BitTorrent Bram Cohen made a stir recently when he questioned the reasoning behind the push for network neutrality. He told the BBC that he was concerned that net neutrality safeguards could â€œresult in an absurdity like making it so difficult so ISPs canâ€™t drop spamâ€¦or stop [hacker] attacks. The BBC said Cohen was â€œin the pantheon of Internet Godsâ€ like Berners Lee.
But Cohenâ€™s business deals with big media require closer scrutiny. BitTorrent is now working to develop â€œintegrated monetization for paid and ad-supported content,â€ according to Interactive TV Today. Its new deal with leading anti-network neutrality company Time Warner will enable the cable giant to use BitTorrent technology to sell us such content as â€œNational Lampoonâ€™s Vegas Vacation, Natural Born Killers, andâ€”â€œDukes of Hazzard.â€ No doubt Mr. Cohen views the launch of what is called the â€œlegal BitTorrent online video serviceâ€ as his ticket to vast personal riches. (As part of its settlement with MPAA, BitTorrent is also working to remove what it considers illegal content from its service, including its search engine).
Mr. Cohen has made his dealâ€”to get on the fast lane. What he should remember is that the Internet is more than a fancy digital distribution system for Hollywood. It has a role to play to ensure a equitable global civil society. That requires a internet where people and content are treated equitablyâ€”even if it means less profits for BitTorrent.