Windows

Poll: Is stealing from Microsoft OK because they have lots of money?

Poll: Is the use of a pirated or otherwise improperly licensed copy of Microsoft Windows ever justified? Care to explain?

Last week, I asked the poll question "Does the Activation Process Really Decrease Piracy?" and some of the responses struck me as peculiar. While the majority of the respondents were not convinced of the effectiveness of Microsoft's activation process, there were a few who seemed to express a more controversial sentiment. Their argument basically went like this: Microsoft Windows costs money, but it sucks, so why pay for it. If they made an operating system that was good, I wouldn't mind paying for it, but they don't, so I use a pirated copy.

At least that is what it sounds like to me. Of course the contradictory nature of the argument begs the question: Why use it at all if it sucks so bad that you are not willing to pay for it? But I digress.

In my mind's eye, stealing is stealing, and there is no justification for using a pirated piece of software. If you cannot afford it, you should not use it. If you are running a business, you are just asking for a world of trouble if you are running illegal copies of Windows or any software. The accountant in me knows it is not worth the risk.

So, we have these questions, and most likely many more will come up in the discussion thread.

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

381 comments
JimWold
JimWold

See Exodus 20:15 "Thou shalt not steal". It doesn't get any plainer than that.

ackray
ackray

That is a big difference from stealing. MS restrictive licensing means that recently when I had to do a recovery on an HDX-9101nr laptop my only choice was to run the OEM disks. Each attempt took SIX HOURS before it would fail. After TWO WEEKS of dealing with this I sent it back to HP so they could fix a mother board tattoo issue. Aparently as part of Vista 64 ultimate the MB had to have an extra level of security on it! Different editions of windows, and office require different installation disks so that the license already on the computer will be accepted and so on. Since MS makes supporting legitimate customers who purchased OEM so difficult - even to running a simple fix mbr - the machines will occasionally get whatever license key works. Pirated no, Improperly licensed and a larger charge to the customer yes.

Lightning Joe
Lightning Joe

...but they don't. It's no good to point to the act that is (thanks to the big profitter's efforts) illegal, and ask if its illegality makes it not okay. You never take Microsoft to task for their own crime (in everything but the name). Their own role in selling off billions of copies (relevant term: COPIES) of its exploitative get-rich scheme. Microsoft has more money than they will ever need, thanks to the state of legality in this country, yet they still insist on selling us the same (fixed, this time, no really!) software that they've never paid us for putting up with in the first place. Its DRM before DRM. WE bought the machine, but WE can't run it without an OS, SO, Microsoft kills or pulls the teeth of other free or low-cost OS's, and makes billions selling us their own? I realize this is legal, but that doesn't make it right. It's Microsoft's payback for all the effort the corporatists have put into making sure that our money is "really" their own. My reason is that I don't believe "piracy" is a crime, when doing what the lawyers all want is THE BEST WAY to ensure that we are always and forever to be enslaved to fill the coffers of our corporate masters. Take that and broil it.

fa023678
fa023678

No it is not but sometimes you are tempted to do so. As a "normal house user" it is creazy to switch very 2 year to a new operating system or a new office suite. Let alone the overhead cost it takes out of your budget if you want the reasonal pro version. Every other version is inferior in a way. A smarter policy would be to renew without the need of a service pack every 4 years which happens also to be the economic lifetime of most pc's. And as a plus sell the new ones at a pice around 100us to home users who will widen the path to the business users. When i am used and agile to a program at home I will certainly advce it for use at my firm. My firm wilm profit form the knowledge and skills I develloped by using it at home. Price settings and poorer innovation cercles which shorten all the time, push people to try/test the product for increasing periods in a more or less unofficial way. Only when the proofed solid rock their use and usefulness they are more willing to pay the licence.

tubaclarinet
tubaclarinet

Occasionally, if we are in a bind where we need to install a Windows OS right NOW, then we have to do it and pay for it later that week. However, we make a good-faith effort to track and pay for the Windows OS's that we install. We also us Linux whenever we can:)

jmbrasfield
jmbrasfield

I gave up on M$ software in the early 2000's when I found Linux. A real pain in the a-- then but it evolved. I find I'm am converting one or two home users over every month, Ubuntu or Mandriva. It's to bad business is so locked in with M$ software. The bright side, I install Linux servers into small, 1 to 5 units, Mom and Pop businesses and they love having the power of a server, mostly file/print servers, in their place of business. Easy to administer and easy to maintain, but still a pain in the a-- to install from time to time, mostly due to the M$ side. Windows doesn't seem to like to play nice with its neighbors. Go figure!

regcor
regcor

Microsoft found out that piracy doesn't pay when the US courts found that the software they use to make us Activate their products was actually pirated software. Rego27

merumaru
merumaru

for us living in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, where our salary per month is basically roughly about just two-three hundred US dollars, why spend that money just to buy a copy of legitimate Microsoft Windows? we have more important things in life that is prioritized first, like getting warm at night, keeps the light on, and so on.. u know.. and also when you can find a copy of a perfectly working WIN XP / Vista / 7 in the local PC shop for just literally equivalent to US$5, why buy the legal copy?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

is all wrong. No one can steal Microsoft software at all, unless they can break into where the source code is stored in Redmond and walk off with it. What this thread is all about is NOT paying the RENT to use Microsoft software, as you never buy the software, just permission to use it - just like you pay for permission to use someone else's house when you pay rent. edit to add - if I seem to be repeating what someone else has already said, it's possible, as I haven't read every post in the thread.

techrepublic
techrepublic

This other good reason which I will explain in the discussion that follows this blog post: This can be a fairly complicated issue. Here are my considerations: 1. It's true that Windows sucks, but that alone doesn't justify using pirated Windows. However, in response to the argument "Why use it at all if it sucks so bad that you are not willing to pay for it", there often is not a viable alternative. All the apps one uses may not be available for Mac or Linux. I see this as a pretty gray area. Just because "someone's a jerk" doesn't give you the right to rip them off, but Microsoft hold us hostage by trampling competition. Look at what they did to the Commodore Amiga. They in fact documentedly (if that's a real word) have been involved in underhanded activities toward both other vendors and users. I do not believe that taking something back that was taken from me first is stealing. 2. I don't believe that using unlicensed Windows in a purely lab environment for educational purposes is wrong. I'm NOT talking about schools, which charge for tuition. I'm talking about a home lab, with computers that are not used for any kind of production, but are only used for educational purposes, either for self-study or in combination with formal training. For example, I have three Server 2003 domain controllers set up to study for my MCSE. They're used ONLY for studying. 3. While I have used pirated Windows in the past for non-educational computers, I have obtained legitimate product keys for all of them. 4. Another consideration: I have important apps for which there is no new version, which run under Win2K but not under XP and probably won't run under Win7. For this reason I MUST continue to run Win2K. While my Win2K is legitimate, it's irritating that any software (and hardware) I buy has a very limited life span. I don't want to keep replacing all my expensive hardware and software due to lightning-fast obsolescense any more than I want to buy all new kitchen appliances every five years. While I have licensed shareware, I find it hard to bring myself to license shareware I may only use once, or very infrequently such as 2-3 times per year. Maybe shareware developers could come up with a number-of-uses option for licensing?

richard
richard

I do not completely feel I am stealing from microsoft. I have multiple pcs, I have multiple Licences, but do I have a valid licence on every pc I turn on? I don't even know anymore. When i assemble a pc from other good used parts does this void all licencing? MS thinks so. I seem to disagree and I am not going to pay for another licence each time I change something or location of a pc.

inject_yourself_with_liberty
inject_yourself_with_liberty

stealing is stealing... why in the world do you had to use it ? there is a hell lot of other option... ubuntu for instance, used it for couple of years as a developer and a student at the same time... ego never look back...

macka43
macka43

Microsoft itself has and still does STEAL ideas (and sometimes code) from other sources. It has never been 100% ethical. Microsoft uses us to test it's software and then charges us for the privilege of using it - no reward to us for helping them. Microsoft charges are inflated because it is greedy, has limited competition and is a cold, ruthless organisation with no soul. Yes, it's products are overall good, and they do deserve reward but their GREED provides justification for those prepared to use pirated copies. The World is in CRISIS because of the BAD ATTITUDES of top & middle level management within organisations toward the consumer. What's missing these days gentlemen is RESPECT (2 way).

cammsav
cammsav

I don't agree with outright stealing, using pirated codes, etc. However, I have serious problems with the MS OEM licensing scheme. If the end user wants to use their Windows license somewhere else because they are running Ubuntu on the box, go ahead..you paid for it. I don't care what kind of "deal" MS doles out; they can't subsequently tell me what do do with what I've purchased.

bogdan.grigorovici
bogdan.grigorovici

As long as MS does not provide a flexible network license system for their Office product people will continue to "borrow" it.

digitrog
digitrog

there aint much of the M$ software and OS's which is actually an original M$ idea! - even dating back to the so called "original" MSDOS [ this was originally called QDOS - Quick and Dirty OS, a product reverse-engineered from the CP/M OS ! ... ] ... but today don't tread on the toes of M$ - or suffer the wrath of the wanna-be gods of software ... registrations of M$ products still don't work properly - My Toshi Laptop running a Toshi. labeled Win XP, crashed during a forced OS update - and after uninstalling the updates to a stage the computer would re-start, I was then confronted with that "please validate this product" - window which was counting down from 10 days. But after restarting the computer only once - the countdown window suddenly shows expired - you must validate this copy of the XP OS ... I ended up contacting the M$ help line and had to talk to several of their techs for a period of literally hours - with "try this code" ... that didn't work, well try this code etc., and many times them asking " are you sure this OS has not been used before - ?? " and me having to re-explain yes of course - on this computer which just crashed because of a bad update " ... ok then, try this code ... I eventually got a validation code which re-activated the OS [and of course wrote it down for future reference ... ]. I have also seen a similar problem after a client only updated their video driver and the timer window locked them out ... .. and how many genuine registered versions of XP are still coming up with that "Invalid WGA ! - this is a pirated windows OS! " window ??? Certainly M$ should drastically reduce the cost of purchasing all of their products ... who can condone spending $1,000 just for the "Bill Gates ultimate version!" of an OS ?!?! which does nothing different to the standard over priced version anyway ... I certainly don't condone theft [I'm actually in a retail environment and have to encounter these problems daily ... ] ... ... but, try to find a computer user who has not "borrowed" some sort of software ... including the chiefs at M$ aren't innocent !!!

pauljoneshogan
pauljoneshogan

It is just about impossible to buy a genuine English version here in China. Microsoft make it so difficult to buy one anyway, I thought the best way to buy a genuine version would be to download it from the Microsft website. I have an international VISA card, America Dollars, or British Pounds, but I am not allowed to buy it because I live in China. So it seems the only way to get the operating system is the Chinese way,that,it seems is what Microsoft want me to do. How strange. Paul Hogan.

l_e_cox
l_e_cox

In most places stealing is illegal. It is against the law because it interferes with a person's sense of control over his immediate space and possessions. It is also illegal to protect the rich. How did the "rich" get that way? By honest hard work, or by stealing? We know that, historically, some fortunes were made due to the forced plunder of the Americas, and by the use of slave labor. It's a moral issue that hangs over our world. Many would like to think that their little acts of theft are "justified" because of all the more serious immoral acts that preceded us. But there are at least two reasons why you shouldn't steal: 1) Each being needs to maintain a sense of fair exchange with others around him or her. If that sense of exchange goes out they tend to nosedive personally, often taking others close to them with them. 2) Breaking the law directly exposes you to your country's police mechanisms. In the U.S. these mechanisms are relatively civilized, but in some other parts of the world they are not, and to be arrested, in some places, means to disappear forever. There is a strong and vibrant free software movement on this planet. If you don't like Microsoft's business model, support free software. But the "who owns what" question goes way beyond Microsoft. I don't see their business practices as capable of doing this planet in. Other questions of "ownership" have a much higher probability of having world-wide impact. Among those, an important one is the ownership of land.

spaceconsulting
spaceconsulting

MS sells a defective OS (Vista), then gives free "upgrades" to Windows 7 for recent purchasers; that is, it fixes the bugs for those people. Yet, those who were the guinea pigs and had to put up with the absolute WORST part off Vista from the beginning, are expected to pay full price for an "upgrade" which is really just fixing the defects. You tell me....who is doing the stealing?! MS OWES it to ALL VISTA owners to have a free "upgrade" to an OS that doesn't have all the bugs. I have lost all respect for these money-grubbing idiots. They treat their best, most loyal customers unfairly, just because they can get away with it. I will never be their guinea pig again!

r.j.l.
r.j.l.

I don't buy Windows as I have no need for it, these days I refuse to pay the ridiculous price for Windows and I use Linux which serves all my needs. Yes I do have Windows licences that came preloaded on laptops we have bought, but they don't get used either.

keith.rosenberg
keith.rosenberg

I cannot eliminate ALL possible circumstances, therefore I cannot say it is never justifiable to pirate commercial software. However I do note that most piracy is because the prices are too high and "free" software just does not do the job. An example would be a decent AutoCAD clone that a home user can afford. At $1200 for LT and $4000 for full, AutoCAD has priced itself out of the home market.

llsdigitek1350
llsdigitek1350

Perhaps for the purposes of extended testing ONLY, beyond the short periods they provide?

philip
philip

The driving force behind any piracy (software, music, movies) is over-pricing ... as soon as the price falls to a level that most people would consider "fair" for the value of the product they receive, then the amount of piracy drops as well. I think the additional fact that Windows has been crap for most of the last decade probably hasn't helped. Microsoft had created a monopoly that put people in a situation where they HAD to use it's products whether they liked it or not, and then it provided them with a product that wasn't worth what they charged for it. Hence, most of those who used pirated copies were those who, given the choice, would have preferred not to have to use it at all! However, as other viable options are now available, and as Microsoft has reduced the cost of Windows in the face of this competition, I would say there USED to be a justification for using a pirated copy but that this justification no longer exists! It used to be too expensive and there used to be no other option, now it isn't and there is ... so either pay up or use something else.

Technous285
Technous285

Two things here: 1) Exodus is part of the OLD Testament which was written for the JEWS and all laws of the OLD Testament were wiped clean by Jesus when he noted there are only 2 rules for CHRISTIANS to follow - Love thy God with all thine heart, body & soul, and treat thy neighbour like thy self. He cleared out hundreds of years of crap written for those of the Jewish faith for HIS followers with just 2 simple rules. In other words - the Old Testament means ~NOTHING~ for those who call themselves Christians or Followers of Christ (Son of God & Man). 2) This is a subject on laws written for and by HUMANS in a ~NON-RELIGIOUS~ subject! So the ~ONLY~ laws that apply here are those written by Man for use by Man, and also fall under the little concept of; "What is Right is not always Legal. What is Legal is not always Right."

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist, and other religions people followed. Sadly, Microsoft subscribe to the religion of The Almighty Dollar and Greed.

Realvdude
Realvdude

Because your cost for Windows is not the same as retail in the United States. On top of that, what is your cost of living? Your reasoning could be used by most people in the United States as well. One last thing, if you are struggling to stay warm and keep the lights on, how do you justify spending money on a PC and internet service?

Slayer_
Slayer_

Buy it and it's yours for awhile Steal it and it's yours forever.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

had a court agree with them on that. Most consumer law says you don't need a new license if you move it, just if you wish to put it on more than one at a time. Most government people who monitor the licensing stuff settle for counting up the number of systems running the software and sighting the equivalent number of licenses - they don't give a damn which license is on which set of hardware.

Slayer_
Slayer_

How do you steal an idea? They haven't invented brain suckers yet (unless you count CEO's). If you dare claim MS stole the idea and therefore should be allowed to be stolen from, then I say your House design was stolen from my house design, and therefore it is OK to steal from you!

itadmin
itadmin

If someone feels the price it too high, he is free to walk away. Most likely more than 80% of people will be able to use Linux. Maybe there are some niche applications available for Windows for which equivalents in Linux don't exist or are not up to scratch, but those cases will most likely be few. I'm not talking about just a different interface and a different way of interacting with the application. I think very few people really 'have to' use Windows. Still, they keep on stealing it. I use it only at work. At home it's Debian and NetBeans and what else.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

What is interesting is that since this is a reverse engineering case where they made major changes to the algorithms and the code, would the courts uphold this is a copyright violation as the past case law on coding cases has upheld that any more than minor cosmetic changes to the code prior to recompilation make it a different set of code. If they've done as much in the way of changes as they say, then this would, very likely, stand as a different set of code with a new copyright and not be a violation of the Microsoft copyright at all. I'd love to see how this comes out in court.

dweomer20032003
dweomer20032003

the reason for this is this... We bought the windows for all our computers and install pirated versions cause they are far better distributions, easier to install, use and set. So basically we are legit logically looking at the point. We pay regularly for the software but do not install the one they send us but use the custom made. All media, stickers & stuff together with contracts are kept in the closet collecting dust. Off course we do not have some old windows payed and use the new one, we install same versions as those payed for. My 2c

danerd
danerd

sinisterslay we are saying that code is stolen which is not the same as an idea, code is something written on paper is able to be touched and felt and is material, an idea is a thought process unable to be seen or touched and cannot be stolen until it is transformed into something that can be seen or touched and as a result it then can be stolen.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It would be justification for legal action against MS but not, in any way, justification for consumers to start ignoring licenses.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I would bet that, including the netbook market, its probably closer to 10% of people could make due with Nix instead of Windows. My uncle surfs the net, but needs Windows to use his camera. My father only surfs message forums but then my mother uses quickbooks. I was just at a business that ONLY needed MS Paint, but everything I could find on Nix was either to complicated or not enough features. Hell, even my Netbook requires Windows because I use Silverlight to play the olympics live. I cannot think anyone or any company I know/support that could make due with Nix. And trust me, I have offered, I have demoed it, people don't want it.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Last time I looked at BlackXP and similar unofficial distrubtions, updates where a problem. Are you using a specific distribution or a slipstreamed self-built distribution and are you able to feed the workstations updates through Windows Update, WSUS or similar?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

show them the number of boxes with the software, and show them you have a corresponding number of licenses to go with that many boxes, and tell them you've got a specialised corporate image on the systems. Most will accept that, as they don't care what you actually have installed as long as you have a legit license to cover it.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

With all those holes, it's perfect for straining my pasta. :D

Slayer_
Slayer_

Like really bad, like borderline brain dead. The movie had more plot holes then there is pot holes in Winnipeg.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

full access to all of the source code - it wasn't clear if it was just the code or a system. I believed it since it was an account by Bill himself.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Wasn't Win95 around the time that Mr Jobs was selling off his shares and Apple was spiraling downward? The original issue was from around the time of the Lisa I believe and spawned the Windows dos shell in about versions 1~3. By the time Win95 comes around, MS has a huge development budget to put behind it. It doesn't change your experience but I suspect it would have been different if Apple was not in the middle of it's mid-life crisis. I also don't think it relates as much to the MS/Apple case as that was two if not three generations after the infringement. I do remember the pain of OS9 and previous though too. Even with hardware hacking in a colour graphics board and upgrading some other bits of those all in one Mac boxes; they where not comparible to what I was using at the time (100% Microsoft about a year before my first introduction to Slackware).

Slayer_
Slayer_

When I compare my MacOS experience, to my Win95 experience, there is no question which was better. Win95 didn't require a pin to spam a reset button every 20 minutes. From 1997 to 2002, my old Win95 (With 200mhz CPU) was at least twice as fast as the newest Mac (Our school updated every year). So even if he stole code, Mac and Windows are nothing a like. And of course now Mac is closer to Linux, so MS stealing code from Apple is somewhat of a moot point now.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

My understanding was that he needed a test machine to produce third party software for Apple. Screw disks, he got the full system to dissect and explore. But, the point is not some rationalization about "but they did it first". The point is that the person doing it now is equally wrong. Stealing from a thief does not balance the books. Not allowing that thief to profit from ill gotten product would though.

santeewelding
santeewelding

With your abruptness, Ernest. Not so many words are necessary.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

out with disc copies of the code for the Apple GUI and made a couple of minor changes and produced Windows. So now someone else is doing the same thing and calling it Pirate Windows - what's the difference, please enlighten us all? I'm not saying either of them has the right to do this, but why is one a theft and the other not?

danerd
danerd

did you see the movie ANTITRUST think about it.

Slayer_
Slayer_

So this entire site http://www.devx.com/ Is a site of piracy, not information sharing? So how can you steal code? Are you saying an MS exec walked up to a developer, punched them in the face, then ran off with their computer?

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

"I cannot think anyone or any company I know/support that could make due with Nix. " Oh, I know individual users who could get along perfectly well using Unix or Linux systems and the available software. But in my professional work, which is only with larger companies and organizations, I haven't found one yet who could completely break the ties with Windows. At least not without incurring a heck of a lot of costs, etc. Of course, its not as if I've had a peek at the inner workings of some significantly large percentage of all the companies and organizations out there. I'm only familiar enough with perhaps a couple hundred to make the statement I did. I know, people keep saying that there are all these alternative apps available for Nix machines. If all it were was a matter of the businesses I deal with simply needing an Office Suite, a bit of word processing, simple spreadsheets, etc ... a switch would be worth considering. But for those I speak of, it gets far more complicated than that. Many are running and using special software of this or that type for which there really aren't any suitable Nix alternatives. Either they're not available at all, or are available but lack some key features/functions, or some critical portion (to the business concerned) of the functionality is buggy or difficult to use, or user interface is primitive/difficult in comparison to the Windows version, etc. In some cases, its a matter of the company or organization using highly customized Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, etc. Employing significant custom setup of the docs and a large amount of VBA code. Where in order to make the shift over to Open Office, or anything else, would involve a heck of a lot of redevelopment time. With the company for whom I work, a shift would be problematical. We use, internally, a number of proprietary apps for which I can tell you there are NO Nix equivalents. At least not ones which are acceptably equivalent. If there were, I'd know about them. That doesn't mean we couldn't substitute at least some of them with a Nix equivalent, but it'd involve literally hundreds of manhours at least, to retrain, to customize things to our requirements, etc. With others, there is simply no Nix equivalent at all. We do deal with Nix systems, we do contract development work for others. So its not as if we know nothing about Nix systems or have no experience with them. But that's a very small part of our business. We just don't see many larger companies or organizations using such except for limited, very specific reasons. For the most part, what I see is that the folks I do work for are satisfied enough with Windows (despite how many in this forum seem to think its a piece of junk) and in the end they think that the cost in lost/wasted manpower that would be involved in making a switch ... even if it were possible ... would cost them more than they'd save in software licensing.