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Windows Genuine Advantage Customers Play Role In Piracy Bust

Microsoft was sending around news yesterday about a huge bust of software counterfeiters in China made in conjunction with the FBI. 25 people were arrested in the two-year running operation “Summer Solstice”, seizures of 290,000 counterfeit CDs and Certificates of Authenticity and $7 million in assets in China, as well as $2 million in assets and $700,000 in software in the U.S.. All told, if the fake software seized were sold as retail copies of Windows, it would have been worth half a billion dollars, and the syndicate shut down was responsible for over $2 billion worth of pirated software.

As Microsoft explains, it was able to catch these companies thanks to customers who notified them under the Windows Genuine Advantage program. Under the program, if PC makers install pirated copies of Windows on new PCs or sell fake CDs, the customer will be notified by WGA, and given the opportunity to report where they bought the PC or CD, and get a free copy of the real thing. The customer gets a Genuine copy of Windows, and Microsoft gets evidence towards arresting those who counterfeit Windows by the thousands.

Microsoft isn’t waging a war on users who pirate Windows. In fact, in China, Microsoft encourages piracy, which has led to Windows being installed on 90% of China’s 120 million PCs. Rather, Microsoft wants companies who mass-pirate Windows to be shut down, and I don’t see a problem with that. I want the ability to pirate Windows to be availble to anyone who needs it, but I firmly believe that any company setting up factories to create fake hologrammed Windows Vista DVDs is run by the kind of people I’d like to see behind bars.

The official Windows Vista blog has some stuff on this, including this photo of a Genuine copy of Windows and a fake version:

Which one is the fake one?

Give up?

It’s the one on the right.

Any company that goes to that length to pirate Windows is deceiving their customers. Those phony holograms aren’t there to fool Microsoft or the authorities; they are there to fool the people who purchase the software. Those people are going to get home, happy they could buy the real thing, try to install it, and run into all sorts of problems, with no way to get a refund. Or, they could call Microsoft, get a real copy for free, and send the guy who sold them this crap up the river.

I don’t like DRM, and I don’t like software that is hard to pirate. I want to be able to pirate software, so I can afford it while I’m poor, and I can pay for it when I’m not. WGA doesn’t stop those who need it most to steal Windows (just run the trial version and rearm it over and over), provided they have the technical knowledge and desire to pull it off, but it provides an opportunity to turn in real criminals. It isn’t a crime to steal Windows for your PC, but it is a crime to mass-produce thousands of copies and pass them off as the real thing.

July 25th, 2007 Posted by | Windows | 7 comments

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  1. No, I disagree, pirating IS a crime, no matter how it is done. If you can’t afford something, you don’t go get a pirated version of something, you SAVE UP FOR IT. Just because YOU want it NOW doesn’t mean you have the right to pirate something. If you’re poor, start saving for it, do some extra work, whatever it takes. If you really want it, you’ll find a way to save the extra money. But don’t pirate!

    Comment by . | July 25, 2007

  2. Spoken like someone who truly doesn’t understand what being poor means. If you can’t afford something, you can’t just save up for it. If I have some left over money, I pay off credit card debt. Or I buy clothes I couldn’t afford last month. Or repair something that’s broken. You don’t “save up” when you have less money than you need. You spend it to keep going another month.

    And Microsoft understands, far better than you do, that piracy helps grow the industry. They’d rather a poor person pirated Windows than used free software. They get it.

    Comment by Nathan Weinberg | July 25, 2007

  3. Nathan – I disagree with your idea that it is not a crime to steal Windows for your PC. They are going to go after the bigger fish – no doubt about it – this bust in China shows that. The fact that they choose not to go after individuals who may pirate it for personal use does not make it right or legal. They make bigger bang off knocking these big rings out of business than going after individuals.

    Comment by WindowsObserver | July 26, 2007

  4. WindowsObserver, I apologize for my wording. I didn’t mean that pirating Windows wasn’t a crime. Hardly. Of course piracy and copyright infringement are crimes. My point was that they are not serious crimes, any more than jaywalking or littering is.

    In fact, I’d argue that based on the actions of law enforcement, jaywalking, littering, and even failing to curb your dog, are more serious than software piracy.

    Ultimately, my point is that, crime or not, from the perspective of someone blogging about Microsoft, and someone who is a big fan of Microsoft, that software piracy on an individual scale is a good thing for business, software piracy on a large scale is a major crime.

    It’s like during Prohibition. People having a drink should not have been criminals, but the mobsters running speakeasies and commiting crimes to protect their businesses were some of the worst criminals of the time.

    Comment by Nathan Weinberg | July 26, 2007

  5. [...] Source:→ Microsoft Technorati Tags: China, FBI, Microsoft, Piracy, Piracy Bust, Pirated Windows, Vista Piracy, WGA, Windows Vista Share This Close [...]

    Pingback by WGA Customers Played Key Role In Piracy Bust » D’ Technology Weblog: Technology News & Reviews | July 26, 2007

  6. No matter if it’s 1 or 1,000,000 copies being pirated it is a crime and being poor is NO EXCUSE! Just because you are poor doesn’t mean you have a special right to break the law Nathan. If you can’t afford to buy the operating system there ARE free ones available. Heck, the Ubuntu project will mail you their OS at zero cost even the shipping is free! There is truly NO excuse to pirate Windows. WGA is what drove me to get rid of all Microsoft products (reported repeatedly that my 100% legal copy was pirated when even Microsoft said it was legal!) and switch to Linux which I obtained legally for free and told me I could legally make as many copies as I wanted and had the freedom to change the OS if I didn’t like the way it worked.

    Comment by Devlin Sevn | July 31, 2007

  7. I’m not excusing myself or anyone else for software piracy. I’m saying that I understand, and that most companies whose software are being pirated consider individual piracy to be a small issue, and in some cases a benefit towards growth. I’m saying that all those people who knock Microsoft because of WGA aren’t seeing the big picture, aren’t seeing how it doesn’t hurt them, it protects them.

    Comment by Nathan Weinberg | August 2, 2007

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