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?