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BitTorrent goes legit: Paid P2P movie-sharing coming

BitTorrent is becoming a distribution system for paid media files.

BitTorrent is launching a legal, paid media distribution system, the BitTorrent Entertainment Network (BEN). [See story.]

Essentially an online store that will compete other stories like iTunes, the new BitTorrent Network will have more than 5,000 titles. TV shows will be $1.99 an episode, and users will be able to watch them as much as they want. Movies will cost $2.99 or $3.99 and will time out 30 days after download, or 24 hours after the user begins playing them.

In other words, there will be heavy digital rights management (DRM) on BitTorrent files. While the existing peer-to-peer BitTorrent file-sharing network will be employed to distribute content, the BEN. files that it will be sending around won't play free and clear. You'll need to authorize them on your computer so you can play them. BEN. files use Windows Media DRM.

We were expecting something more. CNET Networks

Since the BitTorrent Network relies on DRM-protected files, and doesn't let users "own" movie downloads, it's unlikely that it will put as big a dent in illegal file trading as the movie companies hope it will. While many users may be happy to pay a few bucks for an evening's entertainment, those who want to own a file that doesn't expire or who want to move the file between devices (laptops, Macs, media centers, portable players, etc.), will still have to resort to either buying hard copies of films or using BitTorrent the old-fashioned way: downloading illegally copied movies.

The BEN. uses the BitTorrent P2P network as a distribution mechanism to lower costs of sending around large files. Other online video sites are already using this concept: The Jaman and Joost clients download pieces of files from other users, when they can. But unlike pirate P2P networks, all the legit P2P sites won't leave you hanging if nobody else has the file you want: They constantly "seed" the network so that paying customers can always get files.

We'll update this post after the site launches and when we can go hands-on with the service.