Bram Cohen and His Deal With the Devil

“Now you play a pretty good fiddle boy
But give the devil his due
I’ll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul
‘Cause I think I’m better than you.
The boy said, My name’s Johnny
And it might be a sin
But I’ll take your bet, your gonna regret
‘Cause I’m the best that’s ever been.”
– Charlie Daniels Band

Bram Cohen, the founder and chief executive of BitTorrent, yesterday held a press conference with Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, to announce a new agreement between Cohen and the studios that involve him removing links to pirated movies online and receiving in return $8.75 million in VC money from the studios. Cohen’s company BitTorrent Inc. also will help the studios with “content distribution” in the future.

Of course, the irony of the situation is that although Bram’s site may belong to him, the BitTorrent technology he created actually does not.

From slyck.com “”Bittorrent.com is their own, they can of course fix that,” said ThePirateBay spokesperson brokep. “But not in the other torrent sites without changing the protocol. The protocol actually doesn’t belong to Bram Cohen, it belongs to the community and will evolve in the way it seems fit.”

Of course very little BitTorrent traffic these days is even run through Bram’s site. Rather, the technology he created is used in significantly more volume at places like thepiratebay.

“The deal will not prevent all illegal copies from being swapped using the BitTorrent technology. Cohen said during a press conference that even after links to files are removed from his search engine, some files could still be found using other means such as google.com.”

Although Cohen always denied using BitTorrent to pirate movies himself personally (he said he had a Netflix account and that he would be too big a target) it is interesting to go back and read a few former quotes from the man who created the biggest disruption for Hollywood since Napster:

“BitTorrent is completely agnostic as to what kinds of files it distributes (and boy, is there a diversity of them in practice) so banning it would be rather like banning http. Of course, there are plenty of people who would love to ban http. “

“I am a technological activist. I have a political agenda. I am in favor of basic human rights: to free speech, to use any information and technology, to purchase and use recreational drugs, to enjoy and purchase so-called ‘vices’, to be free of intruders, and to privacy. “

“I further my goals with technology. I build systems to disseminate information, commit digital piracy, synthesize drugs, maintain untrusted contacts, purchase anonymously, and secure machines and homes. I release my code and writings freely, and publish all of my ideas early to make them unpatentable.”

“Technology is not a panacea. I refuse to work on technology to track users, analyze usage patterns, watermark information, censor, detect drug use, or eavesdrop. I am not naive enough to think any of those technologies could enable a ‘compromise’.”

“The content people have no clue. I mean, no clue. The cost of bandwidth is going down to nothing. And the size of hard drives is getting so big, and they’re so cheap, that pretty soon you’ll have every song you own on one hard drive. The content distribution industry is going to evaporate.”

“Give and ye shall receive.”

It’s sure a funny thing what $8.75 million can do.

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  1. Good move by the MPAA. They should have done this when Napster was still a centralized service and they had the ability to control the service. This move still may be a little too late for the studios though. I’m sure that this was a very bitter pill for them to swallow.