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Some Shallow Thoughts On BitTorrent And Red Hat

Edward Felten made some pretty interesting points about BitTorrent being the litmus for future court cases based on the Grokster ruling and I agree with much of what he puts forward. I don't think that BitTorrent is going to end up in the same cement shoes that Grokster was fitted for.

Red Hat, love them or hate them, uses BitTorrent pretty heavily in the distribution of Fedora Core. The obvious argument, as was the case over at Freedom To Tinker in the comments, is that Red Hat doesn't distribute their paid product through BitTorrent and that it's essentially distributing party favors via the MPAA's great satan. That is entirely true. It doesn't charge for and subsequently distribute RHEL (a great satan to an equal number of folks with less money and more moral rigor) through BitTorrent. There isn't a real argument there.

Something that might be worth considering is that since Fedora Core is a test bed for the development and revision of software that will eventually make its way into RHEL BitTorrent plays an invaluable role in allowing Red Hat to distribute its test releases to unpaid lackeys without footing the bill for a hojillion terabytes of bandwidth. In theory (I'm trying to see this as a court might), BitTorrent is a a part of their development/quality assurance process which they're doing with their intellectual property or properly licensed IP. I really wonder if the courts would be willing to make a decision that undermines a successful software company. Yeah, I know, they're profitable on paper but still as a defense of BitTorrent against the charge that it is used mainly for illegal purposes this might actually be a sane position to take. Then again, I'm not a lawyer and I'm totally an asshole so take the lid off the salt shaker.

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