Q&A: isoHunt founder says P2P can help create post-piracy world

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We also encourage sharers to use Creative Commons licenses when they upload their songs or movies.

To avoid competing with established communities like Facebook, we will eventually let you invite your friends and import your contacts from other sites to Hexagon.

How did you get the idea for Hexagon? I think the only way forward for file-sharing is not to go against the content owners. When content owners sue their own customers, there is a whole lot of hatred from consumers. We are between the two parties, trying to figure out how we can be the intermediate solution, between outright suing of consumers, to having consumers downloading without paying a dime.

So, you're inviting Hollywood to use you as a marketing channel? Yes, and eventually a full retail store, like Apple's iTunes or Amazon's video-on-demand.

That's what the company BitTorrent Inc. unsuccessfully tried to do several years ago. All I can say is that was a case of exceptionally poor execution. BitTorrent offered exactly what people didn't want: $4 for movies protected by DRM (Digital Rights Management). You might as well go to Netflix and pay less and not have to worry about whether the DRM was going to keep you from watching that movie you downloaded on your PC on your TV. That's tedious.

Did BitTorrent Inc. feel like it had no leverage, and that this is what the content owners wanted? Yes. I think Hollywood knew that this model -- pricing it unreasonably, with DRM -- wouldn't work. They simply wanted to be able to tell the judge in court that they tried their best, and that this (BitTorrent's failure) shows that working with filesharing doesn't work. It wasn't a sincere effort.

Would you ever do P2P and stream content like Hulu or YouTube does? That is one thing in the works. The technology is in progress, but it's not useful enough to be ready for public use.

Do you think isoHunt will still be around five years from now? Judging from the fate of many other filesharing sites, I do see a lot of bad precedents. At the same time, I am hopeful that there will be positive change so that we can actually work with copyright owners, instead of them continuing to play Whack-a-Mole with us.

Legally, I'm hoping that we will have the same happy ending as Sony did with the Betamax VCR. Hollywood was crying foul over the VCR, like they are now with P2P. The courts said that as long as there is a lot of non-infringing use cases, you can't just make a new technology illegal.

I think that is a fair judgment and a very big precedent for technologists and copyright owners to go by, and we are hoping that we can rely on that precedent in our case.

Ironically, Sony is now one of the Hollywood companies suing me.

You know, I love to see movies. I go all the time, and pay Hollywood to see them. I'm not trying to fight them, or make them become like me. I simply want to make the distribution channel more efficient and social.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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