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Media Giants Embrace P2P for Faster Video

20 Mar, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Once considered the scourge of copyrighted content, peer-to-peer file sharing services are being courted by media companies harder than a Democratic superdelegate.

Verizon Communications Inc. last week said it had joined forces with several P2P services to help facilitate 60% faster legal video downloading, including movies, on its burgeoning multimedia platforms.

Typically, file-sharing networks allow users to download and upload music, picture and bulky video files at the same time from other networked users in less time and for less of a cost than from a centralized source.

For Verizon, delivering video content via file sharing to a customer involves collecting a majority of the content in file fragments from local Verizon consumers compared to only the telecommunication provider's network.

The P2P industry originated infamously with distributing pirated music files via services such as Napster, KaZaa and BitTorrent, among others. As a result, it spent much of the past 10 years in court fighting copyright infringement charges levied by record labels.

Eager to go legit, San Francisco-based BitTorrent said it is working with 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and MGM, among others, to help studios legitimately deliver bulky movie files through proprietary and third-party Web services.

“While we were synonymous with piracy a few years ago, since 2005 we are the only P2P service to be sanctioned by the Motion Picture Association of America,” said BitTorrent spokesperson Lily Lin.

Fox and ABC Inc. reportedly use file-sharing technology from Move Networks Inc. to stream TV programming, including “Lost,” “Bones,” “24” and “Grey's Anatomy” over the Web.

Rob Enderle, principle analyst with the Enderle Group in San Jose, Calif., said P2P is the right technology at the right time as users seek larger media rich files at increased speeds while providers are looking to reduce their overhead.

Richard Doherty, media analyst with The Envisioneering Group, said P2P's alleged past as a haven for music piracy should be compared historically to pirates on the open seas and the development of faster clipper ships.

“[File-sharing networks] are the modern clipper ships used to deliver technology,” Doherty said. “Consumer demand is going up, so something had to change.”

“In a sense it legitimizes the [PSP] existence,” he said. “And you never see a pirate patch or bandana.”

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