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 …
If you don't pay for the software you've copied, it's piracy. There is no "we were a bit hard up, so thought it'd be fine", if they were invoiced and didn't pay, or make arrangements to pay, they in effect pirated the software.
I am not sure.
There doesn't seem to be any suggestion here that anyone has installed any software without valid licences for that software. Without that happening, I find it hard to say that it is software piracy. On occasions when I have needed to restore Windows on a PC, I have been known to download the correct Windows image on Bit Torrent, burn a disc, and then do a reinstall on a machine *with a valid licence*. Does that make me a pirate? I vote for no.
It may be that Comet is in breach of their licence with Microsoft in other ways, or has charged customers for things it was not supposed to charge them for, and it may be that a company in financial trouble did some slightly dubious things to make payroll or some such. If so, they should be punished for it. (It is also good practice for the new owners to do a proper audit and make sure everything is above board and that anything bad that was done in the past is properly accounted for and not repeated, and this may be what is actually happening here). However, copyright industries have a habit of shouting "piracy" when opposing almost anything they don't like, and they should not be able to get away with this.
"and our customers deserve better, too," he said"
Yes we deserve a copy of the media to install in event of a hard drive failure.
This is why I NEVER buy a machine with Windows pre installed now.
Its about time the OFT looked at this con, and ensured that consumers get full access to the use they are licenced for, including forcing Microsoft to provide replacement media FOC in event of the drive failing - maybe that will stop this stupid hidden partition stuff.
When I buy a machine with a 750Gb HDD I expect to have ALL of that available for the installed system and my files, not to have a chunk of it hidden away from me to save Redmond a few pence on a DVD..
The "poor customer" comes a long way past Redmond squeezing every cent they can our of their "poor customers" with sharp practices like this, although Im not surprised by the blatant hypocrisy in that statement.
But it's the OEM who choose to use a recovery partition to save a few pence, not Microsoft.
At least with dell* pre-installs there's relatively little cruft, and you get a recovery CD, that is actually a rebadged version of the full windows install disk (usually with the service pack slipstreamed in).
*Dell business that is.
Missing the point
The OP was referring to the use of recovery images of any sort (whether partition of optical disk) rather than supplying a proper Windows Installation disk. As it is, if your PC dies and you can't get a like-for-like replacement or for certain upgrades (especially mother boards), your recovery disk is useless as it's tied into specifics about the hardware config. Of course, the OEM end-user licenses specifically tie licences into a particular PC (without defining what that means in detail), but for many, access to a proper install disk at least allows for the possibility (activation issues allowing) of installing a new motherboard or the like.
Dell have been getting a bit silly with this lately, offering the choice of *not* having the OS recovery media and saving a couple of quid off the order.
Frankly, I don't see the point. Yes, some organisations have Volume Licence agreements. If they're stupid enough to still buy their machines with a preinstalled OS, GIVE THEM THE &%$*ING RECOVERY MEDIA ALONG WITH IT. Whatever you lose in cash you will more than make up for in customer goodwill.
I don't understand why OEMs are so goddamn stupid about this. Hell, even Apple provided reinstall media for the MacBook Airs on a USB drive - or at least, they did before the advent of Lion and its combination of recovery partition and network-accessible (and slow as all hell) downloadable recovery tools...
A bit silly
Captain Underpants: "Dell have been getting a bit silly with this lately, offering the choice of *not* having the OS recovery media and saving a couple of quid off the order."
It's a bit silly that they don't offer the choice of not having the OS at all and saving rather more than a couple of quid...
Oh, don't get me started on that, they can be an absolute disaster when it comes to what OSs they offer machines with. "Yeah, you can have RHEL 6 on that one, but for some reason our amazingly nifty and not at all crap online interface won't let you generate a quote for it so you'll have to request bespoke quotes every time you need one of these workstations with it..."
(I suspect that the relative paucity of vendors going along with the idea of refunding the Windows tax these days is down to Microsoft being more aggressive about allowing them to do so, but there's no way to prove this...)
"no way to prove this..."
What proof do you need?
It is widely known that for volume vendors like Dell and HP to get best possible Windows prices for their volume desktop/laptop/etc product, they HAVE to commit to selling each one with Windows (and preferably the V.latest version of Windows that MS want them to sell), regardless of whether Windows V.latest is what the end customer wants.
This is where the expression "Windows tax" comes from, it's not just a sarky remark, it's a reflection of MS business practices.
I can't give you a link to a document which proves this, but anyone who says it isn't the way it works is lying.
No, because OEM is tied to the motherboard
OEM licences are defined quite clearly if you read the Microsoft EULA - the only issue is that a variety of people don't like what it says.
OEM licences can be bought by anyone, business or otherwise, they *should* (but no-one will know if you don't) be installed using a scripted install/re-sealed install over an existing image, are tied to the motherboard and are non transferable between users (I would have to re-read the EULA to be certain if this permits re-selling a second user system with an already installed copy of OEM Windows. No-one is going to know, but I don't think it's allowed)
Therefore, even though I don't much like the practice of recovery disks, I can understand why because OEM licences are explicitly tied to the motherboard. If the motherboard dies, it should be replaced with the same model. The telephone based OEM license activators may decide to be kind/cant be arsed arguing if you swap it out for something different but it's definitely not on to change up to a higher spec motherboard.
If you want a transferable licence (transferable once only), able to be moved between different hardware, buy the retail edition. That's the difference from OEM.
It's also worth knowing that very large customers (Dell), get a copy of Windows that is BIOS locked, not motherboard locked. There's a special table in the version of Windows and the BIOS that allows it to be installed without activation. This makes life easier for the hardware vendor and Microsoft, and is also the reason it's possible to find BIOS hacks to make your system pretend to be a Dell/HP/etc.
Of course pricing and most probably licensing in Dell etc levels of order quantity is a special deal. I don't know what conditions are attached to such deals. This is yet another reason why a standard Windows disk is not supplied. It's penny pinching not to provide a DVD, though.
Oh I don't know. Consider the following conversation.
"My PC doesn't work? Can you fix it?"
"Yes. However, your Windows installation is damaged / filled with crap / your hard drive has failed. Could you give me the box of CDs that came with your PC when you bought it?"
"What box of CDs?"
This conversation is no less common in cases where I know that the PC came with recovery discs as in cases where I know it didn't. (What I then do is scrounge for compatible disc images from somewhere else, download drivers from somewhere or other, and do a reinstall. Is that wrong? No).
So possibly recovery discs have been left out because people who know how to use them don't actually need them, and people who don't never use them.
Microsoft doesn't enforce this very hard though.
Buy a PC from any OEM you like. Register the copy of Windows with Microsoft. Replace the motherboard. If Windows demands reactivation - it doesn't always - go through Microsoft's activation procedure, which might involve calling them. They will generally reactivate it fine. Although an OEM licence for Windows is theoretically tied to one PC, they don't really care how much hardware you change, as long as the licence is only used for one PC at a time.
> Is that wrong? No
Yes, actually, it probably is.
If you're grabbing copies of OEM installations, you are breaching copyright.
That you are incredibly unlikely to get caught is irrelevant; your actions are unlawful, even if they seem to make sense to you and me.
The main thrust of the post I replied to was about the use of recovery partitions and how the poster felt he/she was being cheated out of drive space.
"Yes we deserve a copy of the media to install in event of a hard drive failure."
And you will get one if you make it, which is supported by 90% of OEMS ( i think its higher but theres bound to be some wierd OEM that does somethign stupid).
In fact some computers pop up a box on first run saying "make your discs, click here to do it" (and the acer my dad got for xmas even came with blank discs so they could be made, so didn't even have to buy discs).
So if this is really the reason you don't buy windows (I doubt it to be honest, i am sensing anti MS sentiments, reguardless of the fact that OEM's do this anyway) then you are basing it on factualyl inaccurate statements
'Dell have been getting a bit silly with this lately, offering the choice of *not* having the OS recovery media and saving a couple of quid off the order.
Frankly, I don't see the point'
The point is for organizations that DON'T have volume license agreements, but still buy lots of systems with the same config. For example, buy 50 of model A, get two with recovery media and save money on the other 48 (since it's the same disc.)
"The deal is expected to close next month"
As of this morning, perhaps, maybe not....
Unless this matter has already come up in the due dilligence and been dealt with, I'd expect a re-negotiation of terms so that in effect the buyer is "held harmless" from legal action, which might take a bit of prising out of Kesa who must this morning be feeling very cheesed off.
I have of course assumed that MS will do as the RIAA et al do when they sue for infringement and claim for the loss at full retail value for each copy.
That's seriously dumb if its just a recovery disk. I had an acer's primary drive (with useless recovery partition on it) die. Their utility to burn your own backups never worked. I took it as a reason to switch to win 7 which had just been released.
Steam has a great system, just enter your serials for their games into your account and you can redownload games even after losing the disk. That's customer service. Screwing customers over who have paid for your product is poor business. I have two other machines with similar media issues, ones now running solaris, the other is running ubuntu (I know, sorry!). Ms makes some great software but they also make some huge errors. The whole just upgrade or pay a ridiculous amount for recovery media is one, that hideous ribbon interface is another. The competition is getting better year on year. It's more and more feasible to switch to nix or mac (nix in prettier panties) than it ever was. Ms might end up relegated to a rarely used vmware window and I won't need to upgrade that, just keep a copy of the image.
CD != License
I thought in software licensing, it's the license + key that has value, not the physical media.
Isn’t the whole thing with an MS license that you don’t OWN the software, you don’t own the product, you are paying for and receiving a license to use that software under the terms given.
So 94,000 copied install discs is one thing, but they are surely useless without hacks or pirate keys, and I think we'd know by now if that was the case.
Presumably the discs were to accompany the license key stickers on the machines they were selling. I'm not for one second saying that counterfeit Microsoft branded discs on a commercial scale isn't seriously wrong, but I can't help but feel that a copy of an install CD that is useless without a paid for, legitimately owned license to use that product, isn't really software theft in the traditional sense? So what has actually been pirated here, a media CD and package worth say a pound?
Whilst what you say is logical
Regardless of whatever licence you have to use the content of the DVD (i.e. the software), the content of the DVD is copyrighted, you can't lawfully duplicate it without prior consent.
yes, and frankly i find it bizarre that MS would discourage such practice.
a user has purchased a licence to use the software, and in the event of system corruption or hard drive failure, the user has lost the mean to reinstall the software.
For my last two machines, I've taken a full image of the hard drive before I boot it for the first time.
The only way to be sure.
You could try nuking it from orbit.
how many people wanted to make that comment
> how many people wanted to make that comment
You can probably infer that number from the number of people making the comment...
I, for one, am enjoying this current season of non-moderation. Long may it continue!
I looked into this a while back and it seems the Windows installation script 'tattoos' the HD restore image with some sort of a HW (copy) specific key. The restore CDs / DVDs created after installation probably get the same. This seems like a (half) measure against making a copy of Windows by HD cloning, but also, in practice, means 'encouraging' an upgrade in case of HD failure translating into a pretty penny in total.
but saw it has already been made
I'm thinking that MS may have been supplying Windows to these companies slightly cheaper because they weren't supplying recovery disks, as mentioned, probably to reduce "piracy" by having less full Windows discs around. Its a shady business, and I will probably find I cannot use a standard Windows 7 disc (which I also legally own) to restore my Sony laptop. It will probably install, but never activate. I will have to use the disc image on the drive / DVD. Thats been happening since the XP days.
I think I may be the only one that reads the popup when I first switch on my shiny new laptop which clearly states "Insert x DVD('s) to burn your recovery media" I have recovered so many laptops now where people have ignored such a warning, and wondered which it takes 10 times longer to recover at 10 times the cost.
I personally couldn't care whether I have a Windows disc, or a disc image, so long as I can reinstall Windows to my laptop somehow.
I made sure to create recovery disks when buying laptops for family members last year and this year (fortunately, they pay for their own stuff while I make sure it will work down the road). I'd rather just pay for a shiny stamped disk because it's just easier, much like the longer line cords to plug into the power supply. Most people, that I have to fix computers for, do not create these disks. It may be laziness, but I find it easier to use a pirated version to restore the computer to a functional state rather than trying to remove whatever virus(s) are on the machine (hdd failure is pretty rare). I've never had a problem with this, since the version matches the license on the sticker. Sure, they lose some bundled software (bloatware), but odds are it wasn't being used anyways.
'I know Microsoft don't want DVDs floating around to cut down on piracy'
WTF? Are you really that dumb?
Is this why Microsoft sell retail DVD's?
To cut down on piracy?
The mind boggles.
If its a *true* recovery disk
then I dont see how M$ has a leg to stand on.
True recovery disk are generally locked to the specific hardware manufacturer and so wont install on anything else.
Even its a full install as long as Comet are not distributing a license key I can't see what the beef is.
In both cases the disks have no intrinsict value. they are essentially useless without the correct key or hardware.
This smacks of MS being arses and scoring cheap points under the pretext of fighting piracy.
The only way I cannot see this being the case is if MS's and Comets wholesale licensing agreement includes an extra charge to produce recovery disks that Comet declined to pay.
It's going to get interesting if it's media without licence keys or activation files, given that 10 seconds in google will lead you to sites like http://forum.notebookreview.com/windows-os-software/428068-legal-windows-7-download-links-just-like-vista-before.html which point out that you can quite easily download ISO images of Win7 media from DigitalRiver.
> I dont see how M$ has a leg to stand on.
Oh, they do.
The software on these disks is copyrighted. That means that it is unlawful to copy unless you have a licence from the copyright owner to do so.
Whether or not the copied disk is of any use to you *makes no difference*. Copyright law doesn't care whether or not a copy is useful, just whether or not it is authorised.
> This smacks of MS being arses
That's probably the case. But that doesn't mean they don't have the full weight of the law behind them.
"The software on these disks is copyrighted. That means that it is unlawful to copy unless you have a licence from the copyright owner to do so."
Or the law allows you to because it is "fair use" or whatever your local equivalent is called.
Bottom line: if you paid for a copy of Windows then you generally have the right to make a back up. Can you pay someone to make that backup for you (because you're the sort of computer user who shops at Comet)? Almost certainly, although the wonderful thing about judges is that they can make any decision they like without any reference to the law or justice so it's usually best to settle things out of court if you can.
> because it is "fair use"
You assume that there is any such provision in the law.
Note that this is a UK case; UK law does not have clear "fair use" exemption from copyright, just a number of instances where behaviour is not deemed to be a breach. This situation most certainly is not covered.
> if you paid for a copy of Windows then you generally have the right to make a back up
But Comet does not.
> Can you pay someone to make that backup ... Almost certainly
Section 50A of CDPA88 (which governs backup copies under UK law) makes no such provision.
> judges ... can make any decision they like without any reference to the law or justice
That is what generates appeals. It is comparatively rare to find a judge who simply ignores the law.
The issue we have is that many of our laws are actually quite unjust. CDPA88 is one such law; we can't blame the judiciary for upholding it, we must blame the politicians for making it.
"It is comparatively rare to find a judge who simply ignores the law."
>> "It is comparatively rare to find a judge who simply ignores the law."
Well, rather than just posting your assertions, why don't you go and find some evidence?
If it's as commonplace an activity as you imply, that shouldn't be an imposition.
The problem is that so many people believe they understand the law, without actually every having read it. Judges rarely flout the law because it is so easy for that flouting to be undone on appeal. Judges often make unpopular decisions because the law does not say what urban myth would have us believe it says.
I think, Vic, Robert may have been laughing with you rather than at you..
Burn your own recovery media?
The Asus laptop I bought last year nagged me endlessly to burn my own copies of the recovery media. On a machine with no optical drive! Did not fancy buying USB DVD writer so merely imaged the existing partitions.
If you take down COMET, PC WORLD might go next and then where will the Far East sell all it's shitty sub-par notebooks and desktops? Staples? Toy'R'Us? Homebase?!?
who cares? it's not as if any of el reg's readership actually buy anything from these hell-holes.
i for one look forward to the death of pc world. it can't come soon enough.
My First PC
My first PC had an application to make floppy disk backups of the DOS and Windows install.
11 floppy disks later, and a newbie crash, I was informed by support to reinstall
" You did make backups of the OS installers didn't you? "
Thank goodness I did
More to this than meets the eye I reckon.
It could be that Comet were charging for the disks rather than just including them with the PCs that caught MS's attention.
I get very agitated when a customer asks me to repair or rebuild their old XP/Vista machines. The first question I have to ask is "Do you have the original OS CDs to hand?"
There is the customary pause then they usually respond "Err no!"
If its a Vista laptop/PC then usually there is a recovery partition but often these are so complicated I wonder how the average user is supposed to use them. Some even need the PC to be properly working to actually recover from! If its a Dell that's okay as I have a full selection of Dell recovery/OS disks to hand. If its an old XP Acer/Bizzaro brand then its pretty much tough luck as MS have tightened up the activation checking databases and unless you use the exact manufacturer OEM CD now you are screwed. They really don't want you re-using that XP now.
It can be so frustrating especially when you are just trying to re-install a OS that the Machine has a licence stuck to it for. At the end of the day there is no change, the user carries on using XP/Vista just as they paid for a few years back but oh no.....
I now have to spend around 90 minutes for every laptop I buy in for customers creating the damn recovery DVDs. If I leave it to them then chances are a year later I'm screwed.
Love it when EULA's and common sense collide.
The Valuable bit of the Windows Product - the bit you pay money for, and the bit Microsoft care about in a software audit - is the COA - Certificate Of Authenticity - slapped on the side of OEM Machines.
As long as you have a (Non-Counterfeit) one of those, that's the license.
You can take any standard XP/Vista/7 Media, install it, and throw that key in, needing a telephone software activation at best, and end up with a genuine and licensed windows instance.
Without further details, it appears Comet did not include Microsoft Authorised Windows/Recovery media, which would need the legal COA to work (yes, ignoring BIOS Activation for the sake of clarity, here), A Pragmatic, but illegal solution to the problem of failed customer PC's, especially Hard Drive failures, which take the recovery partition.
So Yeah, Comet may be technically breaking their Microsoft contract, but it probably resulted in minimum illegal installs, especially if they checked you were entitled to order it before by having an applicable PC before selling it to you
This could all be avoided if Microsoft did the decent thing for consumers, and re-write it's OEM License to stipulate either Windows media or recovery media is included with each license, but I think we all know the chances of that happening, mainly because that would help End Users and IT Shops service their own systems, keeping them running for longer.
"The Valuable bit of the Windows Product - the bit you pay money for, and the bit Microsoft care about in a software audit - is the COA - Certificate Of Authenticity - slapped on the side of OEM Machines.
As long as you have a (Non-Counterfeit) one of those, that's the license."
Looks at bottom of less than a year old notebook and see vaguely green and white sticker with a bit of silver. No numbers or letters visible.
Fortunately I have a photo of it....somewhere
Was any operating system stolen - nope not seeing it
Seriously I'm with Comet on this one. From what I can tell they were being forced by Microsoft to sell a product not fit for purpose -- ie selling a operating system in a state that it could not be recovered as you had no bloody media to do so!
Copying and selling a operating system - yeah thats piracy go to em Microsoft BUT in this case I do believe Microsoft are not only acting like douche but with a good lawyer this could actualy come back to bite them.
Go go Comet.
PS anybody else who has had to fix a friends computer were they were not given any OS media but there PC has a valid OS liscense will fully apprecieate Comet on this matter. Indeed I recall a situation were I called Microsoft who were utterly usless saying yes the PC has a legal operating system and no they couldn;t send me recovery disc's as they never sold the PC. Too me Microsoft selling PC's directly or indirectly without the ability to service them and maintain them to a fully working state (IE the Operating system disc) is IMHO misselling or indeed selling a product not fit for purpose.
Wonder if the legality of the EULA will get tested?
That I would like to see...
The EULA is not up for discussion here - this is simple copyright infringement.
Hmm just remembered what Comet is valued at :)
Even if Comet loss and if common sence prevails then they wont, but if they do. Is Microsoft aware that they were sold a few months back for the pricely sum of £1.00, now the financial crisis has gone on since so that may of been devalued somewhat. So as Microsoft is being an ass then even if they win - could be interesting.