The developers of the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol have unveiled what they describe as a new "multimedia format" called a Bundle.

The file groups together a range of content, some of which can only be accessed once the user enters a key.

It is designed to help artists sell or otherwise distribute material to fans in addition to the initial music file or film clip downloaded.

One analyst said it represented BitTorrent's effort to reinvent itself.

The San Francisco company's peer-to-peer data transfer technology has been blamed for helping online piracy to flourish, thanks to its use by several copyright-infringing media sites.

However, Mark Mulligan, editor of the Music Industry Blog, said Bundle was a "strong step" towards the company repositioning itself as a genuine partner to owners of content.

BitTorrent said it believed the format had the potential to "revolutionise" the media industry.

"Since Edison invented the record player the idea has been you sell the record inside a store," Matt Mason, vice-president of marketing, told the BBC.

"What's different about this is that the 'record' is the store, or the 'movie' has the box office baked into it.

"The idea is that if you put the store or place to interact with the content creator inside the Bundle itself, then every creator stands to earn either money or a connection to a new fan every time that piece of content is shared."

BBC News