BitTorrent Bundle is Like Peer-to-Peer Shareware

By Wesley Fenlon

It's not piracy. It's torrenting.

BitTorrent is the greatest peer-to-peer information technology in the history of the Internet so far. Which means, of course, that it's also the greatest piracy tool in the history of the Internet so far. Sometimes BitTorrent is used for more noble purposes--hosting content that would be expensive to keep on a solitary server, distributing open source software like Ubuntu. And Bittorrent, Inc., which invented the file sharing platform, is still trying to prove that torrenting can be good for more than stealing files. Enter the new Bundle file form, which BitTorrent hopes will encourage content creators to use the peer-to-peer network.

"The BitTorrent Bundle is not an album, an MP3, or an MOV," writes the BitTorrent Blog. "It’s a multimedia format. It’s an early build of a new type of torrent file where fan interaction, like email collection or donation, happens inside the torrent. We’re collaborating with electronic music innovators Ultra Music to see what happens when you let people choose how they want to connect with content."

The goal of the Bundle is to harness the strength of BitTorrent's peer-to-peer system without giving away everything for free. The blog compares the content to a flyer or a standalone storefront. "When you download the Ultra Bundle from BitTorrent, you get half the content gratis: the Dada Life remix of Dynasty, and the “Freaks of Nature” tour trailer. The other half of the content inside the file? It’s a functional record store, with content you can unlock using your email."

In this case, an email address grants access to the rest of the files within the Bundle. But the key to unlock content in a Bittorrent Bundle could easily be a PayPal account or a credit card, something to monetize an album sale without going through iTunes or hosting the files on an independent server. The idea ties in neatly with the concept of pay-what-you-want, as musicians could easily give away their music for free or offer a few tracks as a preview, with the rest locked behind a payment.

When piracy is easier, simpler, and faster than buying something, it thrives. The BitTorrent Bundle won't stop people from stealing, but it could quite possibly put a dent in piracy just like Netflix.