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LegalTorrents, “an online community created to discover and distribute Creative Commons licensed digital media”, recently revamped their website to include a stronger community focus as well as a more fluid user experience. We caught up with Jonathan Dugan to find out more about what LegalTorrents can offer those in the CC-community and why CC-using content creators should look to LegalTorrents as a means for online distribution.

Can you give us some background on LegalTorrents? When and why did it start up? Who’s involved?

Simon Carless started LegalTorrents in 2003 and focused on hand-selected, high quality content that was legal to share and distribute. In November 2007, I partnered with Simon to rebuild the site under a new company called Matson Systems.

Since then we’ve grown a small team to build and maintain the site. In addition to our initial goal of distributing high quality content, we also plan to build a community of people interested in finding and sharing this media, and supporting content creators though voluntary financial sponsorship.

The team and their biographies are at our website.

LegalTorrents distinguishes itself by focusing on CC-licensed content – why did you choose to go this route?

Our focus is on distributing content in partnership with Content Creators, and with their explicit permission. Creative Commons had already created a great structure that gives content creators the tools to specify how they want their content distributed, so it was a great fit.

CC licenses also protect our users who download and share content from LegalTorrents by making sure the content they share is licensed to permit that sharing.

We actively encourage those who are looking to distribute content to use Creative Commons licenses, but a few people have also suggested other share-friendly licenses and we allow those as well.

Anyone can upload CC-licensed content to LegalTorrents once they become a “Approved Content Creator”. What does this process entail and what benefits does it provide, both for the creator and LegalTorrents alike?

The criteria we use to determine who is allowed to upload is fairly simple, and driven by volunteers in the community. We want the content to be:

There are benefits for our community members, Content Creators and for LegalTorrents by using this process. Primarily, by reviewing the content before it is uploaded we make sure, to the best of our ability, that the content is licensed for sharing. It also helps to increase the quality and appeal of the content we have listed on the site. For Content Creators, it means that their content will be listed on a website where all the other content has a similar consistency and quality.

LegalTorrents also works differently from most other Bittorrent indexes: Content Creators upload their content to the site, and we create the .torrent files automatically and host the full version, a reference copy of the content for community members to download. This makes it easier for people to just go ahead and share and think less about how it actually works, technically.

Tell us about your “Sponsor the Creator Program”.

Once a Content Creator is approved to upload content, they can select to have LegalTorrents collect Sponsorship for their content. On the page listing a piece of content we ask logged-in users if they want to make a payment, a “sponsorship” of the Content Creator. These payments are voluntary. We give 85% of sponsorship payments to the creator and use the remaining 15% for running LegalTorrents.

LegalTorrents is currently in beta – what does the future hold for those flocking to its growing community?

Before we go out of the “beta” stage, we need to complete two different things: We need a more social site where community members can meet and interact around the content. Some of our upcoming social features include:

We also need more regular content, which is why we recently launched a Facebook application to help direct more users to LegalTorrents.

In addition to this we are out there actively seeking more high quality CC-licensed content. As word gets around, we expect that the content will follow.

Posted 10 July 2008