/ Technology

Microsoft sues Comet for fake software: whose side are you on?

Comet store

This week, Microsoft accused retailer Comet of deliberately pirating and selling 94,000 copies of Windows back-up discs. Comet says it was acting on behalf of its customers – do you agree?

With a lawsuit now pending, Comet’s image could be seriously tarnished over this issue. Microsoft is alleging that Comet itself produced thousands of counterfeit recovery discs for Windows XP and Vista, which were then sold to UK customers.

We contacted a Comet spokesperson who confirmed that this counterfeit software wasn’t simply bundled with new computers, but actually sold in stores as a separate purchase between March 2008 and December 2009.

The risk for customers

So what’s the problem if a back-up disc turns out to be pirated? For Microsoft, of course, this is a case of intellectual property rights and combating piracy of its products. But what happens to a customer who attempts to use a counterfeit disc?

A recovery disc isn’t used to install your original software, but rather to recover your computer to an original state in case you have serious operating system problems. If you were to perform this recovery with an unofficial disc, the risk remains that you’d then be unable to download future software updates, since Microsoft could detect that your operating system isn’t licensed.

If you’re worried that you might have an unofficial disc, check out Microsoft’s site to detect whether your software is an officially-licensed original product or not.

In the best interests of customers?

Comet has defended its actions by insisting it was actually acting in the best interests of consumers.

For the last few years, Microsoft has stopped providing recovery discs with new computer purchases, and instead has encouraged customers to create their own discs using blank CDs. The obvious problem here is that a huge number of people wouldn’t know how to go about doing this, or even if they should be doing it at all.

According to a spokesperson for Comet:

‘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.’

However, Microsoft has firmly refuted this suggestion, saying:

‘Comet’s actions were unfair to customers. We expect better from retailers of Microsoft products — and customers deserve better, too.’

So who do you side with here? Is it too much for Microsoft to expect customers to create their own recovery discs, and were Comet trying to provide a helping hand? Or is this a case of Comet cynically profiting from pirated discs that would have cost them next to nothing to produce?

We’re also interested to hear from anyone who may have purchased one of these recovery discs from Comet – have you had problems updating your software and will you be contacting Comet at all?

Scott Humphrey says:
5 January 2012

Interesting case, I would say if Comet charged for a service in creating recovery discs that was non-profit in that they covered their costs and the customer proved they had a legit copy then I’m on Comet’s side. Most people only think to create a recovery disc once their machine has crashed, by then it’s too late, so offering a disc recovery creation service is very useful. However, if they sold them for profit to anyone then MS rightly have an argument.

I’d also like to know what difference there is between Comet creating and supplying recovery discs against the customer creating their own in terms of it functioning correctly?

As I understand it, Comet ‘sold’ these disks in stores for £14.99. I guess only Comet know if they were making a profit at that price, but I assume they wouldn’t have done it if they were making a loss.

I’m with Comet on this one. I think it’s ridiculous that we don’t get a physical copy of the software which we’ve actually paid for.

I’m not sure if it’s any different now, but I used to find that these discs often didn’t work anyway. Oh, and why should I have to pay for the discs to get a copy of the software?

Why does Microsoft not provide a recovery disc with each computer with a Windows OS?

Of course it is not essential to use Windows.

What is the difference between Comet saying: “you can make your own recovery CD following the MS instructions or we will do it for you for £14.99 – here is one we prepared earlier !”

I blame Microsoft without question. I hate Microsoft.

We took advantage of this service when we bought an Acer desktop from Comet, as it seemed a lot easier than making our own recovery disks. Fortunately we haven’t had to make use of the recovery disks. I’ve looked at the Microsoft site, and they really don’t provide any help with the issue aside from helping you identify whether your version of Windows is licensed or unlicensed.

It’s just M$ blowing it’s horn again, shouting about piracy trying to make Comet out to be the bad guy.
Actually the discs are worthless. All PC repair engineers have these discs and use them regularly to recover damaged PCs. I could download a copy from the net just now.
The important part of the process is the activation key which is unique to your machine. Comet is not giving away activation keys just the discs.
M$ are just annoyed Comet are making a few quid and they aren’t getting a share.

Microsoft should continue to provide recovery discs, however if Comet were acting in the interest of customers then they should provide the discs free with new systems and offer guidance where a customer needs to create their own. Selling these discs for profit is a disservice to both the customer and to Microsoft.

NeilG says:
5 January 2012

I am on Comet’s side. No-one now supplies recovery disks or manuals with their products and I think its a disgrace. Lets hope Britsih Justice and fairplay.prevails.

Gerard Phelan says:
5 January 2012

The very LAST thing most ordinary people are going to think about after opening the box of their new computer is “Oh I must search for the instructions to create a recovery disc, even though as a new user I do not know what that is or why I may want one in a few years”.

The Windows LICENSE is the fancy holographic label stuck somewhere on the computer case. Microsoft is not saying Comet fabricated those or did not pay them the associated license fee.

It appears to me that Microsoft have been kicking their ultimate customers (us) in the teeth by refusing to supply recovery discs and that Comet were making this all too clear by supplying recovery discs. So this dispute is nothing to do with licences and everything to do with Microsoft attempting to cover up its customer hostile business practices.

( I just has a sudden vision of a headline in a few weeks…”Ikea sues local DIY handyman offering to put together customer’s new flat pack furniture”. An IKEA spokesman said that ‘IKEA products are generally easy to assemble’. This DIY handyman is depriving our customers of an experience they must carry out themselves”. )

Microsoft are at it again! They are such a big monopoly and know they can bully the likes of Comet for not doing things the way Microsoft wants.

When you buy a new computer with Windows pre-installed, you are PAYING for Microsoft Windows. How else do you think Microsoft makes billions?

Computers used to come with the manufacturer’s “Recovery Disc” CD and this was used to restore Windows and the manufacturer’s pre-installed rubbish when Windows would refuse to boot or malfunction in other ways. I’ve seen that happen too many times!!!!!!!!!!!! As a result of cost-cutting, this disc is no longer supplied and your copy of Windows that YOU PAID FOR is installed on the hard drive and vulnerable to damage. Look in the literature to see how you can recover your computer if Windows decides to misbehave or gets attacked by a virus, because Windows is very fragile to being attacked from anything malicious. As always, the recovery process erases all your existing files, so do make sure you make backups of anything you don’t want to lose.

If you’ve become fed-up with Windows being so unreliable and the stress that it causes, just get a computer with Ubuntu installed or spend extra and buy a MacBook. This is 2012 and for everyday tasks you don’t need Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office and other expensive software when you can get alternative software that’s faster, free and does NOT misbehave like Windows does and is a *lot* more secure against viruses.

Take a look at Ubuntu:

Why is it so hard to find proper details on what these recovery discs actually contain? Without such information, you can’t expect anyone to decide whether Microsoft or Comet is right. Do these discs contain a complete image of the customer’s hard drive contents at the time the laptop left the factory? (This would be correctly called a recovery disc.)

Or are they simply copies of Windows XP installation CDs sold on the pretence that they are for use in recovery?

The discs are almost certainly recovery disks for the PC that they’re being sold with. Such disks contain not only the base operating system (Windows) but also the preinstalled drivers for all the bits of hardware on that particular PC.
Bu even if the disks were just copies of the Microsoft Windows software, it wouldn’t matter because since Windows XP, it won’t work unless you register it with Microsoft and use the activation key that’s on a label stuck to the computer. So the software on its own is of no use.
I’m with Comet on this one, I’ve seen far too many people who had no idea that the option to produce their own backups was important.
But there’s a lot of freeware that is sold on the basis that the seller is charging for the disk and their labour in copying it, not for the software itself. If Comet are really saying that that’s all they’re doing then fifteen quid seems a bit steep.

xcom says:
12 January 2012

I’m with Microsoft on this one, working in the industry myself I deal with people every day that say “I didn’t make one, it didn’t tell me I had to”

Dealing with OEM computers every day I know that they ALL remind you every time to load the computer for at least 28 days, you do them or confirm you need to buy them by skipping the procedure.

Microsoft have never provided recovery discs because its the job of the manufacture to provide a recovery method, back when you were only given cd’s they were often lost or damaged. No w manufactures are only licensed to provide one recovery but you are allowed to make a backup by law, so I feel the hard drive recovery is a good idea and its much quicker.

When you buy a set of recovery discs they cost about £35-50 because not only are you covering the manufacturing costs but also covering a licence fee to Microsoft for making another copy, that’s what Microsoft are complaining about.