The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and BitTorrent yesterday announced a collaborative effort to curb film piracy.
BitTorrent Founder and CEO Bram Cohen’s technology allows Web sites to make large content files available online. The MPAA was concerned that the technology is frequently used to illegally distribute movies and television shows.
As part of the agreement, Cohen confirmed BitTorrent’s commitment to removing links that direct users to copies of pirated content owned by MPAA companies from its search engine at BitTorrent.com.
“BitTorrent is an extremely efficient publishing tool and search engine that allows creators and rights holders to make their content available on the Internet securely,” said Cohen. “BitTorrent, Inc. discourages the use of its technology for distributing films without a license to do so. As such, we are pleased to work with the film industry to remove unauthorized content from BitTorrent.com’s search engine.”
The MPAA said the announcement is historic in that two major forces in the technology and film industries have agreed to work together and proactively identify ways to limit access to infringing material available via search engines — like the one at BitTorrent.com — and to promote constructive innovation in this area.
Both Cohen and Glickman noted that this effort was an early experiment in using technology to assist in solving the problems of piracy.
“We are glad that Bram Cohen and his company are working with us to limit access to infringing files on the BitTorrent.com Web site,” said MPAA Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman. “They are leading the way for other companies by their example.”
Civilizing Online File Sharing
Michael R. Graham, intellectual property attorney and partner with Marshall, Gerstein & Borun, a Chicago-based IP-specialty law firm, told the E-Commerce Times that the possible partnering of BitTorrent software with licensed studio content would be an important step toward civilizing the online file sharing world.
“Although this announcement may have no immediate impact on online piracy, it does herald a new era in which the entertainment/media companies adopt and approve of file sharing software for the distribution of their product, and the software developers discourage piratic use of their programs,” Graham said.
This is a step toward each other on both parties’ parts, Graham said, and an important acknowledgment that the world of online file sharing has changed and is about to enter full commercial mode.
Calculating the Losses
The MPAA estimates that the film industry lost approximately US$3.5 billion to movie piracy in 2004, a total that does not include losses due to illegal online file swapping.
According to a Smith Barney study, that number is expected to jump to $5.4 billion in 2005. By deeply cutting into revenues, the MPAA said movie piracy limits the choices for consumers at the box office.
The motion picture industry and the MPAA have a multi-pronged approach to fighting piracy, which includes educating people about the consequences of piracy, taking action against Internet thieves, working with law enforcement authorities around the world to root out pirate operations and, working to ensure movies are available legally using advanced technology.
Over the last year, MPAA has brought lawsuits against several Web sites using the BitTorrent protocol for illegal distribution of movies. Since then, 90 percent of the sites sued have shut down.