who may want to watch a movie in multiple formats – from the big screen to DVD to laptop viewing. Most importantly, though, it is a step towards acknowledging that the Internet has a major role to play in content distribution and that it cannot be treated as clone of other distribution channels.