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BitTorrent Inc, the firm that maintains development of the popular file sharing protocol historically associated with illegal movie downloads, has launched a website designed to sell licensed downloads of films and television shows.

The BitTorrent Entertainment Network (BEN) launched on Monday with films from studios including Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, and MGM as well as episodes of TV shows such as 24. The service - currently available only to US residents - will compete with offerings from the likes of Amazon, Apple, and Movielink in the nascent movie download market.

BitTorrent Inc plans to mark out its services from potential rivals by offering music, videos, and games as well as movies, BitTorrent president and co-founder Ashwin Navin told Reuters. Navin added that the BitTorrent Entertainment Network will include a facility for users to post films, creating an outlet for independent film makers to showcase their work.

Navin described this community building aspect of the network as its "heart and soul". Quite what BitTorrent plans to do to stop this part of the service becoming contaminated with YouTube-style video tat or content that infringes copyright wasn't immediately clear.

Most movie download services that have launched thus far have offered films at prices that rival those of equivalent DVDs. BEN plans to offer films at around $3.99 each for new releases or $2.99 for older titles. TV shows would be sold for $1.99 per episode. The market potential of the service is helped by an established user base of around 135 million users who have BitTorrent software installed on their PCs.

Users need to be running Windows XP, a BitTorrent Client, IE6 or higher and Windows Media Player 10+ to view paid-for content. ®

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