The Motion Picture Association of America released an advisory yesterday that MPAA head Dan Glickman and BitTorrent founder Bram Cohen will hold a joint press conference this afternoon at the AFI in Los Angeles.
While the MPAA provided no details in advance, Glickman and Cohen are expected to announce a deal between BitTorrent and the movie industry that transforms the filesharing service into a commercial distribution channel for movies and other forms of digital entertainment.
Update: I just returned from the press conference, and the short version is: BitTorrent has set up a process with the MPAA by which DMCA takedown procedures for infringing content will be "expedited."
If an MPAA member sees their copyrighted content in the torrent search engine at BitTorrent.com, they will now be able to ask BitTorrent to contact the party responsible for the infringing content or tracker in "a more expedited manner" than previously in place. BitTorrent will also remove the offending item from search returns at BitTorrent.com.
Torrent searches on sites other than BitTorrent.com (for instance, Google) aren't controlled by BitTorrent.com, so they're unaffected. The move can't stop all traffic of potentially infringing content. And since BitTorrent isn't hosting any content anyway, the announcement doesn't mean that infringing content will neccesarily be removed. Also, there may not be a way for Cohen and company to contact uploaders or tracker hosts with takedown notices if those parties don't disclose their contact information. Anyone who's providing pirated files would not likely provide their phone number or email address, though offenders can potentially be identified by IP address.
The announcement seems primarily aimed at expressing good faith and neutrality with Hollywood, to lay ground for future paid content distribution agreements with both the motion picture and recording industries. Neither Cohen nor Glickman would estimate how soon such a deal might be in place -- but when pressed, Cohen said "soon."
Update:AP coverage here.
Update: Snip from MPAA press release:
BitTorrent Founder and CEO Bram Cohen and Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) Chairman and CEO Dan Glickman announced today that the motion picture industry and BitTorrent, Inc. are collaborating with the goal of inhibiting film piracy. Bram Cohen developed a revolutionary technology for websites to make large content files available on the Web and that technology is often used by others illegally to distribute movies and television shows. Today Cohen confirmed BitTorrent, Inc.’s commitment to removing links that direct users to copies of pirated content owned by MPAA companies from its search engine at BitTorrent.com. The announcement today is historic in that two major forces in the technology and film industries have agreed to work together and proactively identify ways to limit access to infringing material available via search engines like the one at BitTorrent.com and to promote constructive innovation in this area.
“BitTorrent is an extremely efficient publishing tool and search engine that allows creators and rights holders to make their content available on the Internet securely,” said Cohen. “BitTorrent, Inc. discourages the use of its technology for distributing films without a license to do so. As such, we are pleased to work with the film industry to remove unauthorized content from BitTorrent.com’s search engine.”
Cohen said BitTorrent.com will remove links that direct users to pirated content owned by MPAA companies from its search engine.
Update: Here's a subscription-free link for Boing Boing readers to Ben Fritz' account at Variety. Snip:
The BitTorrent company has no control over what's traded and indexed using its technology, however. Thus, now that it has stopped referring users to illegal content, MPAA can't go after it with the law as it did other P2P networks following this summer's Supreme Court decision in Hollywood's favor in the Grokster case.
Cohen added that BitTorrent is close to finishing technology that would let movie files be protected against piracy and sold via online payment system to users of its P2P application. The main hurdle remains obtaining studio content.
Cohen said he's in talks with studios to do just that, and is also discussing a deal with the RIAA similar to the one it has with MPAA, with hopes to sell music through BitTorrent as well.