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P2P Upgrades: A Danger for Content Owners?

9 May, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

It seems like everyone at Digital Hollywood, the premiere forum for the digital entertainment world, knows what P4P means. Chat with almost anyone at the event, and he'll easily throw you a definition: It's a means for Internet service providers (ISPs) to optimize peer-to-peer traffic.

But what does it do?

“It makes P2P (peer-to-peer) faster,” said a representative of one software company. “It funnels network traffic by using local routers. When you download something on P2P without P4P, it can take hours sometimes. This speeds it all up.”

Another way of saying it: It's becoming easier than ever for people to download what they want, when they want.

For ISPs and P2P networks, P4P is a great thing. It looks locally first for what you want to download, while traditional P2P downloading will grab downloads without discriminating about the location. It's especially attractive to the ISPs because it lessens the strain on their bandwidth. (A recent study by CacheLogic estimates that as much as 70% of all ISP bandwidth is used by P2P traffic.)

For content owners, P4P is another reminder that technology continues to outpace the ideas to monetize their property.

Studios are doing everything they can to live in this digital world. They are releasing titles day-and-date with VOD and are including digital copies with DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases. They also have deals with premier downloading services, such as Apple's iTunes, and exclusive content for those who pay for their media.

But the advancement of P2P software has to give pause to content owners. One of the reasons physical media still reigns is convenience. And when even the least tech savvy consumer doesn't have to leave his seat to steal a movie from his neighbor down the street, physical product loses that value of convenience.

Surveys say consumers will pay a reasonable price for content they can get reasonably easy. But when it becomes too easy to get anything you want, why pay anything at all?

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