BitTorrent Creator Opens Online Search

BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen has launched an online search that links to torrent files, which are used to download content via the protocol. The move comes in the midst of a crackdown by the entertainment industry in conjunction with Federal agencies against illegal file sharing happening on BitTorrent Web sites.

Along with the online search comes a new decentralized BitTorrent client that eliminates the need for a "tracker" - Web sites that aggregate torrent files. In essence, this means that while the Feds may have gained some ground by shutting down tracker Web sites, actual file sharing and the ability to search for illicit content will not be brought to a standstill.

In a previous report, BetaNews detailed how a BitTorrent-based file sharing program named eXeem demonstrated the resiliency of file sharing proponents, emerging just days after operations at the Web site were suspended. eXeem was the first BitTorrent-based file sharing program with a decentralized tracker.

In terms of illegal file sharing, BitTorrent itself is not the culprit. It is simply a communications protocol that facilitates efficient distribution of very large files. On the flipside, it was not uncommon for those particular files to be copyrighted music, movies or television programming.

Operationally, a "seed" file, or one complete file, is all that is needed to initiate a BitTorrent download. Once initiated, seeds are downloaded by file sharers who obtain "bits" of the master file over peer-to-peer networks. The efficiency of distribution scales upward as more file sharers download.

A "tracker" is a dedicated server that receives information from individuals and generates a dynamic register of peers that can be used by client software to download a particular file.

It is these dedicated tracker servers that have drawn the attention of authorities. Wednesday, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced that they had "squashed" one of the world's largest BitTorrent Web sites, called Elite Torrents, in an operation called D-Elite. During the raid, warrants were issued against prominent members of the organization who are credited for posting a copy of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith before the film's cinematic debut.

Commenting on the actions taken by the U.S. Government, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) President and CEO Dan Glickman said, "Today’s actions are bad news for Internet movie thieves and good news for preserving the magic of the movies. Shutting down illegal file swapping networks like Elite Torrents is an essential part of our fight to stop movie thieves from stealing copyrighted materials."

A statement published on the BitTorrent Web site offers an opposing view: "BitTorrent gives you the same freedom to publish previously enjoyed by only a select few with special equipment and lots of money. ("Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one" -- journalist A.J. Liebling.)"

BitTorrent has been used by a number of legitimate organizations to distribute large files, including Linux distributions of Red Hat and Mandriva.

The BitTorrent Web site claims that bandwidth is being donated by match making Web site Hot or Not. Hot or Not co-founder James Hong told BetaNews his company is only hosting the binary client downloads, and not the actual online search operation. Creator Bram Cohen does not make money selling BitTorrent, but does request donations for his work.

MPAA and RIAA representatives were not available for comment by press time.

BitTorrent is available for download for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

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