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Time Warner (TW) is embracing peer-to-peer technology to distribute films and other media in Germany. Despite leading the digital rights charge against Napster, the firm can now see the benefits of the technology.

From March, when the service should launch, Time Warner will offer a selection of films including Batman Begins and Harry Potter. The subsidiary will be called In2Movies and will offer films for about the same price as a DVD, on the same release date, according to the Wall Street Journal. The service will also offer TV programmes.

Users, who need to register, can keep the films indefinitely. The service will initially work on PCs but it is hoped it will spread to more mobile devices soon.

But TW is not just offering downloads from a central server - it is using a peer-to-peer network structure. This means you download parts of the film from different computers - depending who has the files you need, where they are, and what bandwidth they have. TW is working with Bertelsmann subsidiary Avarto on the project. Avarto's P2P system is called Gnab.

The film and music industries have long been warned not to ignore the impact of godless P2P networks. TW estimates that about 11.9m films are downloaded illegally by some 1.7m internet users in the UK.

Kevin Tsujihara, president of TW's home entertainment group, makes the obvious point: "One of the most effective weapons for defeating online piracy is providing legal, easy-to-use alternatives," he told Reuters.

He said that Germany was a first step, with more projects likely to spread during the year. Digital rights management is run centrally according to the newswire.

Time Warner was one of the financial backers of the Recording Industry Ass. of America's campaign which went after individual file sharers who frequently used P2P networks to swap files. ®

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