Of Piracy and Beta Code

July 28, 2005


I just saw an article over at Digg that has sent chills down my spine. It is titled “Windows Vista and IE7 Beta 1 on Bit Torrent.” Well, won’t that raise some eyebrows. I am sure that Microsoft expected the new beta builds to end up on the net. And I am sure that there is relevant digital watermarking and tracking capabilities so that Microsoft may be able to trace the source of the leak – should they choose to. But I am amazed at how quickly the code is on the Net and how quickly it is being reported. Boy, things move fast in the connected world.

But I want to challenge the author of the article at Digg. The Windows Vista software is not available “on” BitTorrent. Indeed, BitTorrent is not another P2P network. There is no “on” in association with BitTorrent. BitTorrent is a protocol for file exchange – not a server for storage. So pirated software cannot be “on” BitTorrent any more than it can be “on” ftp or smb. To treat BitTorrent like other P2P networks is to trivialize it and associate it with Napster or Kazaa. Worse, it is like saying http is tantamount to piracy. No one would outlaw http (i.e., the Web) simply because some people use it for nefarious purposes. Unfortunately, there are those who have called BitTorrent an illegal hacking tool. And stories like this will just add fuel to such arguments.

Don’t get me wrong. We need to pursue those folks who would use any technology to facilitate the piracy of copyrighted material. And no one should be exploiting the Microsoft beta program just to get cool new “gizmos” for their collection. But let’s not get rid of a good technology simply because there are imprudent or illegal users of that technology.




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