The Internet Archive is doing some really important work by helping to preserve the web for future generations, but they just took that a step further by jumping on the BitTorrent bandwagon. They're now seeding over a million of their files - almost a whole petabyte of data, in fact - over the peer to peer network to make 'universal access to all knowledge.'
And by knowledge, they don't just mean a bunch of stodgy old books or science websites; we're talking John Mayer and Grateful Dead concerts here. The Internet Archive has always offered their files in a variety of formats, and adding torrents is just a logical extension of that. If you're not familiar with the site, it's all totally legal, too, since they distribute their files on a strictly non-commercial basis, and even then only if the artist is okay with it. There are plenty of books, movies and other valuable historical records, too.
Since all of these files were already available online, what's the incentive of offering them as torrents? Speed, according to founder Brewster Kahle:
“BitTorrent is now the fastest way to download items from the Archive, because the BitTorrent client downloads simultaneously from two different Archive servers located in two different datacenters, and from other Archive users who have downloaded these torrents already.”
Preservation is even more important than speed, and torrents have that covered, too. Kahle says that the next step is to take advantage of BitTorrent's peer-to-peer system by turning it into a distributed preservation network, adding a whole new layer of security to their already formidable backup system.
Preservation and free concerts are all well and good, but it sounds like there could be some good news for the torrent community here, too: there's now yet another very large and visible group taking advantage of BitTorrent for purposes that don't involve Linux or warez, and you can bet that they'll stand up for it when it's threatened.