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.

5 Responses to PC retail chain accused of mass Windows piracy

  1. This is common practice in North American retail chains. Every single BestBuy, FutureShop, Staples, or any ig computer retail chain will have an optional setup fee for computers that includes creating those CDs and optimizing the computer (read: getting rid of the bloatware/trials/offers that the manufacturers are raking in the bucks for cramming on your PC without passing that on to the consumer)

    This has been regular practice ever since computers stopped coming with recovery media. Why are they not suing these chains?

    • I think it is incredibly naive to assume this is piracy in any way. They are not selling a copy of windows. They are not pirating or distributing software. They are delivering a service to create cds that the consumer is ENTITLED to.

      As I stated above. Why isn't Microsoft attacking North American chains that provide this exact service??

  2. The official article on Microsoft's page says "The suit charges Comet with producing the counterfeits in a factory in Hampshire and then selling the media to customers from its retail outlets across the U.K."

    The only way this could be construed as fraud, is that the PC it was intended for was not used in the creation of the recovery media. Still a stretch. The people are not getting fraudulent copies of Windows, they are getting recovery media that is completely useless without the computer it was intended for. These disks specifically work ONLY in the computer it was designed for (they contain drivers and other software as well as the OS) and will not work on another machine.

    This alone gives them valid cause to defend their actions as they are only distributed with the computer it is intended to work on (which you can make yourself)

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