Internet2 is essentially a vastly faster version of the Internet run by universities and technology companies, aimed at facilitating research into high-bandwidth hardware and applications, and helping researchers who exchange huge amounts of data. Student file-swapping traffic also has found its way onto the network, however.
The MPAA has been talking with the research consortium for several months, with an eye toward possibly joining the Internet2 group as a member, or simply opening up a collaborative relationship.
"We've been working with Internet2 for a while to explore ways we can take advantage of delivering content at these extremely high speeds, and basically manage illegitimate content distribution at the same time," said Chris Russell, the MPAA's vice president of Internet standards and technology. "Those would go hand in hand."
The Internet2 project has shown Hollywood the commercial potential--and the dangers--of a network powerful enough to allow a full DVD to be transferred even faster than an ordinary MP3 might be today.
Recently, researchers successfully sent data from Switzerland to Tokyo at speeds of 7.21 gigabits per second. That was enough speed to transfer a full-length DVD anywhere in the world in less than five seconds, researchers said.
Talks between Internet2 and the Hollywood group have been ongoing for almost a year, following a speech that former MPAA chief Jack Valenti gave to university officials focusing on the problems of piracy and the possibility of having any movie ever made available at a moment's notice.
That vision resonated with Internet2 researchers, who are already exploring new models of content delivery. At least one studio, Warner Bros., is already a member of the group, as is the Napster online music service. The two groups have been discussing potential collaboration since.
"This wraps together the broad interest we have in working with our members and potential members on advanced content delivery," said Internet2 Vice President Gary Bachula. "Obviously we're interested in making sure that's legal and safe."
Researchers have themselves been watching the growth of file-swapping traffic on the next-generation networks with some concern for several years.
University of Oregon researcher Joe St. Sauver presented a paper in early 2002 showing that on many spans of the network, file trades related to the Kazaa and Morpheus software accounted for