Most file-sharing programs aren’t the most upstanding citizens of the computing world. Yes, the entertainment industry hates them for the way they’re used to download movies and albums without paying — but many of these programs also fail to treat their own users well, often installing an unadvertised, unwanted load of advertising and spyware.
BitTorrent is different. This free, open-source program offers a spyware- and nuisance-free installation. And while it is certainly handy for downloading movies and other copyrighted material for free, it’s also increasingly used to distribute software and entertainment legally.
This makes BitTorrent (www.bittorrent.com) not only a fascinating test case for legal experts, but it also looks a lot like the logical fusion of peer-to-peer file-sharing and traditional downloading. It’s too robust to stamp out with lawsuits, but too effective not to adopt for commercial use.
[…] “There are good and bad uses for this technology,” said David Green, the MPAA’s vice president for technology and new media. The association is instead focusing on the people who have gone out of their way to help others download movies — “the people who are bringing together the people who want infringing material,” as he put it.
This represents a shift from previous practices, in which the MPAA, the Recording Industry Association of America and other groups have tried to have entire products — for example, the first Diamond Rio MP3 player or the networked ReplayTV video recorder — taken off the market.
One reason for this change of heart may be that in BitTorrent, unlike many other file-sharing programs, legitimate use doesn’t amount to a token minority. It’s central to this program’s existence.
Later: Slashdot’s BitTorrent May Prove Too Good to Quash