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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
BitTorrent maker sets up search
Pirated copy of Revenge of the Sith
Pirated copies of Star Wars appeared on BitTorrent sites
The man behind the popular BitTorrent file-sharing program has set up a way of searching for torrent files.

The search tool on Bram Cohen's website makes it easier to find links which can then be used to download large files.

It was launched as US authorities shut down a prominent BitTorrent site, Elite Torrents, which had links to download the new Star Wars movie.

BitTorrent has become linked to online piracy due its widespread use to distribute copyrighted material.

Sharing online

Mr Cohen created the file-sharing software to help distribute popular files over the net, without putting all the strain on the original source for the file.

BitTorrent works by breaking a file up into fragments and then distributing the data over multiple users.

It means large files, such as films and TV shows, can be shared quickly and easily.

With BitTorrent software, server sites do not host the files being shared. Instead, they host links, called "trackers" which tell people where to go to get the files.

Torrent of lawsuits

Various sites offer ways of searching for torrent links.

BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen
Bram Cohen has relied on donations from BitTorrent users
The free search tool is the first commercial offering from Mr Cohen's company, called BitTorrent. Previously he had relied on donations.

It is being supported by sponsored links, which appear along the search results.

The search tool does not currently filter out copyrighted files.

There are a number of websites which provide torrent links to the copyrighted material, but these are becoming scarce as media companies try to shut them down.

In December, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) turned its attention to file-indexing websites using BitTorrent, closing down several prominent sites.

Earlier this month the movie industry expanded its list of targets by going after six BitTorrent sites hosting links to illegal copies of TV shows. Four of these have already been shut down.

The MPAA says that more than 90% of the sites it has sued have been taken offline.

It estimates that movie piracy cost the film industry $3.5bn (1.9bn) last year.

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