The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has published a press release (.doc file) which singles out BitTorrent as the primary enabler of the piracy (a few hours in advance of its release) of the latest Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith. The title of the press-release is “BitTorrent Facilitating Illegal File Swapping of Star Wars On Day of Opening”, which is akin to the police releasing a statement titled “Shoes Facilitate Mugger’s Get-Away”, or “Car Facilitates Kidnapping”.
As Slyck.com points out, this completely ignores the fact that BitTorrent has many legitimate uses, including distributing the Linux operating system. The press release also avoids mention of the fact that, unlike other P2P systems, BitTorrent requires the publisher to offer their file as a specific download on an open website, severely limiting its appeal as a mechanism to aid in copyright violations (essentially, it’s a huge red arrow pointing right at your house).
The deeper motivation for singling out BitTorrent would appear to be its role as the most viable enabler for the next generation of user-generated content distribution, a force which threatens to undermine the current Big Media business model. Already utilitized by PodCasters around the world to ease the load on their servers, BitTorrent changes the economics of digital content distribution so that having a popular show doesn’t put the broadcaster out of business with bandwidth costs.
In the same way that Open Source software has forever changed the computing landscape, BitTorrent and other protocols like it will change media distribution – unless the MPAA and others manage to legislate it out of existence. This press-release would appear to be a push in that direction.
And as a final thought, why don’t they mention how the movie was acquired in advance of its release? Surely the greater issue here is how someone gained access to a physical, celluloid copy of the file to digitise, than how they then chose to distribute the digital copy.