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BitTorrent to block links to pirate flicks

Deal with MPAA shows carrot works better than stick?

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BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen has agreed to strip links to pirate movies out of his bittorrent.com search engine - the outcome of talks between his company and the Motion Picture Ass. of America (MPAA).

"BitTorrent Inc. discourages the use of its technology for distributing films without a licence to do so," Cohen said in a statement. "As such, we are pleased to work with the film industry to remove unauthorised content from bittorrent.com's search engine."

The agreement is limited. It only applies to content owned by the MPAA's seven members, and clearly can't extend to any other search engine capable of listing BitTorrent files. It's also up to the MPAA's members to spot links to illegal copies of material they own, and to report the breach to BitTorrent.

Still, the move helps to distance BitTorrent the company and BitTorrent the software from the actions of its users. Cohen can always claim, should Hollywood ever raise the spectre of legal action against him, that his code has legitimate uses, and is thus protected by legal precedent from any illegal uses it may be put to.

Of course, P2P software companies Grokster and Streamcast used that same argument and were able to defeat the MPAA at both the District and the appeal court level in the US. The Supreme Court, however, ruled that they could be successfully sued if it could be shown they had promoted illegal usages.

Cohen's move makes it much harder to make such a claim against BitTorrent, and with the emphasis of the deal on movie industry being pro-active rather than BitTorrent policing its own network, it could be argued he's done very nicely out of the negotiations.

The deal also shows the MPAA in a better light, being apparently now more willing to work with technology companies than to simply sue first and ask questions later. ®

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