Warner Bros. to distribute via BitTorrent

by Andy Polaine on May 18, 2006

I can’t believe I missed this story last week, but Warner Bros. have finally started to get their head around the idea that BitTorrents are the most efficient way to distribute large files online and have announced they’ll start seeding their movies when released onto DVD. So, only about three years too late and after trying to shut down most BitTorrent servers for ages.

From Yahoo’s story:

“If we can convert 5, 10, 15 percent of the peer-to-peer users that have been obtaining our product from illegitimate sources to becoming legitimate buyers of our product, that has the potential of a huge impact on our industry and our economics,” said Kevin Tsujihara, president of the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group.

It’s exactly what lots of people have been banging on about for some time. I would have loved to have listened into the conversations at Warner Bros. about this because I imagine there are some very smart people there and some old-guard dunderheads who wrangled over this for a while. There’s not much mention of how they plan to avoid piracy or whether they have given up on this to a certain degree. But here’s the whiff of compromise:

The studio also will sell permanent copies of films and TV shows online that can be burned to a backup DVD, although the copy will only play on the computer used to download the film and not on standard DVD players.

That’s pretty lame. It fails to recognise the increasing trend of people networking their computers/media centres with their AV set-ups or use the computer as an entertainment ‘pip’e into the house before then deciding where they can play it. It’s like buying a DVD and being told you can only play it in the bedroom, but not in your lounge. And in what way is that a guard against piracy? Anyone really interested in large scale DVD burning style piracy will go a different route (and almost certainly any DRM will be cracked in no time).

The lawyers obviously got their “marketing point” into the story too:

Studios believe that offering reasonably priced legal alternatives will be preferable to downloading files that could contain viruses or poor quality copies of films.

This is always the “scary internet” tactics that copyright lawyers use. It’s akin to telling people smoking is bad for them – people who do it know the risks. In general files I’ve seen tend to be excellent – they’re simply rips from a DVD and quality certainly isn’t an issue (which is why the studios are so paranoid about digital files in the first place).

Ultimately its good to see a major studio take a step in the right direction (and entertaining to see BitTorrent’s Web site suddenly go all glossy and corporate – even the .org site is all pseudo Web 2.0 styled) – when did that happen? I must have been sleeping…)

The article does make a common factual error though:

Last year, BitTorrent agreed to remove links to pirated versions of movies from its Web site.

I’m reasonably certain that BitTorrent never had any illegal versions of movies on its Web site, that’s the whole point, a torrent file is just checksum information, not the actual data file itself. That’s why it’s been so hard for the MPAA to get a handle on a roving swarm. Smells like lawyer talk to me.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Previous post:

Next post: