BBC Worldwide has recently signed a deal with technology firm Azureus allowing users of Azureus' Zudeo software in the US to download hundreds of episodes of BBC programmes via a file-sharing network for the first time, the corporation has announced. Until now, most BBC programmes found on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks have been illegal copies.
The most commonly used software to download BBC programmes illegally has been Azureus, leading to their rise as a major technology player. Azureus claims that they are simply a method of sharing files and any illegaly activity is due to the file sharers and not the mechanism through which it is achieved. Was Niels Bohr innocent in the development of the atomic bomb following his "controlled" nuclear fission experiments?
So is this a good move - if you can't beat them, join them and hope they adopt the DRM model more widely? Depending on how this agreement is implemented, will it add some BBC authorisation to the P2P networks in general? Will official BBC downloads be available alongside the illegal ones through a generic bittorrent manager or will their be a special BBC Bittorrent manager?
Lots of questions, lots of potential - whatever happens I think it's great that BBC programmes are available on as many platforms as possible and as widely as possible. As someone working in production, the main thing I want is for people to see my work. I fully support legal file sharing and hope that partnerships such as this will mark a move towards high quality, authorised television available over the torrent networks.
- Paul Williams