Magazine article Variety

BitTorrent Tries to Escape the Pirate's Cove

Magazine article Variety

BitTorrent Tries to Escape the Pirate's Cove

Article excerpt

BitTorrent's slogan is meant to be a manifesto of empowerment: "Delivering an Internet of options, not rules."

But it's not a message that plays well in Hollywood, which has viewed the Internet as in dire need of rules since, well, forever. BitTorrent in particular has been a thorn in many copyright owners' sides, as a company whose file-sharing software and technology serves as the foundation for a global piracy juggernaut.

BitTorrent has long insisted its software doesn't facilitate illegal copying any more than Web browsers do. Now, in its latest attempt to reach detente with content companies, BitTorrent is trying to convince them that its peerto-peer file-swapping infrastructure is actually an ideal way to distribute promotional material in "bundles," a means to lure consumers into buying the full content on iTunes or some other service. Later this spring, the company promises, the BitTorrent Bundles will let publishers charge for content - theoretically, rehabbing would-be pirates into paying customers.

In recent months, BitTorrent has teamed with Vice Media, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Moby and other filmmakers and musicians to launch promotional content bundles. Those packages have included photos, trailers, videos, songs, posters and other digital extras, in hopes downloaders will go see or purchase a movie, attend a concert or, say, buy a T-shirt. This spring, BitTorrent plans to add a payment capability to let users unlock a bundle using a credit card.

"We have to solve this pain point with the content industries," said BitTorrent marketing veep Matt Mason. Piracy is "a question we have to answer every day."

For Cinedigm chief marketing officer Jill Newhouse Calcaterra, the prospect of tapping into BitTorrent's 170 million-plus user base was irresistible. The studio distributed a clip of romantic comedy "Arthur Newman" via BitTorrent last April. The bundle was downloaded 2.7 million times, and resulted in 300,000plus visits to Cindedigm's website.

"BitTorrent has been popular because consumers are hungry for content they couldn't get otherwise," she said. "Instead of slamming the door on them, we are helping them find it."

Drafthouse Films, distributor of Oscarnominated docu "The Act of Killing," launched a BitTorrent Bundle on Dec. 31 with videos, interviews, essays and photos about the film. The bundle for the docu, which details genocidal acts in 1960s Indonesia, has been downloaded 4. …

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