PC retail chain accused of mass Windows piracy

Microsoft has launched legal action against a major electrical retailer after accusing it of large-scale piracy.

It claims the Comet Group PLC unlawfully copied and produced more than 94,000 sets of recovery disks for Windows XP and Vista, selling them to customers who purchased Windows-loaded PCs and laptops.

Comet is owned by a French parent company but the legal action relates to its stores in the United Kingdom. The disks in question were sold for £14.99 (approx US$25) between March 2008 and December 2009.

On the face of the comments made by the two sides, Comet appears to have been incredibly naive. It says that it has taken legal advice and will defend the claim. It added that “Comet firmly believes that it acted in the very best interests of its customers. It believes its customers had been adversely affected by the decision to stop supplying recovery discs with each new Microsoft Operating System based computer.”

Microsoft has noted that the computers in question already had recovery software installed on their hard drives, and that customers could have legally made their own recovery discs or obtained one directly from Microsoft.

Had Comet simply made the recovery discs and bundled them with new PCs, it would at least had have something of a moral defense given that nobody would have been gaining unfairly. However, making an additional profit by selling unauthorized copies appears to be a textbook definition of commercial piracy and it’s hard to see how Microsoft wouldn’t win the case.