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back to article Comet 'sold 94,000 pirate Windows CDs', claims Microsoft

Microsoft has accused high-street retailer Comet of pirating 94,000 Windows Vista and Windows XP recovery CDs and selling them to consumers. The software giant announced this morning that it had filed a suit against Comet Group PLC, accusing the group of manufacturing counterfeit discs at a factory in Hampshire and selling them …

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Whoa !

They can't have been that dumb surely ?

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I don't know. I've had a fake Western Digital USB hard drive from them, though that may not have been their fault. The box looked like it should, but when I got inside, the drive was substantially less than the advertised capacity, I can't remember the numbers but it was something like 330GB instead of 2TB, and the general feel and finish of the product was clearly not Western Digital quality. To be fair, they did refund without any fuss.

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re: fake Western Digital USB hard drive

What branch did this happen. Why open the box before returning when that would have voided the warrenty. What hapened when you reported this to fake Western Digital?

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Meh

I assume by 'box' Jonathanb meant the packaging which he said looked ok, rather than the drive's enclosure!

It would be a pretty poor warranty if you voided it by getting the product out of its packaging to use it!

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Shh, Mr Harris...

...don't give them any more bloody ideas!!

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I did indeed. The cardboard box and plastic packaging looked OK. The USB enclosure did not. I've no idea what the SATA drive inside the USB enclosure looked like because I didn't crack it open.

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Anonymous Coward

"It would be a pretty poor warranty if you voided it by getting the product out of its packaging to use it!"

It would indeed, but that is the kind of warranty you get with most commercial software.

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Anonymous Coward

I wonder if it was pirating or just recovery media

If it was recovery media then I cant see the problem, unless it was downgrade to XP for Windows 7, in which case MS would have a hissy fit.

however I just spoke to a colleague who used to work at comet and he recalls Comet having to stop selling recovery media because MS had a hissy fit.

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I'm guessing the issue is Comet 'selling' Microsoft copyright product - ie making money and not sharing any with the owners.

Good PC sellers provide a recovery disk for free/inclusive. Had Comet done the same, would it have been a problem? If they had just charged the media cost, would it have been a problem? Or just with a tiny admin cost? What were they selling it for and were they licensed to - as Dell etc are?

Linux folks have been known to get a little hissy when other folk stuff their product on a CD and try and make money out of it.

(Or even build the biggest corporation in the world on it - as SJ wouldn't say).

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@Stuart 22

I've never noticed Linux types get upset over companies making a profit from products that use Linux — such as Android — or from the vanilla sale of Linux-based OSes, as Redhat, Suse and many others have done. They get upset if companies use Linux and fail to respect the GPL by making their modifications available, but as that's a licence violation I think that's understandable.

As for Comet, it sounds like a simple contractual dispute. Comet obviously thought they had the right to manufacture those discs. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

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Anonymous Coward

BOTH

Selling Recovery Media is the problem. Recovery is included, you are supposed to make your own disks. Comet Added a price to include a hard copy on disk. thereby adding a wedge of their own to something that was already included in the intended package.

Microsoft are not happy about comet making a profit from their product.

If you ask me Both companies deserve to loose the case. MS for choosing not to include the disks and comet should be slapped for charging for making a disk that the customer could make for free (included)...

Comet were not giving anything the customer did not have rights to and MS should have given it in the first place.

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Really?

You obviously don't download much GPL software. The comment 'never pay for this software' does sometimes appear on author's website for a reason. Google will find sites supplying exactly the same product for a price. Parasites!

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Vic
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> You obviously don't download much GPL software.

I do.

> The comment 'never pay for this software' does sometimes appear on author's website

Very rarely.

What you will occasionally see is an author warning about others re-badging his software (sometimes legally, often not) and claiming it to be some sort of "authorised" version.

> Google will find sites supplying exactly the same product for a price.

Yes.

> Parasites!

Sometimes. Other times, they are bundling it with something else (e.g. support).

But note that selling GPL software is *explicitly* permitted by the licence, so long as you conform to the other conditions.

Vic.

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Comet 'selling' Microsoft copyright product

> I'm guessing the issue is Comet 'selling' Microsoft copyright product - ie making money and not sharing any with the owners.

It don't say they were selling the disks seperatly. If so, bump up the price of laptop and 'give away' the recovery CD.

"The allegedly counterfeit recovery discs were then sold to customers who had bought desktops and laptops running Windows"

I don't think this is the real issue. MS moved from full recovery disks some time ago. What you got was a reduced version that restored from a hidden partition on the harddrive. This presumably to reduce 'piracy'. If you replaced the HD the the restore CD didn't work. Tough luck on the enduser I guess. I figure Comet were providing full recovery CDs ...

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Umm... no.

"MS moved from full recovery disks some time ago. What you got was a reduced version that restored from a hidden partition on the harddrive. This presumably to reduce 'piracy'. If you replaced the HD the the restore CD didn't work. Tough luck on the enduser I guess. I figure Comet were providing full recovery CDs ..."

Microsoft provides several options for OEMs bundling Windows from including a full install disc to various forms of recovery discs. While some OEMs may make their recovery discs dependent upon the installed HDD, most of them don't.

All of the systems I've reinstalled to recently (some Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, HP models) installed from the recovery disc to a completely blank HDD fine. If you have a specific example (Brand/model) where the recovery disc would not install to a blank HDD, please let me know, and I'll make sure to avoid that brand.

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It's the manufactures choice not Microsoft. Dell comes with recover discs will HP tends to make you order them on burn them your self .

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Anonymous Coward

> > You obviously don't download much GPL software.

> I do.

So do I. I also write it in the first place.

> > The comment 'never pay for this software' does sometimes appear on author's website

Not on GPL licenced software it doesn't, as one of the things we explicitly give you along with the code is the right to profit from it. I am actually quite happy for people to sell my software, as it increases visibility.

Apart from the GPL, the same holds true for any other free software licence, as defined by the FSF, who also have a list of free, quasi-free, and non-free licences on their website.

You (not Vic, the other lad) really need to educate yourself before talking any more nonsense. I suggest you may start here: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html

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two things

It's not Microsoft who decide whether to include media in the box with a PC. It's the PC manufacturer.

And I haven't seen any clear-cut indication that Comet were actually charging a specific fee for the recovery discs. Microsoft's PR claims Comet was 'selling' the discs, but they could easily justify such a claim even if Comet didn't actually charge any specific Recovery Disc Fee, just stuck some discs in with the PC. Unless you have personal knowledge / memory of this, I don't think you can assume Comet were actually charging people specifically for the discs. Comet's statement implies that they simply provided the discs along with the systems they sold as a service to customers, they didn't charge extra.

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Making disks for a user is not a problem

There is nothing wrong with making recovery disks for a user and charging a fee. There is nothing wrong in charging a user for doing something that they could have done themselves for free.

Starbucks does that all the time (ie. charging the punter a few $ to make coffee that they could have made themselves). Many computer shops will offer a service to install a computer for those that see the job (ie. take it out of the box, plug in cables and turn it on).

The devil will be in the details.

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Anonymous Coward

Correct me if im wrong, but Android isnt "Sold" and Radhat is technically free but comes with support and added services, which is wat you pay for, course you cant get a "free" version, but none the less, the OS its self is technically free, in a odd technically incorrect way :)

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Vic
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> There is nothing wrong with making recovery disks for a user and charging a fee.

That's pretty much the argument Psystar used.

Trouble is - it's wrong.

You may not copy copyrighted software without a licence from the copyright holder.

Windows users who have a Windows licence have that licence to copy as necessary (including the CDPA section 50A exemptions). But no-one has the right to do that on their behalf, nor may they make copies for other people - that right is not transferable.

> Starbucks does that all the time

No they don't. Coffee is not copyrighted.

Vic.

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Vic
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> Correct me if im wrong

OK.

> but Android isnt "Sold"

Yes it is.

> and Radhat is technically free

No it isn't.

> the OS its self is technically free, in a odd technically incorrect way :)

in a *very* incorrect way - i.e. that's wrong. RH OSes are Free, but not free.

Vic.

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Boffin

Sometimes

You mention that Dell come with full recovery discs - only the business models do in my experience, if you've cut corners and bought one of the cheaper home systems then you have to pay extra for the recovery media (I know this was the case a few years ago at lease, a friend was quoted £60 for the XP media alone by the Dell helpdesk!).

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Obviously they where doing a service which they aren't allow to do. If you loose your self made recovery discs or find them not to work, you can ask the OEM for one and your not allowed to use another media with your license (serial). Only the OEM's media is valid. That's actually a problem many times. Here they were offering a copy of the recovery disc instead of saying call the OEM. Other stores obviously offer this service for free at request because they don't want to anger or deal with the customer in some war over it. It's just a fact of life that this type of copying happens.

You can get media with some systems, if you specifically asks/specifies it when you order it before they deliver it. But not on all systems, where you then have to ask for the original media from the OEM if you got none when you need it or say sell the system. Which nobody does for that matter making it illegal to use any license on the chassi without requesting a legal disc any way.

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Linux

GPL 2

Have you ever read the GPL 2 license?

Term 1:

"1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program's source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the notices that refer to this License and to the absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this License along with the Program.

You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy, and you may at your option offer warranty protection in exchange for a fee."

So "You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy", doesn't specify how much. That could be a penny or <Dr Evil> 100 hundred million dollars</Dr Evil>.

What you can't do is stop anyone doing the same. So for instance, you may have really fast broadband, download some GPL software and then sell copies on CD for £5 a pop if you wish to other interested folks (maybe those still on dialup or something like that), and they can provide copies of the software for free or for a charge too.

Rob

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Anonymous Coward

Ouch !

It's like someone *really* has it in for Comet.

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This is a tricky one, the recovery CDs are only of use if you already purchased the software. I know Dell used to sell them for £5.

But I guess only MS has the right to reproduce their software even if the customer has a license for it.

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Microsoft should be sued for not providing recovery disk in the first place, if I have a license to use the software and its pre-installed then I should get a disk with it anyway and not have to rely on a stupid recovery partition which is useless the moment the hard drive dies.

I currently have a Dell mini which is knackered, I cant rebuild it since it came with no disk, I cant get a recovery CD because its a cut down windows and whats even worse there's nothing that Dell or MS will do about it other than try and sell me their latest device....... Surely that's not fair on customers!!!

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"Microsoft should be sued for not providing recovery disk in the first place"

It was your OEM that decided not to bundle a disc and rely on a stupid partition in order to save £1 or so on a commodity cheapest-wins system. Do you get physical media with everything you download/install?

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Anonymous Coward

Yes

I had the same problem with my brother-in-law's laptop, and ended up having to resort to piracy to get Vista working (well, for a given definition of the word) in the end. The major downside to this is the Windows Genuine Advantage thingy failed a month or two after I "activated" Windows using the original CD key (not immediately, alas) so your mileage may vary.

I know Microsoft don't want DVDs floating around to cut down on piracy, but since it took only about half an hour for me to find and download a pirate DVD anyway it's obviously not working. They should have some easier way of getting hold of a recovery disc.

Incidentally as my brother-in-law's laptop was the only PC in the house with a DVD burner for the pirate Vista ISO file I had to first run Ubuntu on it to burn the disc. That took literally half a minute to boot up and work, making me wonder whether or not Windows was really worth it after all...

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Anonymous Coward

They changed teh rules

Or rather the licence agreement.

It would be very easy to just give you a disk that factory re-sets your windows box but they don't want to, quite simply.

They want you to buy a new system with a new (pre-installed) copy of windows.

Of course, they do often provide the ability to create recovery disks of your own and often include recovery partitions that enable you to recover windows but to your average user you might as well be asking them to make a jpeg of a smiley face using a hex editor.

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Linux

all jokes aside ...

it was this problem that first got me to try linux. Maybe MS should consider this before throwing a hissy fit

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I've just had to pay £35 for a Toshiba recovery CD.

I did get one with the laptop, but I've moved house three times since buying it, so it's been lost.

£35 stuck me as a lot of money, but seeing as the only alternative is paying £80+ for an OEM copy of Windows they've got me over a barrel.

This is the only expense I've had with the laptop since I bought it 5 years ago, and the first time I've done a system restore, so that's not bad really...

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@Alan 6

After being stung in a similar fashion I've taken to having ISO images of recovery discs stored on an external drive. Technically redundant, yes, but useful if the disc itself gets scratched or damaged somehow...

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Linux

why?

Go to microsoft, I downloaded vista 32/64 and 7 32 and 64 restore cd's for when I fix other peoples PCs.

No piracy required, the OS your restoring has to be installed already for the CDs to work.

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Anonymous Coward

@SJRulez Why not un-brick it with a free Linux install?

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@andrew brown

And if the hard drive is dead and needs replacing? What then? You bought a PC and paid for the pre-installed OS, so the least they can do is give you a copy of the installer CDs in case you need to perform a complete reinstall. 'Recovery' discs which rely on an existing install are just no good when you're facing hardware failure.

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Great...

So now your brother-in-law has an OS with the malware baked in. :-\

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Well not really.

"£35 stuck me as a lot of money, but seeing as the only alternative is paying £80+ for an OEM copy of Windows they've got me over a barrel."

There is another alternative: Don't lose the recovery cd in the first place. That you did lose it is no one's fault but your own, in spite of how many times you've changed your digs. Any peripheral or accessory with a brand name on it is way overpriced, be it adapters, carrying bags, batteries, or, especially, replacement parts. There is no reason to expect a recovery cd to be an exception to this iron law.

(I mean, I sympathize with you about the price-gouging but still, the problem in your case was avoidable.)

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Linux

No recovery partition

I know its not a DVD, but they do work (if you have one). Dell should sell you a recovery DVD if you ring them I think

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FAIL

Huh?

So how does that work on a blank HDD that has just been fitted to replace the one that bricked?!?

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Anonymous Coward

Yawn ...

Bored now.

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Holmes

Recovery

When my netbook bricked I reinstalled XP downloaded from a torrent site and used the key printed on the label on the body of the netbook (HP) Worked fine with no problem and still does after a year.

My understanding is what MS sell is a license to use the software so if you have that you can use any disc you like. Likewise Comet were not selling a license they were providing a restore service not permission to use pirated software.

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Happy

That's a license, all right

I Wanted to buy licenses for another 4 Windows 2K machines (that was sometime ago), but there was only XP around. At that time You could buy a Windows XP Pro and install a Windows 2K with the license of the XP. 100% koscher, backed by Microsoft itself.

So i rang them, and asked:

- "I want to install 4 Windows 2K, but i don't find anyone selling them. I know I can use a license of WXP Pro. Is it right?" (Me)

- "Yes, it is" (Microsoft)

- "I don't have the media. How can I get one?" (Me)

- "You can make a copy of another W2K disc, no problem". (Microsoft)

- "Let me get this straight. I can buy a pirated copy of Windows 2K Professional, throw away the fake serial and use the legit one?" (Me)

- "Yes, that's right. You can." (Microsoft)

Truth be told, this was around 2006? 2004? Was during the hard transition period, from W2K to WXP.

Don't know how things are nowadays, in terms of copies of discs to use legit serial numbers. But at that time...

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Anonymous Coward

"you might as well be asking them to make a jpeg of a smiley face using a hex editor."

I laughed so hard there I peed a little... :)

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Bit of a late response but I've just stuck a copy of Backtrack on it.

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Bronze badge

Wording?

What's the betting it is down to some such legal womery as the EULA wording which means that Comet were in breach as you can only create the recovery disc AFTER registration. Good enough to slam someone who is semi-conscious to keep the anti-piracy flag flying but would go nowhere against someone who had the werewithal and interest to put up a fight.

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These are not the pirates you are looking for

Although this hits the emotional buttons about fake software and piracy, it seems much more likely that it was merely an accounting error. If Comet were producing discs under licence, then I'd guess that all that happened was they failed to pay MS their cut of the Windows royalties for some of the discs they made and have, since, been a bit tardy in coughing up.

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Strange. 2 friends had laptops from Comet at xmas 2010 - neither came with a recover disc - or any kind of optical media for that matter, the book says "make it yourself"

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Coat

wait, what?

A company in a dire financial situation 'been a bit tardy in coughing up' really?

NEVER! Must be piracy! landlubbers!

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