There may be no effective answer to the problem of multimedia piracy through filesharing. And the latest suggestion from uTorrent is certainly no effective answer.
BitTorrent Inc, which produces the uTorrent software, has struck a deal with DJ Shadow that it hopes will be a model for helping artists make cash from legitimate use of filesharing. Unfortunately it’s not one that looks very attractive to users.
The logic behind the model is that many people are going to download copies of new music without paying and simply aren’t interested in handing over any cash for it. To counter this, DJ Shadow is releasing some new content (three unreleased songs plus some archive video footage and a photo “vault”) that will be available free of charge, exclusively through BitTorrent.
Where does the cash come from then? The download includes a copy of RealPlayer and both Shadow and BitTorrent Inc will get a royalty payment for every user who installs it (which is entirely optional.) Future releases may have other optional software such as antivirus packages. BitTorrent Inc says the plan is very much an experiment at this stage.
It’s hard to see how this can work. Anyone who really wants RealPlayer will likely have already got it. That leaves the revenue for the content reliant on people installing it out of the goodness of their heart to support the artist, or on people installing it by mistake because they missed a checkbox somewhere along the way, which is a bit sleazy.
As an anonymous commenter at TorrentFreak puts it “depending on your users to install crapware in order to make money is not a very sound business model.” Indeed, BitTorrent appears well aware of the risks of irritating users: those who download the torrent directly from the uTorrent website can opt for a package of files that doesn’t even include the bundled RealPlayer, so they don’t have to waste bandwidth or go to the tiny hassle of unchecking it in uTorrent. No doubt this will be the package that shows up on other torrent sites in a matter of days.
Frankly speaking, it doesn’t appear this is a serious proposition whatsoever, and it’s noticable it isn’t being trialed with a full album release. Instead it comes across more like BitTorrent Inc making a token effort to break down the natural mental association of “torrents” and “piracy”.