Microsoft Sues UK Retail Chain For Pirating Windows

ComputerWorld reports that Microsoft is suing a UK retail electronics chain for selling Windows recovery discs to customers, claiming that the practice amounts to piracy.  I think that they are going to be challenged to make a strong case.  It will be interesting to see how this one unfolds.

Microsoft accuses Comet Group PLC of illegally copying Windows XP and Vista to create operating system recovery discs.  These copies were then sold to Windows desktop and laptops cutomers in 2008 and 2009.  Comet, operating about 250 UK stores, believes it was on solid legal ground.

Comet approached 95,000 PC customers over a 2 year period, and offered to sell them unnecessary recovery discs, according to Microsoft’s anti-piracy legal team.  The recovery software was already provided on the hard drive by the computer manufacturer.

The total take for Comet from this exercise is estimated at about 2.2 million dollars.  Not bad.

So is Comet just fulfilling a need that Microsoft has stopped providing in order to cut costs, or does Comet have some accountability or obligation for controlling how these recovery CDs are used after sale?  My understanding is that Microsoft’s own VAR agreement states that these CDs can be provided by the reseller “for a nominal fee”.  Is $25 a nominal fee?  If the recovery software is on the hard drive, does that preclude the VAR’s abaility to collect the nominal fee and distribute the CDs?  What’s your take on this?

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