Once the bastion of pirates, BitTorrent has raised the white flag, joining forces with the same studios it previously clashed with. The company, whose file-sharing software helped spread pirated entertainment content on the Web, has inked deals with 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures and MTV Networks to distribute the their movies and TV shows online.
But as it looks toward smooth sailing, BitTorrent still has to navigate some rough waters. First, it's going up against iTunes, the dominant online venue for TV shows, as well as similar services such as Amazon Unbox and AOL Video. And though studios are looking for ways to control piracy, some TV executives privately question whether BitTorrent has erected enough gates to keep out the thieves. Users can still find links to pirated material, such as "South Park," through BitTorrent.Before BitTorrent's new partnerships were signed, NBC Universal was one of the first rights holders to give the green light to providing movies to a file-sharing site, via its deal with Wurld Media in 2005. Ron Lamprecht, vice president of new media for NBC Universal Television Networks Distribution, said Wurld Media had the appropriate mix of rights management, copyright controls and filters. NBC would need those elements in place to do additional peer-to-peer deals, he says.