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Microsoft to Get Tough on License Dodgers

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the ready-aim-fire dept.

Microsoft 564

An anonymous reader writes "PC Advisor reports that Microsoft is going to start getting tough with certain small business customers. They are going to examine their small customer license database — any discrepancies and it will call you for an audit. If you refuse it will send in the BSA and the legal heavies. "

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564 comments

So basically, like every other business.. (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805630)

which sells software. Yawn.

Nope, they'll help sell you more licenses, too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805740)

From the article:

Microsoft contends companies have an incentive to have legally licensed software, and its audit and asset management teams also can look for ways the company can save money, he said.
To be fair, though, this did make one money saving tip to spring to mind...

Re:Nope, they'll help sell you more licenses, too! (1, Funny)

Pakaran2 (138209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806190)

What? You mean like if there were an operating system these companies could legally license for free, and maybe an office suite to go with it, they could save a lot of money? Yeah, I'm sure Microsoft will suggest that.

So true (4, Insightful)

KingSkippus (799657) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805772)

You know, not to be a troll, but I really don't see what the big deal is. Regardless of whatever ethical problems one may have with Microsoft, if a business is using illegal copies of software, that company should be sued. Buying the appropriate licenses for software is one of the costs of doing business. If I wrote a piece of software the businesses wanted and I found out that it was being rampantly pirated, I'd be wanting to stick the BSA on them, too. I don't see why Microsoft should be held to a different standard.

If you're a business using Windows, budget for it and pay, for crying out loud. If you don't want to spend the money on Microsoft products, then use open source products instead, which have become very economically attractive and corporately viable replacements. But trying to have your cake and eat it too is just stupid.

Oh, and as a side note, not that this won't start happening in the US by any stretch of the imagination, but from TFA:

So far, Microsoft will use the new approach only in the UK, [UK Lincensing Programs Manager Ram] Dhaliwal said.

Re:So true (4, Insightful)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805904)

My problem isn't with prosecuting folks who pirate software, it's more with the draconian measures that the BSA is willing to take, and the apparently difficult rpocess that a company has to go through to prove that their software is legitimate. Having disks, license keys, and boxes on site apparently isn't enough.

Probable cause? (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805930)

The BSA still needs some evidence (other than a lack of response) in order to initiate an action. Discovery rules in the UK do not allow the types of fishing expeditions that are common in US civil court proceedings. I wonder if Microsoft takes a detailed look at their logs from update servers and WGA servers to identify pirated systems?

Other than that, perhaps some PHBs make ill-advised decisions to comply and allow audits?

Re:Probable cause? (1)

blowdart (31458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806004)

The BSA often advertises with "Grass on your old company" type adverts; and have said before it's reports like this that initiate actions. Of course their records aren't open for review, so who knows.

Re:So true (5, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805932)

You mean other than the fact that civil law around the world makes it legal to build private police forces like this to enforce copyright? That these private police forces can enter private property, seize assets that contain confidential information, and are accountable to no-one? The BSA and other copyright police forces have more power to search than the FBI. Not withstanding the obvious civil rights concerns, or the privacy concerns, copyright owners have the power to look at any computer system, any piece of source code even, that they may find interesting. Who gets to look and where they get to look is determined entirely by who has the best lawyers. In most parts of the world, the local police will happily aid in the use of force to inspect.

I'm waiting for the next upgrade to the TRIPS treaties to see whether or not copyright police forces have started demanding covert inspection rights.. making it legal for them to plant spies in your business to see if you have all the appropriate licenses or whether any of your source code is violating their IP, without the messiness of a raid. Maybe they'll ask for widespread surveillance rights too.

Re:So true (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806180)

But trying to have your cake and eat it too is just stupid.

There's only one rule: you can have and eat your cake, or you get busted. Some people are just willing to accept to risks and go with the former scenario.

It may not be their right as citizens, but it's their ability as living beings to try what they want and live with the results.

I've frequently found myself pirating a software initially and as I find more and more uses for it, and become dependent on it, I purchase a license. Is it proper? Is it wrong? Doesn't matter. Only thing that matters is that I did it.

The situation with Windows/Office is the same. They stealthily encourages piracy and then demanded all pirated users pay. Is it wrong, right? Doesn't matter. They pulled it off, and since the law is on their side, they have the right to call the BSA on the pirates.

And the pirates have the right to fight back... It's that simple.

Re:So true (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17806184)

I don't understand why I can't have my cake AND eat it. That is such a stupid saying, I mean it's my damn cake ffs.

Re:So true (3, Interesting)

captainjaroslav (893479) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806188)

Your comment makes complete sense and it's obvious you're not trolling, however, it doesn't take into account the quite real possibility that MS is identifying legitimately-purchased copies of Windows as illegitimate for some reason. (I don't use Windows on my own computers, but there was an article here the other day about MS's estimate of what percentage of Windows computers are running illegal copies and a large number of the comments were personal stories about MS making just such mistakes.)

Will MS compensate businesses for the time they have to spend proving that their copies are legal?

So basically, like every other charity business.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805794)

Thank goodness OSS will never make a dime.

Re:So basically, like every other business.. (1)

kyliaar (192847) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805872)

Actually, which sells unnecessary upgrades to Vista.

Re:So basically, like every other business.. (1)

cunamara (937584) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806132)

This only underscores the fact that there are major downsides to using non-free-as-in-speech software and few upsides. Do you want to own the software you paid for, or do you want Microsoft to own it? That's the current situation: you do not own your software. You can't fix it if its broken, can't improve it if it has weaknesses. Not only do you not own it, but you barely even have control over it! And that in turn, means that you do not have control over your computers. The only business for whom this is a good idea is Microsoft.

People wouldn't stand for this with their cars or their toasters, but they go along with it for the most crucial part of their businesses! Whatta scam!

oh yeah (5, Interesting)

User 956 (568564) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805632)

PC Advisor reports that Microsoft is going to start getting tough with certain small business customers.

They're starting with the small ones, because we all know what would happen if they started with the big ones.

Re:oh yeah (2, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806080)

because we all know what would happen if they started with the big ones.

Microsoft would use tanks and heavy artillery instead of just the BSA - Boy Scouts of America [scouting.org] ?

Re:oh yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17806154)

Well, the big companies generally buy bigger site licenses than they need because they're cheaper in bulk and it's good to have room to grow.

Why now? (5, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806198)

Vista!

Why didn't they do this 6 months or a year back? Nope, they're waiting for Vista. Thus is an extra encouragement for people to "Get Legal" and thus get Vista and push up Vista sales numbers.

After a few months people (shareholders, analysts etc) will be looking at Vista sales and they better be selling it like crazy to support all the hype.

Re:oh yeah (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806240)

They're starting with the small ones, because we all know what would happen if they started with the big ones.

Right.. mostly nothing, since big businesses have less of an incentive to skimp on software, a larger disincentive (public image, huge liability issues, potential employee reporting, etc), deeper pockets, AND generally get massive discounts for their volume licenses.

Small business is the logical target. They have a much smaller disincentive because they're extremely unlikely to be caught (employees usually family members and/or have a close relationship with the owner) and there's so many small businesses that they can play the odds. Additionally they have a much larger incentive to use illicit copies since they're probably pinching pennies for the first few years at least.

Anyway, I agree with the sentiments posted above. Software should be calculated as an expense of doing business; else use something free.

Threaten them with Linux (1)

DJ Rubbie (621940) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805642)

Then they will give a discount on offending copies, problem solved.

Re:Threaten them with Linux (1)

errxn (108621) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805700)

Either that, or go ahead and actually follow through with the threat [infoworld.com] ...

Re:Threaten them with Linux (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805730)

Or just actually install Linux. Then you don't have to take their crap at all.

Seriously, the few advantages Windows supposedly has over Linux can't be worth the threat of a license audit. Even if you're in compliance it will still cost you a bunch of time (aka. money) and stress.

Re:Threaten them with Linux (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805842)

Or just actually install Linux. Then you don't have to take their crap at all.

Seriously, the few advantages Windows supposedly has over Linux can't be worth the threat of a license audit. Even if you're in compliance it will still cost you a bunch of time (aka. money) and stress.

Even if you switched to Linux, couldn't Microsoft still audit you anyway?

Re:Threaten them with Linux (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806018)

Sure they could, then you just print out the contents of the following:

http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.txt [gnu.org]

Along with:

http://www.mozilla.org/MPL/MPL-1.1.html [mozilla.org]

And:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BSD_license [wikipedia.org]

Then inform them that the "audit" is complete, unless they wish to discuss PDAs, which are purely commodity goods containing firmware which is not easily/readily pirated or counterfeited.

File and authentication Servers? Choose Samba over Windows.
Email/Groupware? Choose Scalix, Zimbra, Qmail, or even sendmail or postfix
Databases? Postgresql, Mysql, etc.

It has been possible to punt Microsoft for a long time now, and it has even become downright convenient in recent years.

Re:Threaten them with Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805902)

Precisely :)

I am the MD of a small business that specialises in providing IT solutions to other small businesses. We're not fanatical about it, but we do have a distinct bias towards [F|L]OSS. We're currently discussing how to turn this latest behaviour of MS to our advantage.

I do not for one moment condone the illegal distribution of intellectual property (in any of its forms, I'm not getting into an argument here). At the same time, I am more interested in the correction of wrongdoing than retribution. I want people who are using software for which they have not purchased the necessary rights to cease and desist. In many cases, I think that the best way for them to cease and desist is to switch part or all of their IT estate to [F|L]OSS solutions.

Thanks, Bill :)

Threaten them with a rotten carrot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805926)

"Seriously, the few advantages Windows supposedly has over Linux can't be worth the threat of a license audit"

The "few"? Do you have any idea what you're talking about? The advantages extend beyound MS and involve humdreds of companies that create add-ons for MS products, all the way to training, books, full-fledged software that runs on MS products, etc. And that's just the commercial aspects. There's plenty of people who write free software, templates, scripts, advise users in forums, etc. When Linux has as much third-party support as MS, then you all can go "a few".

Re:Threaten them with Linux (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805808)

Threaten my company? Ha
It would go like this.
We want to audit your Licenses
(click) hangs up the phone

A few days later
(Knock Knock)
Yes
Hi we are from the BSA
(SLAM)
I love open source

Re:Threaten them with Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805974)

In which case you'll be spending time and money in court to prove that you do not violate their licenses.

Back in my day... (2, Insightful)

Bonker (243350) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805646)

... we prosecuted extortion under organized crime statutes.

Re:Back in my day... (-1, Offtopic)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805696)

Silly Slashdot poster, everyone knows that organized crime statutes are really meant for things like jailing peaceful abortion protestors for years.

It's a real shame what the U.S. has come to these days.

Re:Back in my day... (1, Offtopic)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805874)

Silly Slashdot poster, everyone knows that organized crime statutes are really meant for things like jailing peaceful abortion protestors for years.
LIke the ones that shoot doctors?

Re:Back in my day... (-1, Offtopic)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805964)

Haven't you heard of Scheidler v. National Organization for Women, Inc. [wikipedia.org] , the case where RICO was cited against folks who just hold up a picket sign outside of a clinic? People who commit murder are justly tried under laws against murder, but RICO was not meant to be used for harassing people banding together for a controversial but entirely non-violent protest.

Yeah, RICO! (1)

alienmole (15522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805758)

It would be fun to watch some ambitious state Attorney General go after Microsoft with the RICO Act [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Yeah, RICO! (1)

GoodbyeBlueSky1 (176887) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805844)

Sure! And how about the Alien and Sedition Acts [wikipedia.org] too while we're at it?

Relevance? What's that?

Re:Back in my day... (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805836)

It's extortion to ask people to pay for a product that they're using? Well, then I guess all of us poor slobs in retail should be prosecuted for extortion as well, since nobody leaves our store with products that they haven't paid for! How dare Microsoft sue companies who don't pay for their software! The nerve! That's it. I'm switching to Apple. Could somebody point me in the direction of Apple software that I don't have to pay for?

Cringely (3, Interesting)

mfh (56) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805656)

Cringely mentioned a while ago that people will disrupt Genuine Advantage as a first offense against Microsoft, so if they get tough with people who have legitimate copies, this will get really interesting, really fast.

Gets Tough? (5, Insightful)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805660)

Initial notice, followed by three written notices prior to any intrusive action? I'm sorry but this does not seem unreasonable nor tough to me. Anyone in the small business league at present SHOULD be adhering to any and all licensing necessary for the software they are using TO PRODUCE A PROFIT. If they aren't, well they best not try to expand beyond the term small business at any time in the future...

Flames as follows:

Re:Gets Tough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805706)

When your already up to 70 hours a week as your the only computer person running everything, the whole concept of dropping everything and wasting a few days walking people through all your stuff seems pretty damned tough to me.

Re:Gets Tough? (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805756)

If their solution is disagreeable, use other software. This isnt the home market we're talking about, this is peoples livelyhoods _depending_ on the software in question. If the time overhead of such a process is too high, perhaps you should be looking into a capital time investment to switch over to other software.

If thats LESS convenient, then i fail to see your point.

Re:Gets Tough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805862)

a) it said they were going after businesses with 250 PC's; if you're the only one running the IT department for 250 PC's, then you've got more of a problem on your hands than Microsoft's legal department.

b) you should be paying attention to the licenses you use for your business; just because Software Company A hasn't started enforcing its licenses, doesn't mean they won't tomorrow with your name being #1 on their list by happenstance. You could lose everything just because you're lazy (don't read the licenses), don't care (read the licenses, but ignore them) or cheap (pirate commercial software).

THANK you (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806024)

for point b), I was trying to think of a concise way to say that without harsher language.

Re:Gets Tough? (1)

jomama717 (779243) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805920)

I completely agree with the parent. It's astonishing to me how anxious people are to jump all over Microsoft that they will happily rush to the defense of businesses using unlicensed software to make their own money. I've worked for software companies for my entire professional life and take software pirating pretty seriously - even if it's Microsoft's software. Stealing is stealing, and Microsoft has every right to passively seek out and actively question companies illegally using their software.

Re:Gets Tough? (5, Insightful)

DM9290 (797337) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806100)

"Anyone in the small business league at present SHOULD be adhering to any and all licensing necessary for the software they are using TO PRODUCE A PROFIT. If they aren't, well they best not try to expand beyond the term small business at any time in the future..."

And if they ARE adhering to any and all licensing necessary for the software they are using, should they still consent to an audit just to put Microsoft's mind at ease?

You are very presumptuous to assume that anyone who is complying with the law would not be offended at needing to PROVE it. If I am expected to trust you to examine my physical private property with nothing other than your word of honour that you aren't going to screw around with it, then you should be willing to accept my word of honour that I am not screwing around with your intellectual property.

And if you aren't willing to accept my word. then too bloody bad. Because my actual private property rights on the physical computer system TRUMP your speculative theory that it is illegal for me to buy 100 computers without buying 100 client licenses of microsoft windows. Obviously I'm using the computers for something OTHER than your software. Until such a time as the law says a person is required to buy quantities and ratios of software as decreed by microsoft, microsoft has no power to compell anyone to comply with such an audit. And threatening that a person will suffer some kind of negative consequence if they don't wave their rights to privacy is extortion, plain and simple.

Summary is incorrect. (4, Informative)

Virak (897071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805684)

It plainly says in the first sentence of the article that they're going after medium sized companies, and later on that "Microsoft is targeting companies with around 250 PCs", which is a bit more than a small company would have.

Re:Summary is incorrect. (2, Insightful)

DittoBox (978894) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805924)

Summary is way off base...

From the end of the article:

So far, Microsoft will use the new approach only in the UK, Dhaliwal said.

So, MS is only targeting medium-ish businesses in the UK, after multiple letters and some data-mining techniques on their own data? What order of scare-mongering BS is this? Way to go article summary writer, you've just blown this article out of proportion. Have a gold star, courtesy Microsoft.

They generally are (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806096)

TFA are often broken, but TFS(summary) almost always are.

RTFA, if you must, but never RTFS.

In other news... (1, Insightful)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805702)

Sports Crasher Monthly reports that stadiums are going to start getting tough with certain spectators. They are going to examine their person and check for a ticket -- any lack of one and they will check for proof of purchase. If you refuse, they will kick you out and call in the legal heavies.

Re:In other news... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17806206)

Sports Crasher Monthly further reports that stadiums are also require receipts for all clothing worn by spectators. If a spectator is unable to provide a receipt, the stadium will provide a service for renting a clothing license for the duration of the event. Larger spectators, or those with many garments, can qualify for discounts in their licensing fees.

Reason to check out Linux (2, Interesting)

bb5ch39t (786551) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805708)

If they are truly "small", then their "lock in" may well be light enough to consider using Linux instead. For those things which don't have an equivalent, I'd check to see if it ran under CrossOver Linux (was CrossOver Office). Convert all MS Office documents to Open Office documents. Not difficult, unless there are a lot of VBA macros. Convert MS SQL server to MySQL or PostgreSQL. Start converting VB.NET stuff to something else (I'd say Java, but I don't want the flames [grin]).

Re:Reason to check out Linux (1)

jsnipy (913480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805784)

If it did not work in under 160 hours of labor, would you as a consultant eat the costs?

Re:Reason to check out Linux (1)

The-Bus (138060) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805958)

This is definitely going to backfire. As you mentioned, small businesses are the ones least likely to not migrate to Mac or Linux. Most small businesses are unlikely to have lots of computers. But, like anything else, there's always some piece of software that needs Windows to run. The difference is that we might only be talking about 2 or 3 things in the whole company, not 2 or 3 things per department per branch.

MSDN (2, Interesting)

jsnipy (913480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805710)

I wonder how universal MSDN subscribers will affected by this?

Re:MSDN (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806042)

Probably quite a few- the number of DVDs you get is completely unmanageable. Dumpster diving at such places will often net you both DVDs and license keys on little slips of paper sized to fit into jewel cases....

Re:MSDN (1)

Mortanius (225192) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806230)

One would think that the fact that the company is an MSDN subscriber (something Microsoft would, obviously, have records to verify) would be a simple matter. Depending on how Microsoft does their audit, if it's PC-by-PC or what, it's just a simple matter of making sure the unique key that this particular MSDN account has been granted is only used in one machine. Though even beyond that, you'd imagine that Microsoft could pretty easily check activation records (for their activation-enabled products, anyway) and see how many times that key has been used, though that's not a definite count as machines come and go.

But really, there's nothing too special about MSDN subscribers. They, just like other copies of the software, have a single license, in most cases. I know there are a few exceptions, though I can't recall them at the time.

Unless I'm way off and Universal subscribers have a different agreement than we do.

BSA? (5, Funny)

i_am_socket (970911) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805724)

You know its bad when they send the Boy Scouts of America after you.

Re:BSA? (0, Offtopic)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805780)

BSA = Business Software Alliance

That said, there's got to be a joke in there somewhere about getting tied up in knots...

Re:BSA? (1)

n1hilist (997601) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805840)

and watch out for those trojan cookies!

Re:BSA? (1)

Ralphus Maximus (594419) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806142)

Wrong outfit. Cookies are the Girl Scouts - the GSA

Cheers, RM

It's about time ... (2, Funny)

nocloo (82496) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805766)

I know a few small businesses that abuse the MS license to make PROFIT and I think it's about time that MS does a crackdown on those businesses.
They should put more effort into cracking down those real business abusers who are making profit on the back of MS than the stupid broken WGA which annoys lots of innocent home users.

Go Microsoft!!! (4, Insightful)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805792)

This is great news.

The more Microsoft squeezes their own customers and makes it difficult and expensive to do business using Microsoft products the more these same businesses will finally open up to the idea of using open source solutions instead of consuming the spoon fed FUD from Microsoft's marketing machine.

This will result in more competition in the market where some of us can jump in and compete with the heavies in providing added value to businesses in the form of IT related services.

Go Microsoft!

Re:Go Microsoft!!! (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805944)

"Customers" who don't pay are not customers that any business wants.

Who says that "customers" who don't pay for their software from Microsoft are going to be any more likely to pay for OSS? If the OSS companies want to compete for non-paying customers, I'm sure that MS wouldn't mind in the least bit. But, it certainly says something about the state of OSS when people have the choice of using MS software illegally without paying, will choose that over using OSS legally without paying. What this says to me is that many companies would rather risk a lawsuit than use OSS software.

That's something to think about.

Re:Go Microsoft!!! (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806036)

The more Microsoft squeezes their own customers and makes it difficult and expensive to do business using Microsoft products the more these same businesses will finally open up to the idea of using open source solutions instead of consuming the spoon fed FUD from Microsoft's marketing machine.

They did this with Ernie Ball a few years ago. Ernie Ball, like many companies, just didn't keep up with their licenses like they should have. PCs got handed down without wiping out software like they should have. They were short a few dozen licenses. But what infuriated them is that their offices were publicly raided by the BSA. Ernie Ball settled for $100K, and then converted most of their IT department to Linux. MS probably lost millions just to get $100K.

Obligation? (2, Insightful)

Luthair (847766) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805810)

Seems a rather odd tactic, can they really persue legal action because they 'think' you 'might' not be following their licensing? Do companies really have any obligation to allow MS to examine their hardware.

Re:Obligation? (1)

Snowcap557 (883211) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805898)

I can't saw for certain about Microsoft, but I have seen some commercial licenses in which the software publisher can audit the business licensing its software. The way these things usually go, if the number of licenses which the business should have paid for is off by a certain percentage (someplace between 5-15%), the business also pays for the audit.

Re:Obligation? (1)

blowdart (31458) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805954)

In the UK there is the Anton Piller [wikipedia.org] order (and the newer Search Order) which is like a civil search warrant, which can be used to enable surprise searches in cases of suspected copyright, patent or trademark infringement.

But, can the BSA actually do anything? (5, Interesting)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805838)

The BSA is not a government entity, nor is it part of any law enforcement. If Microsoft wants to audit you, and you tell them no, can they actually force it on you? Or is this something where you have a contractual agreement with them (for your legitimate copies of Windows) that allows them to audit you whenever they feel like it? If so, wouldn't this simply encourage people who pirate a few copies of Windows to simply pirate all of them? You can't be in violation of a contract you don't have.

Re:But, can the BSA actually do anything? (1)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805888)

Sure they can sue you into submission. There's a reason why they are going after smaller companies. Most of these companies will be unable to mount a legal defense of sufficient strength to repel the BSA assault so they cave and pay some fines.

Re:But, can the BSA actually do anything? (1)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805962)

Sue you for what, though? If they need to do an audit, they obviously don't have enough information to make a determination that you're lacking software licenses. Plus, if you don't have a contract with them to begin with, what are they going to sue you for? Copyright infringement? That again, would require they already have sufficient proof of said infringement. Of course, I think all of that is required for them to win the case, not necessarily for them to sue the pants off you and waste your time and money leading up to the case being dismissed for lack of evidence. So perhaps I'm just being an idealist.

Re:But, can the BSA actually do anything? (1)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806068)

Couple things - you seem to think that you need to have a valid case to sue someone. Not so. Lawsuits are incredibly expensive affairs and small businesses tend to avoid them. They typically compel the audit as part of the discovery process. You have an EULA with MS and the BSA is typically operating as their counsel during the process. You are right you don't have a contract with the BSA but you do with Microsoft if you are using their products.

"That again, would require they already have sufficient proof of said infringement. "

In court this often amounts to "In 90% of all firms in the industry have 500 licenses. The litigant only has 250. We would like to compel discovery to find out if they have other licenses." The judge then agrees to the discovery request and the audit begins.

Re:But, can the BSA actually do anything? (1)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806158)

Hmmmm, seems awfully fishy. But, I guess that's what happens when the big corporations usurp the rights of citizens. Seems the only way around it is to not run any Microsoft software, which is what I do my best to do. :) Thanks for the explanation. I still think it's rather suspicious, but that does shed some light on the subject. I understand that there doesn't have to be a legitimate reason for you to sue somebody, but I was under the impression that by the time you got to court, the plaintiff is supposed to believe their claims are already true and not need additional proof.

Re:But, can the BSA actually do anything? (1)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806238)

Nope. You sue to compel discovery all the time. It's pretty common practice since you need information that only the company you are sueing holds -- See IBM and our favorite Utah software campany.

Re:But, can the BSA actually do anything? (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806002)

Heh, the BSA goes to a judge and the judge gives them power to force entry and seize all hardware at your facilities. Depending on where you are, the local or federal police will even help them.

These things are pretty much handed out like candy.

Re:But, can the BSA actually do anything? (1)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806032)

Seriously? Or is this just a case of "I bet this would happen...", since what you described would be a violation of the fourth amendment.

Re:But, can the BSA actually do anything? (1)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806098)

No it's not. Not if it's court ordered. I do not think you think the 4th amendment means what you think it does.

Re:But, can the BSA actually do anything? (1)

MysticOne (142751) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806210)

Even a judge can violate your constitutional rights, and it'd hopefully be overturned later on appeal. However, what I did forget about is that we're potentially talking about corporations, and said corporations have no such rights. So it doesn't really matter anyway. :)

Re:But, can the BSA actually do anything? (1)

OmegaBlac (752432) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806150)

Seriously? Or is this just a case of "I bet this would happen...", since what you described would be a violation of the fourth amendment.
When did the 4th amendment ever apply to businesses?

Re:But, can the BSA actually do anything? (5, Informative)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806038)

There's a clause in the EULA where you give Microsoft or it's agents the right to come in and audit you at any time, at your expense. Refuse to let them audit and you're automatically in breach of every Windows license you have in addition to any other violations. And they'll hold that you agreed to the EULA for any pirated versions as well, since you had (in their opinion) to click OK to the EULA to be able to install the pirated copy and that constitutes agreement to the EULA's terms.

The only way out is to not be running any of their software and be able to prove it in court. Do that and make sure to have provided them that proof when you refused the audit and, while you can't stop them from suing you and getting a court order allowing them to do the audit, you can probably counter-sue them for every penny of costs.

Re:But, can the BSA actually do anything? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806246)

EULA can not take away right for you / give right to m$ that brake other laws.

Bring 'em on.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805846)

Bring 'em on.... Bitches.

Obligatory Star Wars Quote (2, Insightful)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805852)

The tighter you squeeze, the more star systems that will slip from your grasp."

Obligatory Peanut Joke. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17806078)

No. The tighter I squeeze, the higher your voice rises. If anything escapes, I don't think you'd want it.

Amazing (1)

friedman101 (618627) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805856)

Company tries to prevent theft of product

More at eleven

Been there (4, Interesting)

zenray (9262) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805868)

At my former job Microsoft did this to us already. We were one company with two divisions that had individual accounts with Microsoft. Stupid, but that was the way that the owner wanted it. Anyway Microsoft was reviewing the size of the company (from what source I don't know) and only one of the division's software purchase from them and demanded an audit claiming that we did not purchase enough software to run a busniess the size we were. They implyed that we must be 'pirateing' some software. It was a major PITA combining audit data from both divisions.

Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805870)

We'll gladly comply when Microsoft and the BSA let us audit all their computers and in Microsoft's case, their entire source tree. I think every small business should insist on auditing them on-site.

CAL:s is a swamp (2, Insightful)

KokorHekkus (986906) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805878)

Client Access Licenses (CAL) can be hard to figure out. Basically they say: you want to know the cost we will tell you since it's to complex to figure it out yourself. Microsoft themselves say:

If your company's workstations are networked, you will utilize a network server and the workstations on the network will access that server(s) software to perform certain functions such as file and print sharing. In order to legally access this server software, a client access license or CAL may be required. A CAL is not a software product; rather it is a license that gives a user the right to access the services of the server.....This guide is for reference purposes only and should not be used for purchasing decisions. Before purchasing you should visit the "How to Buy" section for each product and consult your local reseller.[1]
As I read it... without a third party (reseller who asked the "right questions" from Microsofts view) to blame for lacking CAL:s you're up the creek and the only paddle is as much money as Microsoft wants.

[1] http://www.microsoft.com/resources/sam/lic_cal.msp x [microsoft.com]

Re:CAL:s is a swamp (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806102)

How hard is it to figure out how many workstations running Windows you have? The hard part comes for CALs for IIS- how many people will visit your website?

We use BSD to avoid the hassles. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805884)

About six years ago, myself and several colleagues saw this sort of nonsense becoming more prevalent. At the time our company was considering a move from Windows NT 3.51 to Windows 2000. So we confronted management, and recommended the use of FreeBSD. We prepared some feasibility studies, and they agreeded that our plan was the best one to go forward with.

We successfully replaced our Windows NT infrastructure with FreeBSD. One of the things we like is that the licensing terms are so simple and straightforward. All the bullshit one has to deal with when using Microsoft's products is just not there.

Oh, yes. PLEASE throw them all in the briar patch (3, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805890)

How cool. So Microsoft is going to use their "genuine (dis)advantage" tools to get serious about collecting their license fees.

So what does this do to the "total cost of ownership" of windows versus open source solutions?

How much of those calculations especially at the PHB level - are done assuming either that all their installations are paid for (and nobody installed any extras or forged their identification) or that they can get away with extras - and in either case didn't factor in being audited? (That's a BIG cost even (especially) if it turns out you're squeaky-clean.)

Perhaps this will create additional incentives to switch.

It's so easy.. (3, Insightful)

jvagner (104817) | more than 7 years ago | (#17805912)

..to be MS-free 2-3 years down the road for any given company. Certainly for a start-up. Linux and OS X can easily take care of much of the market. MS should consider swaying customers to continue to be customers through positive reinforcement.

I literally haven't been in a tech/management meeting where there wasn't ouright begrudgement at the mention of MS and MS-technologies.

Re:It's so easy.. (1, Troll)

DogDude (805747) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806030)

Linux and OS X can easily take care of much of the market.

OS X is viable, assuming you don't mind paying twice as much for your hardware and software, and having draconian vendor lock-in, the likes of which MS hasn't even attempted. Linux doesn't even have a decent accounting package that runs on it. So, unless you do all of your accounting with pencil and paper, Linux isn't really all that viable for most companies, I'd think.

Re:It's so easy.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17806168)

OS X is viable, assuming you don't mind paying twice as much for your hardware and software, and having draconian vendor lock-in, the likes of which MS hasn't even attempted.

Dude, you forgot to budget for black turtlenecks, artsy glasses, black pants, and the monthly PRIDE meeting on site.

Re:It's so easy.. (2, Informative)

snitmo (901312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806222)

I wish it was indeed so easy, but I don't think so, at least for software developers. Sure, doing e-mail and Internet browsing can be taken care of by OS X or Linux, but not the actual work. Let's say you are a small software company. You need to guarantee your software works on your customer's PC. What do your customers use? Most of the time, it's Windows. You need to have Windows to develop and test your software on.

Does BSA give refunds for overlicenced software? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805946)

I work at a company that primarily uses Linux for all development.
But all boxes even those that have only Linux installed still have Windows license stickers on them.
Will the BSA give a refund? Perhaps the refund can go to a charity, like EFF?

Here we go again (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17805984)

http://www.osv.org.au/index.cgi?tid=91 [osv.org.au]

One of the hoariest linux switch stories is about Ernie Ball, a company that makes guitar strings. The BSA treated them miserably and tried to make an example of them with a court case and huge publicity. Ball retaliated by switching to Linux and launched their own publicity campaign aimed right back at Microsoft.

Microsoft is between a rock and a hard place on this one. They could end up with a bunch more high profile switching-to-linux stories to contend with.

On the upside (1)

AlphaLop (930759) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806040)

If this forces even a relative handful of businesses to switch to Open Source software then I think this may have a silver lining.

After all, TFA said Microsoft was going to target small businesses which by the very nature of their smallness are a much more flexible entity and able to implement such a change fairly easily.

Then again, I could be wrong....

What a *Stunning* Idea (-1, Troll)

ewhac (5844) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806084)

Why stop there? Why not put a big sign on all the Vista retail end-caps reading, "We Will Make You Hate Us and Our Products?"

Honestly, I didn't know this much hubris existed at all, much less in a single location. Where on Earth does such an enormous, unmerited sense of entitlement come from?

Microsoft has always been Linux's biggest and best marketing arm, but I never thought they'd willingly push it quite so hard.

Schwab

I'm tagging this 'good' (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806118)

Sending the heavies around can only result in an increase in adoption of alternatives. See Ernie Ball for a case study.

Preemptive legal action? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806122)

In Capitalist West Microsoft always watches you for server licence discrepancy.
In Soviet Russia kgb never waits for discrepancy to watch you.

they gotta make their money somehow (1)

neocontrol (956964) | more than 7 years ago | (#17806126)

I guess after all the fines they are / had to pay in EU, they gotta get it back someway. Way to go MS! ::sarcasm::

Gamers are probably next (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17806226)

DX10 is Vista only, requires new DX10 hardware to work to full potential, is launched in parallel with a new 'Games for Windows' initiative, and Microsoft can't come up with a convincing explanation why DX10 won't be released for XP.

Connecting the dots: DX10 probably includes a DRM scheme for games, possibly enforced at the level of the DX10 graphics hardware.

 
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