The BitTorrent protocol


The platform uses the Bittorrent protocol, which has been created by Bram Cohen in April 2001 (Wikipedia, 2014).

The figure 1 provides a brief example of how it works: each shared file is divided in small elements that are downloadable by using a torrent client (each colored dot in figure 1 represents an element of the file). First, the big server is the only one that has the file; the big server is the only “seed” and the people that download elements are the “peers” (pic 1). Then people that downloaded some elements become “seeds” for these downloaded elements (pic 2) and they are also still “peers” (they still download from the big server (pic 3)). And so on until all the “peers” downloaded all the elements of the file they wanted (pic 8). Thus there is not only one source for a specific file, but instead all downloaders become a source, which allows a faster download than if there is only one unique provider.

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This is a very good representation of how companies can use consumers to develop a product; the more consumers use the BitTorrent protocol, the more efficient this protocol becomes. But it is not only collaboration between a company and consumers, but also between consumers because thanks to that protocol, it becomes easy to share information and data.

The problem is that this protocol is also used for the illegal downloading, which creates a major copyright infringement issue.
In consequence, big movie producers from Hollywood or music labels are exerting pressures on governments hosting the servers of the platforms using the BitTorrent protocol. The most famous platform is probably the Swedish company “The Pirate Bay”. It is a non-profitable company created in 2003 and also probably the biggest BitTorrent platform in the world with more than 23 millions user (Le Monde, 2010). However it is also one of the most harassed by justice and in consequence, The Pirate Bay has to move very frequently from one country to another. The company is also censured in several countries like Italy or UK for instance.

Thus even if very large scale collaboration is very efficient, it can also become a big problem for companies if the latters do not control it.

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