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Are Microsoft doing enough to prevent illegal copies of Windows?

By andy ·
Once upon a time I wouldn't have known legal software if it came in a shiny box with a license stuck to it. Oh yeah, thats right, it did, didn't it.

Fast forward 20 years and lo and behold I am now an IT Pro making my living fixing PC's and supporting users. I own my own business so the legalities of the software we use has a direct impact on me personally, therefore we only use legal copies on the PC's we build and only ever install legal applications.

Thing is we seem to be in a minority, maybe its only geographically but nonetheless the majority of systems we get in for repair have at least a cracked copy of office if not the whole OS. While its hard to convince users that part of their problems could well come from the dodgy copy of XP Pro their buddy installed over their perfect legit Dell XPHome and btw he destroyed your recovery partition while he was at it, its even harder to justify the single most expensive component of the average PC (the OS) when the chances of them getting caught is so low.

So my question to you all is how do you feel about this? I seem to have gone from renegade bandit to fanatic establishmentarianism (or somthing that a word like that if there were one would seem to imply).

If pirating is theft then so is illegal software. If illegal software is theft then the stolen goods is the Operating System or Application. If these items are stolen goods then perpetrators should be charged accordingly, no matter how big or small. Likewise, to knowingly repair such a system is akin to handling stolen goods, something I believe is a crime in itself.

Is it about time that illegal software was targetted and discussed in these terms?

Is it time for Microsoft to reward those who report illegal software and punish those who sell it, no matter how small they are?

Surely if it was then the cowboys out there to make a quick buck might think twice.

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MS doesn't regard single users as worth the time.

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Are Microsoft doing enoug ...

They reward for reports of a large number of violations by a single institution if the report is proven accurate. They don't bother with single installations, relying instead on "Windows Genuine Advantage" to inconvenience unlicensed users to the point where they want to go legit.

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Not saying they should target users.

by andy In reply to MS doesn't regard single ...

I agree, in terms of ROI it doesnt make sense for Microsoft to pursue single users. Instead I think they do two things.

#1 Get rid of the nag screens and just have a PC turn off when a system fails authentication. "Your system does not have a legal operating system, it will now shut down."

#2 Promote the fact that working on illegal software is handling stolen goods and therefore a crime and you as a reseller/support company/technician will be liable and open to prosecution.

The shut-down-if-dodgy approach would get users to demand legal software especially if they are suddenly stuck with an alternative that is a PC that wont turn on. Heck, half the people we get in with illegal copies of Windows bought a new PC at the store at the other end of town and didn't even know their OS was wonky till they tried to update one day. Another local store is "fixing" WGA nag screens for $25 a time.

As for the threat of prosecution, if I was risking getting busted for working on a PC with an illegal OS I would be turning people away every time. I tell my clients its not worth losing my business to save them $100 when they ask about putting their copy of Windows on. It sure as heck wouldn't be worth losing my business for their $60 repair fee.

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it's also free marketing

by Neon Samurai In reply to MS doesn't regard single ...

While they make lots of noise about it in the press, in the past they've intentionally turned a blind eye to piracy because it helped the product base grow. Everybody wants Windows at work because that's what they stole for home use. Everybody wants Windows at home because that's what they have at work so that's what they steal.

I think even today, MS is well aware of the market growth potential from allowing a level of theft. After all, it's not like physical goods where where one person having the good means another had to give it up.

Would Dos and win95 and win98 have helped solidify such a large user base if they'd not been so easy to duplicate?

Now, I don't blame them for trying to protect there product but I think they consistently go about it the wrong way; for a company with such huge developer resources, that's sad.

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Price Point

by Saurondor In reply to Are Microsoft doing enoug ...

I'm very strict regarding licensing. If you're a small home user then maybe you'll never have an issue. But to use it for work is walking yourself into a trap. Sooner or later you'll have to pay for it. Usually when you have the least cash flow (Murphey's law).

Putting a real price to the software is important to realistically consider alternatives. Will you really need the functionality of a U$D 300+ application? Or will a cheaper or even free alternative suffice.

Speaking of price Microsoft has to address the issue of its licensing costs. Not to justify piracy as it is clearly illegal, but objectively analyze what they want out of this deal. I live in Mexico City and there is a lot of piracy here. Even to the point of looking as an institutionalized activity, as I'm sure it is elsewhere too.

Now minimum wage here is $54.80 (Pesos). Thats about $3.84 (US) a day! Lets take Office 2007 Student Edition for someone's kid. OfficeMax Mexico lists it at 1199.00 Pesos. That's 22 days of work. 22 full days of work. Unfortunately a vast majority lives with incomes less than 3 minimum wages.

So for about 60% of the population it takes (at best) a full 7 days of work to get Office 2007 Student Edition. That's an awful long time to go without food.

It begins to become clear why this happens. Not that it justifies it, but it explains why the widespread piracy exists. And why in a way it is "overseen" and "approved" by Microsoft.

A true crackdown of piracy in this market would mark the end of Microsoft as the dominant platform. Confronted with the need to pay retail price, people would go a free (possibly open) alternative.

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Market relative pricing

by andy In reply to Price Point

Ever since Levi Jeans (although I think it was a spectacle company that set the precedent) managed to get their own goods classified as counterfeit just because they were being sold in a geographical area that they were not originally intended for, M$ and indeed anyone else for that matter has had the ability to price their products according to the geographical area it was intended for.

You're right, it is pretty unrealistic to expect people to pay prices in those terms as relates to typical incomes for a piece of software but the problem is not unique to your area. Free alternatives exist for both applications and operating systems and yet M$ still holds its top spot.

By dropping their pricing, both relative to the regional income levels but also to what can easily be referred to as a more realistic level, the desire for people to accept a sub standard product should also be reduced.

As popular as Open Office and Linux get, they are a long way from taking over anything, a sensible pricing structure could put them away for good. People dont like change and even companies running Office 97 will look to upgrade to Office 2007 before looking at Open Office even though they are both wildly different and superior from their existing 11 year old application suite.

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An open mind

by j-mart In reply to Market relative pricing

It is a myth that for the average user that Open Office won't do the job. Office '97 does more than most average users will ever need. Many get sucked into the "must upgrade to the latest" that Microsoft and the IT industry encourage, the fact that your old version software does the job you require is not something they want you to realize. Pointless changes are made to file formats etc. to encourage upgrades and in many cases the expense of doing so does not repay itself with increased productivity.

I work in a engineering / manufacturing environment, when we upgrade plant or equipment it is because a machine is worn out or superseded by superior technology and we are falling behind the competition. IT and software seems to be sold that it is new, not because it is better. The main software I use with my job is "Solid Works" 64bit on WinXP64 bit, which both feel a bit "beta" in-spite of the cost of both these products. Others in our organization have loaded the latest upgrade Ver 2009 SP2 and have not have the performance and productivity enhancements promised. I still use ver 2008 service pack 5, I could go back to Ver 2005 or 2006 or 2007 and I would not get my work done any slower.

Software is just a tool, you learn how to use it then use it to do the task in front of you. If someone finds switching to Open Office from MS Office a big deal I would worry about their overall competency in performing their job as they both work in similar ways. Why would you need to pirate MS Office its not worth the bother unless your completely stupid. Personally I prefer Open Office to MS Office.

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I would say

by j-mart In reply to Price Point

Amongst private individual users Microsoft would be smart enough to have worked out a level of piracy tolerance based on the alternative of more and more going over to open source alternatives. The last thing they would want is the eroding of the myth of Open Office not being a viable replacement, and much cheaper, alternative to MS Office in mant workplaces

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Only if it provides a worthwhile return

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Are Microsoft doing enoug ...

Despite all these people ripping them off left right and centre, they still make billions.

So where's the cost benefit ratio. Securing software against piracy is a very expensive proposition. Got to be paid for. So how far do you take it before it puts off your legitimate customers. 99% of the pirates were never going to or even could never pay for it.

Do you turn the customers with bent copies away?

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Maybe thats the key?

by andy In reply to Only if it provides a wor ...

I know it sounds strange but part of the original question in my post was directly aimed at that option.

Car theft is rampant and indeed all kinds of theft seem to be. But if you were a mechanic and a car came in for repair that was obviously stolen, would you work on it? Probably not, unless you were a jack of all trades with a set of spanners.

If the theft of software was treated along the same lines and stores both big and small were liable for prosecution for "handling stolen goods" then the places people could take their PC's would theoretically be greatly reduced.

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The law already provides

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Maybe thats the key?

for piracy as theft, well certainly in most western countries.

The thing is at this level it's near unenforceable.

In the UK, you can tape your favourite soap to watch at your convenience, but if you keep it on the tape for more than thirty days after the program was televised, you have broken the law.

Now anyone with an IQ above -30, would have deemed scribbling that law down on the last piece of toilet roll at a curry convention as a waste of time. But it's there....

WGA was effectively a direct respnse to a similar scenario. No government even if it's stupid enough to pass such a law is going to police it.

Would I work on stolen property? Depends, I didn't steal it, could I afford to take the moral highground, after all I've got a mortgage to pay, a missus to kep in comfort...

Either way, I absolutely refuse to be deemed liable by MS for it being stolen. My peers, family and friends, maybe, Bill can f**k right off though.

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