Debullshitifying Microsoft's smear campaign against the recycler it helped send to prison


Originally published at:


I love you, Cory, but sometimes the copyleft fumes get to your head.

I can download the PDF of one of your books for free. Yay!
I can burn that PDF to a CD. Yay!
I can print that PDF onto paper. Yay!
I can download photo-ready artwork of your book cover and get a press to run off thousands of copies that look just like the ones in Barnes & Noble, and sell them. Yay? Maybe not so much anymore?


I think you’ve misunderstood. It’s not a book, it’s software that doesn’t run without a license.Think of it this way: you own a computer. Your computer has a license for windows. Windows becomes corrupt. You need to reinstall windows. Do you have to buy a new copy of windows? No. If someone gives you a copy of windows for which you have a license, are you pirating windows? No, ffs, you aren’t, even by Microsoft’s standards.

The only way your book analogy works is like this: Cory’s books are free to download, but are password locked. Each password is unique. If you buy (either directly or if it comes preinstalled on your ereader) a password, you are granted free access to the book. There are a million copies of the book floating around, free for anyone to download or copy, because, again, the access is in the password. You could make a thousand copies of the book (still password protected) and he wouldn’t care, or have grounds to care.

Your analogy only works if you break the password in order to print copies that people can use without a password. That is very different than providing copies to people who have a legit password. Get it?


Yay! More reason not to give Bill Gates any more money. :slight_smile:


Is Microsoft’s licensing scheme so confusing that even they don’t fully understand it?

I bet none of the people involved in this case (other than the defendant) has ever personally reinstalled Windows and dealt with the many potholes the process can throw at you.


No, their expert witnesses lied in court. But that’s OK, you see, because they are a multibillion dollar company, so the rule of law does not apply to them.


This is another childish defense of illegal business practices being justified for reasons beyond my understanding.

I can also download and install a variety of software’s for free, like Team Viewer. I can post links to them and send the installer to whoever I want. What I can’t do, is manufacture copy’s of the software, package them to look like they are manufactured by the creator and then sell them for a profit.

I have been in business 12 years. Anytime I want to sell a product, the first step taken is to contact the manufacturer or a local distributer and begin the appropriate steps to setting up dealership. Dealership agreements always have stipulations and outline how the dealer can and cannot sell the product. That’s how you conduct business, it isn’t very complicated.

The idea that people would defend someone who decided to take this approach, which a teenager would recognize as illegal, is pure idiocy and clearly shows a lack of understanding how business is actually conducted in the real world.


One big thing that gets dropped a lot when discussing this is that he had MS and Dell logos on the disks.


He got a Chinese factory to run off thousands of discs made to look exactly like they’d come from Microsoft. Personally I think the “software piracy” issue is a red herring here, but that’s actually beside the point.

  • Why did he run off lookalike discs? To differentiate his refurbed computers from all the others that either come with no discs (and a note saying “download it yourself”) or a white-label disc. Customers see those and think “that’s shady”; he wanted to look a bit more respectable. Which is laudable, except he’s not allowed to do it with somebody else’s trademark. Presumably he expected to be able to charge some slight premium for his refurbed machines because of the air of respectability that genuine-looking discs would bring.

  • When you download the ISO from Microsoft’s website, you have whatever assurance the gods of SSL can give you that you’re getting genuine Microsoft software. If you buy a computer with a disc that looks like it came from Microsoft (but, unbeknownst to you, actually didn’t), you have no idea what you’re installing. If your machine ends up infected with ten kinds of malware, you are going to end up blaming Microsoft. (Microsoft doesn’t allege - and neither do I - that his discs actually were infected with anything. That doesn’t change the fact that baby did a bad bad thing.)

Yes, I get it. I don’t think you do.


He got a Chinese factory to run off thousands of discs made to look exactly like they’d come from Microsoft.

Dell, not Microsoft, but close enough.

Anyway, yes, he obviously did something wrong. But as it says in the article, “The monetary value of the discs was so small and the counterfeiting piece so minor… that if anything it would be a fine and confiscation of the shipment, not a 5-year case alleging millions in damages.” Microsoft misled the court to get him an excessive sentence.


Aha, so you DON’T think it’s the exact same thing as printing a thousand copies of a digital book and selling them.

Why did you make that comparison, then?

Additionally, the dude was selling them for like $.25, right? He’s hardly getting a premium at that rate. The disk thing was dumb but it’s hardly go-to-jail-for-18-months


Probably. An awful lot of business software maintenance revenue comes from what is called the, “license compliance shakedown”.

It goes off a few different ways, and I never fully understood it until I went to a company that was a customer of my previous company. But basically: Companies make it possible to accidentally use their software in ways which are not in keeping with their EULA. As in, they could implement their licensing to prevent it, but they chose not to so they could periodically audit businesses and get them to “True Up”.

There’s a whole industry around this business model. Never agree to a software license audit. Ever. Fight it tooth and nail. If you receive a nastygram about it, audit internally and fix it.


Here’s what I actually wrote, Reading Comprehension Man:

Do you really not see the point I was making?


I think someone missed the shareware CD era.

Perhaps the people running these sites should also go to jail?


Even if the examples you provide were true, what part of them would requre criminal punishment?


Retail Windows and OEM(Dell) Windows are two different things. If you try and reinstall windows from a retail windows disk on a Dell PC the product key will not work.

With Windows 10 out now I’ve had a hard time getting the OEM Win 7 .iso from some manufactures. Forcing many a good PC into the free pile by not providing this basic support for legacy software.


Moving the goalposts a bit here, aren’t we?


Very much correct; Hell, even different revisions of the same OS (aka service packs) get tripped up with this.

“Oh, your product key is a Dell OEM for XP w/SP1 slipstreamed, but you are trying to install XP w/SP3 slipstreamed, built from the dell OEM disc using nLite or some similar product. ergo, your product key no longer works. please buy a new Retail copy of XP and re-do everything from start. Too bad, so sad.”

Yes, that actually happened. My response was to ‘borrow’ a VLK that work was no longer using and a corporate-built slipstreamed ISO and perform a fresh reinstall to the machine in question. (the machine in question has since been sent off to the great Recycle bin in the sky, but still…)


I think someone missed everything.

You clearly didn’t read my post and do not comprehend the topic. Cnet is not manufacturing copies of software, using trademarked logo’s in an effort to push a product as legitimately manufactured, and selling what is normally free for a profit.


This used to be the case - each of the 31 flavours of XP required its own disk and its own key. This made for some rather annoying situations where you discovered that you did not have an ISO of the appropriate disk for the type of key on the computer’s sticker, forcing you to go ferreting around the Pirate Bay or similar site looking for “XP limited hovel edition” or whatever, then check the hash of the ISO you downloaded to make sure you got an unaltered version, etc.

But as of Vista and later, all retail Windows installation CDs are able to install any of the various flavours of the OS, so a single disk will work with any key from “limited hovel edition” up through to “professional geek rad extreme overkill edition.”

I gather the OEM disks still have a limitation, but it’s due to a single file on the disk - every slipstream utility out there knows how to delete that file in order to create a universal installer.