BBC releases Dr Who collection as a legal BitTorrent

3 Apr 2015

Dr Who. Photo via The BBC

The BBC is releasing a box set of Dr Who episodes via BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer file-sharing technology used almost exclusively for pirating media.

A 10-episode collection featuring selected episodes from the last decade of the series has been released by BBC Worldwide through BitTorrent’s Bundle website for a US$12 fee. A free download featuring an introductory video from current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, and a 10-minute preview of his first episode, Rose, is also available.

Torrents are synonymous with piracy because the format has been widely used to illegally share copyrighted material, such as music, films, TV shows and software (it’s the technology utilised by notorious website The Pirate Bay, for example). To send or receive files, legal or otherwise, the user must have a BitTorrent client – a computer program that implements the protocol.

BitTorrent, the company, has been looking to implement this paygate model for some time, having last year said it was going to implement the Bundles system as an experiment and see whether this model could potentially see revenues go back to the media makers.

Get content out legitimately

In an interview with The Guardian, Julia Kenyon, director of drama brands at BBC Worldwide, explained the decision to release Dr Who via the format.

“Our entire mission is to get content out legitimately to as many fans as we can around the world. We’re in a lot of territories, but we’re not everywhere, and not everybody has access to paid-for TV.

“This is a really lovely way to extend it even further so that more of our fans can get our content. We have quite a young audience. They’re very digital-savvy, and a lot of them access content in the digital space, so understanding their habits, and going where they are is very important for us.”

Last September, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke released his solo album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes as a BitTorrent on the Bundles website.

In a statement, BitTorrent’s Neil Godrich and Yorke himself said the potential for this model could see content creators use torrents to create their own storefronts and cut out retailers entirely.

“If it works well it could be an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work.”

Dean Van Nguyen was a contributor to Silicon Republic