The Torrent Dilemma

Bit Torrent, one of the companies I am a big fan of made a joint announcement with the Motion Picture Association of America that it would no feature any illegal searches via its search engine, and will also work with the Hollywood doyens to distribute movies etc.

It is a well intentioned announcement, but as Xeni Jardin points out over on Wired News, this is actually nothing. Techdirt says that it “won’t do anything to stop piracy.”Brad Hill, over at The Digital Music weblog sums it up best, when he writes, “Cohen takes his medicine.” He sees shades of Napster agreements here, which obviously didn’t work.

I see a bit more trouble looming – the more Bit Torrent goes legit, the more users it will lose, becoming less and less important as a distribution network. It happened in 2005, when the MPAA cracked down on major torrent tracker sites. The file swappers moved on to eDonkey. The next generation P2P networks are already evolving. Freenet is a good example. So here in lies the Catch-22: to be legit or not to be legit.

Update: Mike and Brian point out that the decision to go legit will impact the company not the protocol. They are right, however I wonder if this does create some confusion in the minds of users who only know Bit Torrent, the website. I think it would be great for Cachelogic or others who track the P2P traffic to do breakout of the torrent clients. I did want to point out that as the MPAA cracked down on various torrent sites, the traffic shifted to other networks. In other words, genie is finding new bottles, and then breaking them-up …. okay now I go and be jolly for rest of the evening.