Group cites Microsoft threat, says no SP2 over P2P

Peer-to-peer advocacy group says it has stopped distributing Windows Service Pack 2 after legal move by software giant.

A group that advocates for peer-to-peer networks said it has stopped distributing Microsoft's Windows XP Service Pack 2 update following legal threats from the software maker.

Earlier this week, Downhill Battle had started offering Microsoft's free update through file-sharing network BitTorrent as a way to demonstrate the potential of peer-to-peer networks for more efficiently distributing large software updates. At the time, Microsoft did not comment on the legality of the action, but analysts noted that the action might well be infringing on Microsoft's intellectual-property rights.

A Downhill Battle representative said Friday that two of the companies that host its Web sites received notices from Microsoft to take down the software, notes that cited the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A Microsoft representative declined to comment.

Although it has fought DMCA notices in the past, the group said it complied with the requests.

"We'd stood up to stuff like that before...when there was a real compelling political reason to," said Downhill Battle co-founder Holmes Wilson. But the group felt it had made its point. "Our real goal was to demonstrate how useful this technology could be."

The site the company had set up, sp2torrent.com, now points those in search of SP2 directly to the software maker.

"If you need Windows XP SP2, you can download it from Microsoft's inscrutable webpage," the group said on the site.

The file that Downhill Battle had been distributing is actually an update that Microsoft said is designed for companies that want to update large numbers of machines. Microsoft finalized the code for SP2 last week but has not yet made available the download that is designed to upgrade individual machines. The company has said it will do so by the end of the month.

Some analysts had expressed security concerns over getting such an update other than through Microsoft, Wilson said that files distributed by peer-to-peer networks can be authenticated using a secure hash, as can those distributed directly by Microsoft.

Despite the situation, Wilson said his organization thinks its effort around SP2 was a success. Eventually, he said, Microsoft and other large companies will start to see the positive role that peer-to-peer networks can play.

"Even established companies like Microsoft will be using technology like this in the next few years to distribute large files," Wilson said in an interview. "There truly are compelling reasons to use this technology. Eventually the utility is going to win out."

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