An internet group called the Participatory Culture Foundation is launching an open internet based video player based on BitTorrent technology.

Currently available in a pre-release version, their free open-source Broadcast Machine software lets anyone with a web site publish full screen video at virtually no cost and with very little effort.

Soon they will be releasing a desktop video player that downloads published videos in the background using channels based on RSS feeds, simple text files used for syndicating news stories like those on informitv.

The Participatory Culture Foundation, based in Worcester, Massachusetts, describes itself as funded non-profit organization with a mission to enable and support independent, non-corporate creativity and political engagement.

The group is founded by Downhill Battle, which aims to use file sharing tools to support independent music labels and “end the major label monopoly”.

It could do for television what Napster did for music.

“Already there is more data downloaded for video over the internet than there is for music,” said Mike Ramsay, the cofounder of TiVo in a recent Newsweek special on the future of television. “What happens when a 14-year-old creates a BitTorrent browser that’s easy to use and plugs right into your TV? You go from 500 channels to 50 million channels.”

It looks like that time could be sooner than some broadcasters might like to think.

Other initiatives, such as Open Media Network, are already using peer-to-peer networks to provide distribution of television programmes, but they have the ability to enforce digital rights management.

The BBC iMP project, which will enter a public trial phase later this year, uses similar technology.

With BitTorrent widely used to distribute illicit copies of television shows, it was a matter of time before someone made it a little easier to use.

The Participatory Culture Foundation says that its new internet television platform is free to watch and free to publish. That’s free as in speech and free as in beer. Or maybe free as in lunch.

The question is, will Broadcast Machine users want to support “non-corporate creativity and political engagement” and other substantial non-infringing fair uses, or simply to download the latest hit television programme? No doubt the corporate copyright lawyers are already sharpening their quills in anticipation.