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BitTorrent inks studio distribution deal

Peer-to-peer network's deal to distribute Warner Bros.' films and TV shows is first for file-sharing firm.

BitTorrent, the creator of the file-sharing software that for some has become synonymous with piracy, has struck a landmark distribution deal with a Hollywood studio.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Group has agreed to use BitTorrent's peer-to-peer system to distribute movies and television shows, including "Dukes of Hazzard" and "Babylon 5," beginning this summer, the companies are expected to announce Tuesday.

Warner Bros. is the first major entertainment company to embrace BitTorrent's distribution system, which has been widely used to illegally swap copies of copyright movies.

The agreement is also believed to be the first Hollywood distribution deal for any of the file-sharing technology companies, which include eDonkey or Kazaa. Financial terms were not disclosed.

In the past, San Francisco-based BitTorrent was falsely perceived to be the video equivalent of Napster, said Ashwin Navin, the company's president. BitTorrent never maintained a network to help people exchange copyright material and has gone to lengths to separate the company from law breakers, he said.

A clean record helped win credibility with studio chiefs, but the company has sold itself in Hollywood mostly on the strength of its technology, Navin said. Pricing for the content has not been announced, but Navin said TV shows might sell for as little as $1.

"There is a fascination with BitTorrent on a technical level," Navin said. That fascination helped him convince studio executives that "BitTorrent is useful as a distribution technology."

Developed in 2001, BitTorrent's open-source distribution system was designed to help transfer large files over the Internet.

BitTorrent allows a single file to be broken into small fragments that are distributed among computers. People then share pieces of the content with one other.