Strategy Shift: Recording Industry Seeks Software Change to Fight Piracy

Taking a new approach, the Recording Industry Association of America is asking BitTorrent, Inc., which creates a number of popular clients for its namesake peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol, to help the association fend off pirated downloads.

The swells of piracy on the high seas of the internet often have one thing in common—namely, sharing of data enabled by BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer software protocol that allows for the easy sharing of large files, particularly movies and music.

The protocol has gained a massive cult following over the nearly 15 years since it was invented by programmer Bram Cohen. But much of that cult following has been built off the back of piracy: Sites such as The Pirate Bay and Isohunt make it easy to find pirated movies, music, and software that’s being shared via BitTorrent.

While BitTorrent, Inc.—launched in 2004 as an offshoot of Cohen’s work—has worked to show legal uses of the protocol, the company’s software, which also includes the popular µTorrent software client, remains associated with piracy.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which has struggled for years in a battle against sites such as The Pirate Bay, has a new strategy for taking on piracy: It’s asking the company that created the protocol to make some big changes.

The request was delivered in particularly harsh terms, via a letter accusing BitTorrent of being insincere in claiming that it doesn’t sanction piracy. RIAA notes that “BitTorrent, Inc., itself is the source of the software that is used so overwhelmingly for infringement.”

In the letter, Brad Buckles, RIAA’s executive vice president of anti-piracy, calls on the company to “take meaningful steps to deter this widespread infringement occurring using its own products and services.” He also notes that the association and other industry firms would be willing to work with BitTorrent on a process to track piracy.

The letter cites a claim by BitTorrent’s chief content officer, Matt Mason, that the company doesn’t endorse piracy. “If that is indeed your business philosophy, then we believe it is only right and proper for BitTorrent, Inc., to take steps to reduce their facilitation of infringement,” Buckles writes.

The letter follows similar correspondence that RIAA and other music-industry groups sent to CNET owner CBS last month, asking that the firm stop distributing (through its subsidiary) software that can be used for piracy.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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