BitTorrent like its peers in the illegal file-sharing business is best known for downloading movies, TV shows and music files. In the legal video streaming world, Netflix comes to mind when the biggest service is being discussed. Spotify easily enters the conversation if the discussion shifts to streaming all kinds of audio files especially popular music. So think of BitTorrent Now as a combination of the two services. Which means all contents on BitTorrent Now would be legal. All uploaded by the artists who created them and are offering them for free.
The question is why would any artist upload their works on a free file sharing service? How would they make money to create more content? To BitTorrent, this isn’t an issue. BitTorrent Now evolved from the BitTorrent Bundle service that was launched three years ago. According to BitTorrent, Bundle, since it was created, has curated an impressive number of artists including some major artists like Thom Yorke, David Cross and Moby. For now that number has surpassed the 30 000 mark with most of them being small and largely unknown artists. It is worth noting though that Major artists on the platform do not really upload all their works for free download. What you get when you click on their names in Bundle, is a few second of the file. Just like an intro. After that, you have the option of paying to get the full material through BitTorrent Bundle. Yes, paying for something on a torrent site might sound strange, but BitTorrent has being doing it for a while now. At least since Thom Yorke’s Album.
So far, using the BitTorrent Bundle service has being quite a success for the company. 200 million people have either downloaded videos or music files or watched movies directly from the site. Though I suspect that impressive figure tallies the total number of downloads and not the number of unique users of the service. But still, for a service that provides unknown video and music files, I must say they are doing quite well.
It is this success of BitTorrent Bundle that the company hopes to replicate in BitTorrent Now. Being a mobile app, BitTorrent is hoping all the hundreds of millions of mobile devices out there would ensure the success of BitTorrent Now.
Though BitTorrent Now is a free service, it is going to be supported by ads. BitTorrent is promising the owners of the uploaded contents that they’ll get 70% of any ad revenue linked to their content. This is a good incentive to attract content from independent artists. However, I am sure some of the best content from popularly artists would still be protected by a paywall. Meaning, to download the content, one has to pay after listening or viewing just a few seconds of the file.
Here is a snippet of how BitTorrent made the announcement of the service in a blog post:
Right now, the Internet spans 195 countries and 200 terabytes, and counting. What travels between us — what connects us — is free expression. It’s art. It’s the ability for a kid from K-Town to rap against film industry racism, and have an audience of 700,000 tune in. It’s the ability for musicians like Major Lazer to tear down genres and borders to create one of the most streamed tracks of all time. It’s the ability of a first-time female filmmaker to share an experimental coming-of-age story, and find over 250,000 fans from around the world.
This is what happens when artists have agency: our shared culture becomes more diverse, more whole; more sustainable. And that’s why we started BitTorrent Bundle: to give artists options. Not rules. The freedom to share your story, no matter what form it takes. The right to know, understand, and reach your audience. The right to choose your business model.”
It is a good thing that a torrent site is trying to redefine how people view torrent services. The reputation of file sharing sites is based on their unending battles with security services around the world. The right to protect artists creative work is the underlying argument. Artists believe they must be fairly compensated for what they took time to create. And besides paying motivates them to create more. On the other side are the pirates who believe in their right to share with whoever they seem fit. If only they don’t make so much money while sharing, their altruism would be appreciated. But they are benefiting immensely from the works of these hardworking artists. And it is not fair.
BitTorrent though, with BitTorrent Now, is keen on changing the perception of how peer-peer sites operate. Are we seeing a future where people have to pay money to download the latest movies from these file sharing sites? It is hard to imagine.
photo credit: BitTorrent