Hollywood negotiated an agreement Tuesday with the creator of BitTorrent software, popular for downloading pirated movies over the Internet, in a deal aimed at reducing illegal traffic in online films.
The agreement requires 30-year-old software designer Bram Cohen to remove links to pirated versions of movies from his Web site, bittorrent.com, effectively frustrating people who search for illegal copies of films.
The agreement calls for BitTorrent to remove Web links leading to illegal content owned by the seven studios that are members of the Motion Picture Association of America.
"BitTorrent Inc. discourages the use of its technology for distributing films without a license to do so," Cohen said in the statement. "As such, we are pleased to work with the film industry to remove unauthorized content from bittorrent.com's search engine."
The deal will not prevent all illegal copies from being swapped using the BitTorrent technology. Cohen said during a press conference that even after links to files are removed from his search engine, some files could still be found using other means such as google.com.
The agreement means bittorrent.com will comply with procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Cohen's site will not prevent links to illegal files from being posted. But after a studio complains about the file, BitTorrent will notify the offending computer owner and remove the link from its search engine.
The agreement represents the latest effort by the entertainment industry to discourage illegal Internet downloads. It also demonstrates Cohen's sensitivity toward Hollywood's piracy problems, making him potentially more attractive to studios for future deals related to movie downloads.
Cohen said Tuesday he has been talking to studios about possible deals.
"We will have content distribution announcements in the future," he said.
MPAA Chief Executive Dan Glickman said he met with Cohen in July after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that studios could pursue claims against another service, Grokster. Glickman said his staff had been holding talks with Cohen even before that ruling to see "how we can work collaboratively and not be at each other's throats."
Glickman said his efforts, including Tuesday's announcement, would not stop piracy, but would send a signal to other technology companies that studios are eager to work on legal downloading alternatives.
"We want to make as many movies commercially available online as possible," Glickman said.
Cohen disclosed in September his company had raised $8.75 million in venture funding to develop commercial distribution tools for media companies.
The BitTorrent technology pioneered by Cohen — and used by an estimated 45 million people — assembles digital movies and other computer files from separate bits of data downloaded from other computer users across the Internet. Its decentralized nature makes downloading more efficient but also frustrates the entertainment industry's efforts to find and identify movie pirates.
The agreement with Cohen would not prevent determined Internet users from finding movies or other materials using tools or Web sites other than Cohen's, but it removes one of the most convenient methods people have used.