Bittorrent to sell legal downloads

bt.pngThat’s the message that appeared on Bittorrent’s website this morning. In a few hours, Bittorrent will launch its very own legal download store, the Bittorrent Entertainment Network, with 3,000 movies, 1,000 games and around 1,000 music videos made available. Bittorrent struck deals with 34 major studios like Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures. 20th Century Fox and MGM to distribute their content on the store. Thanks to the Bittorrent technology downloads should prove to be relatively fast. The store will offer up a “self pub capability” where independent artists can publish and showcase their videos.

However, the service does have some restrictions. Users will only be able to enjoy content 24 hours following its download. Movies will be offered at a starting price of $3.99 and TV shows at $1.99. All downloaded content will have Windows Media DRM protection, which means it will only open up with Windows Media Player. So much for Mac and Linux users. Bram Cohen, founder of Bittorrent was actually against having DRM:

We are not happy with the user interface implications of digital rights management, or DRM… it’s an unfortunate thing. We would really like to strip it all away.

It was introduced, probably under the pressure of the big content providers and probably to safeguard the rental model of the Bittorrent Entertainment Network. That way Bittorrent can offer cheaper content and control what users download.

What Bittorrent is doing is entering the legal download market, where heavyweights such as the iTunes Store, Amazon or Wal Mart already rule. Yet the biggest competitor to the Bittorrent store might still be piracy itself. According to PC World, Bittorrent expects a third of its users to give up piracy and embrace the new store but a quick look around the blogosphere this morning shows that skepticism was high among bloggers. Why would anybody who can get the same content for free want to pay $3.99 for it? We’ll have to wait till the store opens up to give you the full low down and our first impressions.

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