In an effort to help fill the demand for Windows Vista Beta 2, Chris Pirillo and Jake Ludington started the website vistatorrent.com which seeded torrents of the new operating system for the masses to download. While the two had no cruel intentions in mind, Microsoft felt that the torrents had to come down, hence issuing the two a cease-and-desist order. Even though Microsoft couldn't serve the download fast enough, it still didn't want the dynamic duo's help.
Last week when Vista Beta 2 was released to the public, a Microsoft representative was asked about the possibility of using BitTorrent to serve the operating system to the public for download. He said it was simply out of the question.
We thought about Bit Torrent a lot, especially in the planning stages for this. There are legal and privacy issues which unfortunately make that not an option for Microsoft to officially sponsor a BitTorrent. I really wish we could do it, but we can’t. If someone BitTorrent’s we can’t guarantee that they’ve got an unaltered copy, etc.
Regardless, Pirillo and Ludington started seeding Windows Vista Beta 2 despite Microsoft's stance. Along with the operating system, they also had MD5 checksums to verify the authenticity of the download. Nevertheless, Microsoft asked them to "take expeditious action to remove or disable access to the material." Pirillo and Ludington say they were just doing the company and its customers a favor.
We were only trying to help Microsoft by doing this, assuming the costs and responsibilities associated with serving and seeding larger files. We did not alter, crack, hack, or patch any of Microsoft's files – merely provided a mirror for them when Microsoft was worried that "people might have problems with World Cup viewing, etc." due to the high demand of Windows Vista Beta 2. If the reprinting of your "Cease and Desist Letter" also infringes on Microsoft's copyright, we will remove it as well.
Given the situation, I can understand why Microsoft forced them to take the torrents down. It doesn't want to run the risk of having corrupted versions of the operating system floating around, even if Pirillo and Ludington are respected amongst the tech community. Microsoft also knows that, if it were to let this happen once, then the same procedure would be expected for future releases. That could amount to the company losing some control over the distribution of its software, and we all know that Microsoft enjoys having the upper hand.
What do you think? Should Microsoft consider using BitTorrent for future releases? Is the risk that substantial?