Ashwin Navin, co-founder and president of file sharing software developer BitTorrent, thinks that advertising-supported content will win out over DRM (digital rights management) in the long run for movie and TV show downloads. But his company is embracing DRM as it opens a new movie download Web site that will compete with the Unbox store launched by Amazon.com and Apple Computer's iTunes Store. In an interview with Dan Nystedt, he presented BitTorrent's views on DRM and its online movie store plan.
What's your view on DRM and how it will impact the movie download business?
The bottom line is that DRM is bad for the content provider and it's bad for the consumer, and the reason it's being used today is because we're in the very early stages of a new product cycle for the entertainment industry and they want to walk before they run.
I think the future will not be marked by digital rights management. It will be marked by advertising-supported content that's clear of DRM, because the content publisher wants it to be as widely distributed as possible and consumed over as many platforms as possible. And we hope to be part of that evolution, and to drive that evolution wherever we can.
How is DRM bad for content providers?
The reason it's bad for content providers is because typically a DRM ties a user to one hardware platform, so if I buy my all my music on iTunes, I can't take that content to another hardware environment or another operating platform. There are a certain number of consumers who will be turned off by that, especially people who fear that they may invest in a lot of purchases on one platform today and be frustrated later when they try to switch to another platform, and be turned off with the whole experience. Or some users might not invest in any new content today because they're not sure if they want to have an iPod for the rest of their life.
When do you plan to launch BitTorrent's online movie store?
We'll launch country by country. We'll launch in the U.S. this year. We've publicly announced that we're in trials with the largest cable company in the U.K., NTL Group cable service., but it's not likely we'll launch there this year.
How will BitTorrent's download site be different from others?
With the launches from Amazon and Apple, we realize we have to do something that's interesting and set ourselves apart, so one thing we're doing is leveraging BitTorrent delivery to get people their content faster, particularly for files that are popular. And we want to aggregate content that no one else is aggregating as well.
We haven't made any announcements yet, but we've aggregated Chinese language films, we've aggregated Indian language films and other - to us in the U.S. - foreign language films, to pull together a community at BitTorrent that is really depending on us for delivering content that's not easily available, stuff that's not at Wal-Mart and all the other retail locations.