Before we start this is the followup to my previous article (here).

Lets begin by reminding ourselves of two comments made by Bill Gates – you might have heard of  him, he is/was? quite influential at Microsoft.😉

It’s easier for our software to compete with Linux when there’s piracy than when there’s not.

As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.

Read those sentences a few times, take a deep breath and then consider the companies mentioned in the last article.  hypocrisy? or maybe underhanded tactics to allow the spread of Microsoft wares until such time as they decide to collect? –  I hope everyone can forgive me for thinking this sounds very much like the drug dealer who gives the first few “hits” for free, safe in the knowledge that an addict will keep coming back.

I digress (as is my want) and this article is about the contact I have had from some of the companies/individuals who were named on the Microsoft hit list.   It certainly makes interesting reading and certainly (in the cases Ive seen) not a case of selling cracked copies of Windows 7, its more a licensing agreement issue when selling refurbed PC’s as a business.  Lets make something clear here, the hit list that has been published (although some sources would suggest otherwise) is not a list of people caught selling copies of Windows 7.  As the links that follow will show, this is Microsoft cashing in on alleged licensing issues, in particular (in the example) a business selling on a refurbished PC.  This is no “Knock off Nigel”.

There was one company in particular who contacted me from the hit list linked in the previous article.  For arguments sake we will call them Company X, as you will see, from theirs (and other supporting comments from others) there is a genuine fear of retaliation for speaking out against the “Mighty Microsoft”.  I however have no such fear in regards to my comments and if Microsoft feel the need to ever take legal action over my words, I would welcome it.

So lets start with some questions I put to Company X who kindly got into contact with me to tell me the following [1]

I have just read your blog about this and thanks for ‘defending’ the small guy. About the only article that has done.
As you probably guessed I am on that list.

Now I need to be careful about the details I give.  This person has a genuine concern about Microsoft retaliation should they speak out and I don’t want details exposing them to Microsoft.  In summary they sold a PC with Windows on it (which must have been to a Microsoft test purchaser) and subsequently received a warning letter and a fine.  I won’t disclose the exact sum, but lets just say it was more than £1000.

I have also seen a copy of letter which this particular individual received. If anyone from Microsoft (who has had knowledge of the letter) disbelieves I have read it, I can give proof merely by telling you that one of the titles in your letter was: “Our Evidence: Test Purchase” and followed by: “Basis of Microsoft’s Claim against you” – I think that those two will confirm that I have in fact seen the letter in question.  How about “One time opportunity to settle“?  The reason why I am not printing the letter is that I am not sure how “unique” it is to the company in question, I would expect the headings are pretty standard but the detail is not.

Moving on, Company X also said in reference to the machine which was bought by the test purchaser:

I thought all was as it should be

And whilst to be fair I am only going off the information provided to me, I can say that it does appear in the case I read to be more of a simple mistake or misunderstanding on behalf of the supplier and a OTT reaction by Microsoft.  As I say though I cannot expect to make judgement myself and as I always say, there are always two sides to every argument.  What I can say is that Company X is not some sort of Jolly Roger Pirate.  Company X is not someone selling pirate disks out of bags at a train station.  I’ll leave it there and simply quote some of the other points Company X make:

….ruined with the possibility of having my business crushed by MS I “settled”, the terms of which I am not allowed to say of course.

and also says (when I ask for more information)

Yes I am happy to give more info but a little reticent about being quoted as basically I don’t truct MS not to come after me in some way for daring to speak against them.

In the newsgroup uk.legal (which you can see here) we have another recipient talking about the Microsoft warning letters and it seems this letter incident has started at the end of last year, with some receiving letters in December.  Here are some quotes which I think show how yet again Microsoft actions are being interpreted:

Sounds like scare tactics. Don’t cave to these crooks.

and

…..nobody has the bankroll to withstand Micro$oft’s corporate/legal steamroller.

and in respect of the fee to settle mentioned on uk.legal, another user comments:

the disproportionate amount  could be seen as blackmail and should be reported.

Another user comments about the Microsoft letter and says:

he’s a sole trader during a global recession.  I imagine his primary concern is with the survival of his business at the least possible cost and inconvenience.

Please read the link and see these comments in context, we are not talking some forum on a “scene” torrent site full of teenagers, some of these people are traders and people who come across as trying to make a living.

So it appears that Microsoft reputation, certainly with some small vendors has sunk lower.  What

We’ve seen allegations of copyright infringement/settlement claims handled in the past with companies like ACS:Law.  In Microsoft’s case though, there is no third-party involved in collecting monies.  The spoils are all theirs!

I wonder, will Microsoft count the test purchase as a sale of a Windows platform?  – I would expect so, but this revenue collecting exercise (and the one described on uk.legal) suggest it could be a very profitable route for Microsoft to take especially in light of allegations of layoffs, disgruntled customers and discontinued products.

Whilst Openbytes won’t recommend a supplier, why not start supporting those companies on the list?  Check out their products and consider giving them your custom, in addition, if anyone on the list would like to email their full company details to me, I will quite happily print them in an article so readers can visit them.

Whilst I would not give legal advice here, on the letter I saw there was only a small window of time for you to pay the sum demanded after which legal action was implied.  What I would suggest (to anyone else getting a letter) consider contacting BBC Watchdog, they have chased up and run stories before on IPR infringement allegations and may well take an interest (if your case is anything like the one I’ve read)

In the meantime, if Microsoft wants a right of reply, they are more than welcome either in the comments here or by email for me to publish.  I wouldn’t expect one, I think times are hard for Microsoft:

Thanks for your interest in reporting piracy. We will investigate any leads you give us.

Source: http://www.microsoft.com/uk/licensing/homeuser/how-to-report-piracy.mspx

Im sure they will, they are after all the pennies they can grab.

“Im a PC and Windows settlement letters were my id…….DOH”😉

And after the comments Bill Gates made though, I don’t think he will be invited to the Anti-Piracy divisions Xmas dinner any time soon.

After speaking with many people regarding Microsoft’s latest tactics, this video to me represents Microsoft perfectly.  Enjoy.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

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