BitTorrent reveals Bundle file to package media content

BitTorrent Bundle
Image caption Artists can require their fans to give them their email address before releasing add-on content

The developers of the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol have unveiled what they describe as a new "multimedia format" called a Bundle.

The file groups together a range of content, some of which can only be accessed once the user enters a key.

It is designed to help artists sell or otherwise distribute material to fans in addition to the initial music file or film clip downloaded.

One analyst said it represented BitTorrent's effort to reinvent itself.

The San Francisco company's peer-to-peer data transfer technology has been blamed for helping online piracy to flourish, thanks to its use by several copyright-infringing media sites.

However, Mark Mulligan, editor of the Music Industry Blog, said Bundle was a "strong step" towards the company repositioning itself as a genuine partner to owners of content.

Teaming up with music label

BitTorrent said it believed the format had the potential to "revolutionise" the media industry.

"Since Edison invented the record player the idea has been you sell the record inside a store," Matt Mason, vice-president of marketing, told the BBC.

"What's different about this is that the 'record' is the store, or the 'movie' has the box office baked into it.

"The idea is that if you put the store or place to interact with the content creator inside the Bundle itself, then every creator stands to earn either money or a connection to a new fan every time that piece of content is shared."

To promote the format, the company has teamed up with music label Ultra to release material from Kaskade, an American DJ.

When the file is downloaded, users are taken to a webpage offering them instant access to a song and video trailer. However, they need to enter their email address to unlock other content, including a tour booklet and short film.

Cutting out the middlemen

This email address can later by used by the artist to promote their concerts or other merchandise.

In the future, BitTorrent said users could also be required to pay a fee before added content was released.

Image caption BitTorrent suggests Bundle can act as a 21st Century version of a leaflet

"If you publish a Bundle as an artist you can get the email addresses from fans. You can get the money," said Mr Mason.

"Content creators and their fans can connect directly, and that's useful for anyone from a small band to Disney, who now won't need to use Facebook, Spotify or Netflix as a middleman."

Mr Mulligan said he agreed this was a direction that the media industry needed to go in, but questioned whether Bundle itself would succeed.

"It is simply not good enough to just give a digital file of analog media and call it a digital product. That misses the potential of what technology can enable," he said.

"That doesn't mean this exact iteration that they've created is going to make millions. It's part of an innovation experiment process."

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