Windows

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

How did your peers answer this question: Is stealing from Microsoft OK because they have lots of money? You may be surprised by the answers.

On February 19, 2010, I asked this question: Is stealing from Microsoft OK because they have lots of money? As you might expect, the query generated a lengthy discussion. I framed the question in the form of three polls. Two of the poll questions were straightforward, with yes or no answers. The third question was loaded, designed to elicit an explanation based on the answer chosen.

I don't typically give my personal opinion in this blog because it is more important to hear what the TechRepublic membership in their roles as IT professionals have to say (your opinions carry more weight), but I feel it necessary to offer my two cents in this case.

No matter how you rationalize it or attempt to mitigate it, using any software, whether Microsoft Windows or not, without paying for a license to do so is just plain stealing. The arguments put forward in the discussion thread attached to the original poll (it costs too much, Microsoft is evil, I didn't get a CD when I bought my PC, piracy is not really illegal, etc.) are just smoke screens. If you are using the Windows operating system, you should be paying for it.

OK, I'm stepping down off the soapbox now. Here is how the TechRepublic membership responded to the original poll questions.

Results

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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.

73 comments
jedurham
jedurham

It is NEVER OK top steal, regardless of the percieved largess of the victim.

HutzlerDA
HutzlerDA

I am sure MS has a small routine within to let it know who the pirates are and if things really get out of hand they will do something about it. I'll bet, outside the USA, the problem is grossly worse, especially in poorer countries. DH-Baltimore

Brenton Keegan
Brenton Keegan

I feel like software compliance is like security as in it's an ongoing process. What usually happens is that a company purchases X copies based on the stated need. Then someone comes up saying "so and so needs this piece of software I used so he/she can this task". As a sysadmin, what are you supposed to say? "sorry, we're not licensed, maybe next year it will get on the budget". That usually doesn't go over well because there is a business need (and business needs trump a lot of stuff) It takes a lot of auditing and constantly trying to stay in compliance. It's very rarely at 100% When available I always recommend getting a "maintenance contract" for a couple reasons: -predicable cost -ensures upgrades are available -support It's a huge pain when you have to spend a bunch of money on the latest version of software, not for features but just because the old version is now EOL and you don't want software hanging around that won't be patched for vulnerabilities.

tufte
tufte

There's an old story told by old economists like me that applies here. You have an artist at a street fair paint your portrait. He takes 10 minutes, and charges you $100. You're incensed because he's making so much for 10 minutes of work. He replies "It took 20 years of practice and 10 minutes of hard work". This is Microsoft. Everyone in that company toiled, and it took 15-20 years before it began to pay off. No one wanted to steal their stuff when they didn't have money. Why does it become justifiable to pirate from them just because they've made a lot of money off of Office? This is coming from someone who has done a lot of pirating from a lot of sources, rationalized much of it, and yet is still conflicted about some of it. But ... I was never sociopathic enough to claim that the severity of my offence depended on the financial circumstances of the target.

N4AOF
N4AOF

The first product Bill Gates sold was vaporware at the time he sold it (Basic for the Altair) and he hasn't changed the company's overall marketing strategy all that much since then.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Microsoft still makes a profit by selling the latest Windows to Dell / HP etc for about US$15.00 a copy, and they also still make a profit when they sell student discounts at 75% off - so the listed retail price is mostly profit to enable them to laugh as they go to the bank, or giggle as they go pay the court fines for unlawful practices.

tim.stephens
tim.stephens

Thats the problem, people see MS as wealthy and their software is very costly. Charge less and there is less incentive to avoid paying. Simple really.

lsc
lsc

Many of those engaged in dishonest activity do not accept or even recognize they are personally dishonest individuals. There is no valid excuse for stealing other peoples property whether it is cash or intellectual property. Individules who do must be watched constantly for other inappropriate behavior.

ropateviliame
ropateviliame

Of course, Microsoft don't steal from us, do they? What about Microsoft Money, Accounting Professional, and how many had problems recovering files when they took Office Bionder away. Tit for Tat I say!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

By using an unlicensed Microsoft product, your still contributing to there business. You help grow, if not maintain, market share. Much of the reason they originally became so huge is because they turned a blind eye to unlicensed use. It was only after they had market share that it was such a problem for them. Your lack of payment only cuts them out on a single license fee which is well worth being able to claim "but we're 90% of the market". If you really wanted *** for Tat, you wouldn't still be using Microsoft's products either paid or pilfered. Effect them in a way that actually has business consequences for them; no money, no market share.

bernalillo
bernalillo

If you ever really study all the specific requirements in a MS EULA I'm sure you will agree it is very difficult and many times counterproductive to jump through all those hoops. I buy enough licenses to cover all the copies of the specific versions in use. I don?t move OEM license to other machines. I upgrade and downgrade according to the Byzantine rules published by MS. I fight with MS's open license site to try to keep MS from "loosing" my licenses (boy, talk about carefully planned incompetence). I do not worry excessively about trying to track each key and other arcane inconsequential minutia. Generally I like MS products but their licensing requirements suck.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and won't be enforced due to consumer laws in most jurisdictions

fishcad
fishcad

Buying a new laptop and NOT getting an OS disk to reinstall in case of a major failure doesn't make me feel sorry for doing whatever I need to do to get my machine working again. MS got their money from the original seller, but nobody will take responsibility for helping me get a legal OS when my machine dies and I must reinstall. Placitas.

jstevens
jstevens

either the media or have the restore on a partition with the ability to burn the media .. this is in the agreement they sign with Microsoft. Now as I said in a previous post I used to work for Microsoft (well the portion of the company I worked for was doing call center work for Microsoft - this included licensing) but believe me I am not a big Microsoft Fan... I just believe in laying blame where it belongs .. and a lot of the blame that I have seen in this thread belong with the OEMs rather than with Microsoft. They are responsible for the OEM media , they are responsible for reactivation of OEM installs.... in short they duck out of a lot of what they are responsible for.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

as most of us do that with new gear after we get it - that does NOT give Microsoft the right to dump all responsibility for the rest of the software. As to having to make changes with regards to non Microsoft default drivers, that's the fault of Microsoft and the way they set the system up to automatically replace non-default drivers with default ones, in certain situation. An on going issue here in Australia is the way Microsoft keeps eliminating working modem drivers and replacing them with default Microsoft US drivers that never work here in Australia as the phone system command systems have some differences - a few are the same, but not all. There is a way to mess up the modem setting to make the Microsoft ones work at the basic level, but that means writing off all the higher level functions, and all because the Microsoft codes overrides the user loaded drivers - now that's a real interesting customer service set up. If there was an easy way to turn off that Microsoft wizard that does this, people like Dell etc wouldn't have to do anything special, just load the drivers and go.

jstevens
jstevens

When you buy an OEM product with a PART - it is actually unaltered aside from the drivers being added for that particular part (this is for specific items that require drivers and qualify for the oem operating system). With Dell/HP/ and all other "big name" manufacturs there are other items that they alter within the OS to fit their systems specifically Some of those changes effect how the OS handles certain things (for example the Lenovo app for wireless networking ) Microsoft doesn't want to be held responsible for those items that though can be uninstalled (which basically reinstalls the originall network driver from microsoft) most users(home) don't want to do that. That is just one example there are others but only the "big name" manufacturs do that. At least that was how it was 5 years ago when I was in Dublin.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the reality and laws. If I put together a computer for a client from new parts, and get an OEM copy of Windows with the parts from the parts company, I can install that on the system, it's the full copy of Windows, set up the system, and Microsoft provides the same support service as they do for a standard retail package sale. So why do they handle Dell / HP etc differently - I don't know.

jstevens
jstevens

that is true .. though the OEMs alter the OS to suit their particualar set up which is why that agreement came into existance. so though they aren't really the Software Manufacturer, they aren't exactly Wholesalers either ... However this isn't the first time the leagle system hasn't been caught up to the reality of a situation..

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the maker of the product, in this case - Microsoft, is always held responsible for the product and it's support by the consumer laws, and they cannot sign that away in any manner. They may wish to, but it's the product maker that ends up in court, not the wholesaler, if there's a major problem - and the OEM people are seen as wholesalers in most courts, not as makers of the software.

Varseller
Varseller

doesn't it advise you when to burn an OS disk the first time you boot up? I think it's crappy and cheap not to provide the disk, but the option to burn your own is usually there. In my experience, most folks ignore it (or don't understand it). If the laptop vendors are going to be so cheap, perhaps they could make the option more clear, something like "HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! You may need this disk if you later experience system problems". Alas, some people wouldn't even understand the urgency there and end up paying guys like me to restore their systems, but it would be better than the blurb that comes with new PC's.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

What about "I bought a legitimate, licensed copy of Windows with my computer, and when the hard drive failed, my legitimate software is now disabled by Microsoft?" So ... I paid for a legitimate copy of software for use on this specific computer. Microsoft WGA disabled it. Who's the real thief and who's the real victim?

tlkpubink
tlkpubink

That's exactly why I started using a bootleg copy of Visa. After a nasty virus I had to reinstall XP and suddenly my legal, perefectly legitimate key was no longer valid. Trying to get tech support (both Dell and Microsoft) on a Saturday night is not recommened. After being told I couldn't get any help until Monday, I found a copy of Vista, had it installed in less time than I was on hold and never looked back. I'm back to a legal copy now as it came with my new computer - but if this happens again I'll probably do the same until it's time to buy the next computer.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

If MS doesn't fix it at that point, it's between you and the fence post what you do.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

then you get to repeat it a several weeks later when WGA strikes again, and again, and again.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

doesn't need to go on-line and authenticate. And there's no point in turning auto updates on as Microsoft do NOT support it properly, and doesn't supply updates worth having.

N4AOF
N4AOF

You must have missed the earlier posts telling us that Microsoft does not have any confusing licensing situations and the posts telling us that phone activation never takes over 10 minutes (and implying that phone activation is handled by someone who actually speaks English). I would point out that WGA is an example of Microsoft choosing to break the spirit (if not the letter) of even its OEM contract in that none of the OEMs signed up to provide support for some new buggy modification of windoze created by MS to defraud people who already paid for the product. If Microsoft would honestly honor its own Certificate of Authenticity code and make the applicable versions available there would be nearly zero need for WGA. With the possible exception of WindozeMe there has never been a version so bad that large numbers of people would want to priate a newer version (although I am sure plenty of Vista users did choose to "prirate" XP and some might now consider pirating 7 to get an operating system that works). I frequently help people who are using second hand PC's and almost the only instances I run across of systems that are not running the operating sytem that was paid for and licensed to that computer are on ex-corporate systems that originally came with Windows2000 where people have loaded XP, not because they particularly wanted XP but far more often because it is nearly inpossible to find an Win2K install disk today. And even if you do reinstall Win2K on a machine that has the Certificate of Authenticity on it, Microsoft won't honor the code.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

With the Action Packs that M$ Sells to their partners. These being VL product don't require activation or at least back in the XP days they didn't. Different story after Vista came out. But after several WGA Updates you used to get hit with Nongenuine Product which came directly from M$. I must be perverse but it always made me laugh. ;) Col

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

know about that, but they couldn't have done it worse. And it does sound like they may have done it a lot better. Over a three year period I made four purchase of Microsoft software through the educational discount system. it worked this way: promotional signs go up; I go to the Uni book shop and place an order, paying for it upfront; a week later the book shop has a package with my name on it; I open package, it's the software, with an invoice from Microsoft Australia made out to me. This indicates the sale is from Microsoft, with the bookshop acting only as an agent for taking orders. If the sale was through the bookshop, the invoice would have been by them. I didn't like the system as I could claim an invoice from the bookshop back on taxes, but not the one from Microsoft.

jstevens
jstevens

and technically they are suposed to be running the same way. Generally Microsoft doesn't sell directly to the end user but to the university under an Educational Subscription Agreement which then give any student the right to buy their software at a discount THROUGH the university (lots of items under this licensing agreement but that is the gist of it ) This must have been a special promo which caused the confusion and (though I no longer work for them ) I appologize for the issues that arose - The first and second line at the call centers don't have access to microsoft's Accounting as they are generally with outsourcing companies ( I know a flaw with the system). Genrally 5 activations starts raising flags however they should have been able to see the CPU and Motherboard were still the same so I don't really know why that call center handled it that way. The one in Dublin Ireland would have handled it differently that is somehting I CAN say for sure.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

consumer laws in some countries, due to the laws on fit for purpose. If Microsoft actually put out just the one version for general use, with the one simple licence, they would probably sell more copies and save a fortune as there would be no confusion about what's what, and people would have more confidence in them. That's why so many people were happy to buy DOS, Win 3.11, Word etc in the old days, before all the different licences were introduced. You knew what you were buying, now days it's so complicated many people give up and go away, looking for something they can understand.

jstevens
jstevens

I can understand that .. Now in my post I didn't go over the rest of the licensing schemes just the two main one for public (general home users ) The biggest place I saw companies having issues was on Office actually not with the OS's .. they would purchase office as an OEM with their new machine and not roll it into any open license agreement they may have .. This doesn't allow for network use rights I won't go into the ramifications here about how to use it with an exchange server or any other email server ON YOUR NETWORK actually violates your license (that is unless they have changed that since I left them). I honestly think that was the biggest group of phone calls I had to deal with .. explaining that to varrious IT administrators ...

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

hour or more to fix, I had three copies of Windows XP Pro I bought direct from Microsoft Australia on their Student discount deal with the tech college I was attending at the time. Bought one copy in one year, and the other two the next year, from different campuses - I attended at two of the campuses in the city. In each case the motherboard and cpu were unchanged, but the hard drives and graphics cards changed around a bit, as did the RAM chips. When I moved to a rural area and ceased doing auto updates and started being very selective about my updates, due to a 33.6 kbps dial up service, I had major troubles with each one when WGA was forcibly installed before I could get updates. Part of the delay was the phone call centre people kept insisting that Microsoft never sold any copies direct to the public, despite my having the invoices printed with Microsoft's name on them. The other part was the activation system computer listed my licence copy as pirate because I'd activated it so many times, and always with the same motherboard and cpu - but that didn't count. The basic answer was, too many activations, MUST be a pirate, get stuffed sir. It took about half an hour to get put through to a higher level who was able to accept my explanation of changed hardware etc. THEN they check the records and note, oh, same motherboard and cpu serial number - why they couldn't do that at the start is beyond me. Then they'd note the database doesn't list a normal sales path, and we go around the 'where did you get it?' circle until they take time to check with accounting about the invoice number. After the fourth time, I started actively looking into Linux, the next one to go WGA belly up got wiped and Linux installed. I then sold the copy of XP, telling the person the problem - in the end they bought all three of those copies. But guess what, they only needed XP licence numbers for their systems to be legal when checked, as the installed version was a gold disc pirate copy which NEVER had any troubles with WGA or updates as it did NOT have the code WGA uses to lock up your system. I don't know if the way Microsoft call centres operate in the US is different to here in Australia, but I was never able to get through in under an hour. I do know someone who got reactivated very quickly, that only took twenty-five minutes from start to finish.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

OEM sucks...That's why I use Linux and I let the VAR folks at work deal with all the licensing crap with Windows;-)

jstevens
jstevens

as a licensing specialist. Yes I was one of the ones you would call for reactivation. In the case of an OEM distributed copy you are suposed to call the OEM for reactivation (part of their license agreement and this information is supposed to be in THEIR EULA to the end user) In the case of an FPP (Fully Packaged Product) you are to call microsoft activation. In the time I worked for them (through a company called Sitel) I never had a call last more than 10 minutes when I was doing reactivation that was caused by a hard drive issue on an FPP. OEM is another story we were suposed to kick you back to the OEM who would inverriably kick you back to us for something they were supposed to handle. I do agree with you on the OEM front because when you change your processor or Mother Board you are inverriably breaking your OEM license agreement and cause issues with reactivating your copy so personally I see OEM as a waste of time.

wmroc
wmroc

Microsoft steals software from other companies. I have posted frequently an instance where they have done so in the past. They have been convicted of this but pay the fine using the profits from their overpriced software so essentially YOU are paying their fine. They get off scott free without paying a penny. Now if someone from Microsoft actually went to jail, I would have more sympathy, but they use YOUR money to delay, appeal and wait for the company to go bankrupt fighting them. So go ahead and steal. They set that standard.

bob
bob

stealing. We're (for the mean time) in a capitalist society, and we vote with our purchases. If people are so fed up with microsoft, cast your vote elsewhere with linux or freedos. Yes MS has basically dominated the PC business, but there are alternatives, and YOU have the choice to go with the alternatives, whether or not they suck. And of course they use YOUR money, they're a business! They use revenue to pay for expenses (albeit, criminal ones), just like you use your employer's money to pay for your speeding ticket or reckless driving on the way to work (what do you know, also criminal!) I don't like MS either, but there's no way to justify stealing. We're not exactly poor and oppressed and in need of a software Robin Hood.

tjsobieski
tjsobieski

It doesn't matter what you think you're doing there is something of an moral absolute here. Taking something that doesn't belong to you is stealing, period. You don't like the company you're stealing from? Tough, you're still wrong. I use what I pay for, or is legally free. I'm not some goody two shoes, it's just that I have a internal moral code. If you don't like MS, use Ubuntu or something else that's free.

fjp
fjp

I wonder how the poll would have looked if you'd asked: "Is stealing from Microsoft OK because they wouldn't be the monopoly they are if millions of people hadn't pirated their software in the first place?" One might also ask why it's so difficult to buy a machine without Windows, when you might simply want to upgrade a computer that already has it. Ironic, isn't it?

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

With the new copy protection from Microsoft and the fact that I have a dual boot desktop [Win7/XP] and a netbook, it was cheaper [and less of a hassle] by getting a TechNet Plus subscription for $300. I have 2 Win7 Pro licenses, 1 Vista Home Premium [in a VM] and 1 XP Pro license used plus 3 ccpies of Office 2007 Pro Plus - all nice and legitimate. Licenses don't expire. Add MDOP as well. Purchasing would of come to around $3000 or so.

michael_carr
michael_carr

I would say that your results bring into question Micro$oft's tremendous waste of time, energy and resources of it's corporate customers with all the various permutations of Genuine Advantage if only 8% of the costumer base is abusing the software licence. Of course , one might proselytize that Genuine DisAdvantage is the reason why it is so low. At any rate I firmly believe the effort has hardened the feeling among some that if you'all can rip Micro$oft then it's you civic duty to do so. I'm Jus' Sayin'

fjp
fjp

Hard not to agree with that.. :-)

amj2010
amj2010

the question in itself is a provocation, taking a candy from a baby is of course a crime no doubt about that. but when this 'baby' charges much too much for her candies, then the poor will rob the rich as they did with the riots that pre followed. microsoft (the baby)wants it all, your money and mind too...

DittoHeadStL
DittoHeadStL

We live in a capitalist economy that fosters something I like to call "competition." If someone else thinks they can offer products that are as good as MS's at a lower price, they're welcome to do so. Interesting that even the free Linux OS hasn't overtaken Windows. The price couldn't be better, yet people still plunk down money for Windows & Mac OS.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

prior to sale. That's called unfair marketing, and there's damn little that can be done about it.

tjsobieski
tjsobieski

I'm not in love with Microsoft, but, stealing is stealing. Whether or not the victim is rich or poor it's still the same thing. You're not Jean Val Jean stealing a loaf of bread to keep alive. You're stealing something you want and don't want to pay for it

N4AOF
N4AOF

Quite a bit of the so-called "piracy" we hear about consists of people accused of "stealing" something that they (or someone else) DID pay for. Not only are there several companies like Adobe and Intuit who go out of their way to disable earlier versions of their software that customers have alrady paid for, we also have the Redmond elephant in the room who for years forced every PC manufacturer in the US to pay for a copy of windoze for every computer built even if that computer was shipped with a different operating system. Even for PCs that did ship with a legal copy of windows, Microsoft often refuses to honor its own "Certificate of Authenticity" tag that is physically attached to nearly every PC being built. Try reloading windoze on a used PC that has been wiped and see if they honor the product ID code plainly printed on the tag.

d.j.elliott
d.j.elliott

MS products are accessible to the non-business user, even though I agree the prices seem high. But why doesn't anybody talk about Adobe? I was playing around with web development and flash is the thing...but the software along is around $600. Adobe prices are very high.

N4AOF
N4AOF

Adobe is a one example of a company that goes out of its way to cheat customers. I used to work for a company that had bought Adobe Acrobat licenses for the people who needed to creat PDF files. There were only a few of us who needed to create the PDF files and the company did not want the full version of the software on other computers because one of the major benefits of sending out information as PDF files was that it was difficult for casual users to change the files. Previously material had been sent out as Word doc files and the company had problems with people editing documents to "fix" things rather than reporting what they wanted changed. This system worked well enough for quite a while. Those of us who created PDF files had legal licensed copies of Acrobat 4.x while everyone else had just Adobe Reader. When Acrobat 5.0 came out, we all had READER 5.x and it worked fine reading files created in 4.x so we had no problem. Then came Acrobat 6.0 -- which Adobe designed specifically so that READER 6.0 would not run on any computer that also had any earlier version of the full Acrobat installed. Eventually we found a work around that let us continue to use our perfectly legal licensed copies of Acrobat 4.x to create PDF files and Reader 6.x to view PDFs created elsewhere. It didn't take much longer for Adobe to figure out that there were customers who still had legal copies of older versions who were not upgrading, so Adobe again went out of their way to specifically kill the workaround so that it would be imposible to use the current version Reader and an older version of the full Acrobat program on the same computer. Adobe is not the only company that goes out of itw way to disable earlier versions of its software (Intuit also comes to mind) but it is one of the worst offenders in terms of using this kind of tactic against corporate rather than individual customers.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

equivalents instead of wasting money on Adobe products.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Very nice of Adobe to choose a DRM scheme for CS which destroys user's boot sectors. If you have only Windows installed; no problem. If you have anything else installed; CS is going to write some data to the "hidden" boot sector area which won't interfere with the NT boot loader but destroys sectors already in use by Grub or anything fatter than the NT loader. For making the choice to destroy customer's dual-boot systems for them; thanks Adobe.

Too-Tired Techie
Too-Tired Techie

I took a very inexpensive class ($135) at a community college and - voila - became instantly qualified to buy the Adobe Design Premium CS4 Suite for 1/3 the retail price. ($600 vs $1800) And a 4 month class qualified me for a year. I do not know if student discounts apply to OS purchases though...

jfuller05
jfuller05

check out www.microsoft.com/student/en/us/software/windows-7.aspx

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

They get talked about plenty. When the topic is software platforms, it inevitably comes down to Microsoft and Apple. Adobe has gotten it's due mention frequently though. They where slammed pretty steadily for Flash and the incredible price they demand for Photoshop let alone a full CS license is well known. Number one most exploited software even above and beyond IE is not a place any company wants to find themselves either. Adobe has some serious house cleaning to do within there products and html5 should effect the 600$ price tag on Flash development software.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

equivalents that are safer and easier to use. BTW With all the vulnerabilities turning up in Flash lately, more and more people are using Flash blockers etc, and if the web site looks crap because the flash files are blocked, they leave damn quick.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Just in case, though I have it installed from the olympics, I keep it firefox disabled unless the site I am visiting requires it. Same goes for flash.

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