If you have been keeping up with the latest news and drama around Torrents, you know that a major torrent site has been taken down and the owner, arrested. While this was happening, other similar sites resurfaced, making it easy to conclude that this global battle between law enforcement agencies and online pirates is far from over.

With the emergence of Blockchain, are we seeing another tool to battle pirates?


When sharing is NOT caring

Lets analyze this problem further. Artists and production houses put in time, money, and effort into creating music and producing movies. Understandably, they get frustrated when they see all their efforts made futile by some ‘seeders’ who have uploaded the media onto a torrent site. With millions of people downloading that media for free, it wreaks havoc on profits and royalties. The situation gets worse every moment since More downloads = more damage. Is there a creative solution that will make everyone happy?

New “old” kid in the block

Let’s take a look a technology that has been around for quite some time, but never in the spotlight like it is now. Blockchain was created to maintain the integrity of transactions for the bitcoin currency. Being entirely internet based, the bitcoin community depended completely on a self balancing system of digital public ledger. This distributed ledger system tracks all transactions by adding each transaction into a ‘block’ the moment it happens. A block is like a data structure that gets distributed over the network through multiple nodes. An agreement by a majority of nodes validates a transaction as authentic.

Blend it all up and…

Okay, drumrolls! Let’s combine the above concepts.

Imagine a scenario, where a movie is intentionally uploaded onto various torrent sites by the production house. Several ‘seeders’ (uploaders) downloaded and then uploaded their copies, up for grabs to the entire community of torrent users. The moment a ‘leecher’ (downloader) starts downloading the file, the host knows that someone sitting at a certain ip address is going to view it. This proliferation is generally exponential in nature, and in no time, millions across the globe have the content that was uploaded. Now, if the movie file contained a payload of advertisements by sponsors, and if the torrent sites could figure out a way, in line with blockchains to keep a ledger of how many viewers across the globe downloaded the file from how many peering hosts, the sponsors will be more than happy to pay the production house heavily in return of this continuously growing audience of their advertisements!

Voila! Now we have turned the tables: More the downloads = more the returns.

Depending on focus audience, or demographics, sponsors can go for tailored marketing strategies with this model. They can choose the correct media and churn valuable analytics as an indirect benefit of this model. It would be easy to determine a particular IP’s preference based on their download pattern. These analytics can then be used for targeted advertisements.

What are your thoughts on this? Join the conversation!

Romit Bose

Romit Bose

Romit Bose is a Senior Consultant with Cognizant's Enterprise Application Services (EAS) - Integrated Process Management (IPM) Practice. With more than 9... Read more

  • Subhadip Ghosh

    Well, as long as downloading from torrent sites is not legalized in view of downloading copyright contents, I am not sure if an anonymous user will like to be identified fro receiving customized emails.

    • Romit Bose

      Absolutely! That is the whole point of this discussion. This article is just a point of view on how Torrent technology can be used in a way that preserves the interests of content owners; and once people starts to appreciate the benefits of Torrent using new ways, which might include the above approach, Law enforcing agencies might really have a change of heart, thus ultimately legalizing the technology.
      I believe, it is not Torrent, but the way people abuse peering technologies, is the problem. The above solution tries to bring home some positive angles to it.
      Please let me know your thoughts on it. 🙂

      Thanks a lot for writing! 🙂

  • Zareef Anam

    I believe you are proposing that some of the advertisement revenues can (in theory) be legally shared with the copyright owners in the future through this model. If this can be arranged contractually, copyright owners will be happy, and law enforcement agencies shouldn’t have a problem either.

    Drawing up such a contract however would be infeasible. Copyright owners (such as movie producers) usually draw up contracts with distributors which prevent them from collecting monetary compensation from other sources, especially if it negatively impacts the distributors who were chosen to gain from the contract. E.g., If Marvel studios has chosen Paramount as the distributors for the Avengers movie, Paramount wouldn’t be particularly happy if Marvel were streaming the content online, and collecting ad revenues from it – it will adversely impact the money the distributors stand to earn from cinema ticket sales. This is a problem Netflix is faced with when they release their ‘original’ films on their website, and at movie theatres at the same time, which explains why their movies don’t show at many screens. You could argue that Netflix could chose a different strategy per geography, e.g., sell the movie to a UK distributor so that it is shown at theatres in the UK, and arrange for it to be only shown online to Netflix US subscribers in the US. However, it stands to reason if distributors would be happy with this arrangement given the relative ease with which the US site can be accessed from the UK, and whether if Netflix will be making more money this way. In my opinion, the answer to both those questions is no. For newly released content, copyright owners would have to chose between displaying their content online, or exclusively at theatres in the case of movies, and given the high cost that goes into making films, the former doesn’t appear to be a wise choice.

    I also feel that it may not be necessary to use blockchain to keep track of users, although it depends on how we are defining a blockchain database, since the architecture has seen so many variations since Bitcoin came along. A simple ledger may not be appropriate, as it would require a fairly complex database to allow heavy duty analytics to be performed to support targeted advertising. We can assume the distributed database used to track users has no central governance (as with Bitcoin), or that the database governed by the party using the data to propose advertising solutions (maybe someone like Google). It probably helps the consumers a great deal to have a central governance, since the customers would want some degree of control and accountability over parties who are accessing the data. What we are then reduced to is a central party like BBC providing high quality content and supporting it with targeted advertising and licensing fees. Would be keen to hear your thoughts.