BitTorrent, makers of P2P software often used to trade pirated movies, has launched a site which will sell legal downloads of movies and TV shows.

The BitTorrent Entertainment Network is set to launch today with films from Warner Bros, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, as well as episodes of TV shows such as ’24’.

The move could turn BitTorrent into a strong competitor in the online video market, thanks to its existing distribution technology, in addition to an already established user base which the company puts at 135m.

BitTorrent has had to make some understandable concessions to the copyright owners, such as adding DRM to its downloads.

These downloads will only be available for rental, priced between $1.99 and $3.99(£1 – £2). Users will have 24 hours to watch a movie or TV show after purchase.

Download speeds will be key to the success of the new site, as this is one reason why adoption of digital movie downloads may not take off. For instance, on Channel 4’s online on demand service 4OD, it takes around 50 minutes to download a 25 minute TV show.

Some observers, such as Matthew Ingram, believe that, due to the addition of DRM to the new service, BitTorrent’s movie download site is doomed to fail.

Maybe so, but a lot of players in the online video space will be watching this move closely.