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Microsoft Businesses

Microsoft to Get Tough on License Dodgers 564

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the ready-aim-fire dept.
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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Microsoft to Get Tough on License Dodgers

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  • which sells software. Yawn.
    • So true (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KingSkippus (799657) * on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:21PM (#17805772) Homepage Journal

      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Richard Steiner (1585) <rsteiner@visi.com> on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:31PM (#17805904) Homepage Journal
        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.
        • Re:So true (Score:5, Informative)

          by eric76 (679787) on Monday January 29, 2007 @06:16PM (#17806560)

          Having disks, license keys, and boxes on site apparently isn't enough.

          According to some reports, the BSA reportedly requires original invoices dated before notice of the audit and showing the company name exactly. Supposedly, if you change the name of the company, you have to buy a whole new set of licenses and have the original invoices to prove it.

          That is one of the best reasons of all to ditch Microsoft for good.

          • Re:So true (Score:5, Interesting)

            by EtherMonkey (705611) on Monday January 29, 2007 @07:01PM (#17807094)

            Hogwash.

            The BSA is not a government or law enforcement agency. It is a commercial entity engaged on behalf of a copyright holder to perform audits of suspected license violations. Your participation with their audit is voluntary unless they have sufficient probably cause to justify a warrant, in which case they will be accompanied by a law enforcement agent. And quite frankly, there's no reason why you would want to cooperate with the BSA, even if you know your are 100% in compliance, because of the cost in your time in going through the process.

            The biggest problem is going to be finding purchase records at all. Most businesses are not sufficiently organized to deal with a license audit. And, since most small businesses buy their software through multiple sources -- OEM, eCommerce, local retaillers, electronics stores, even bundled with other applications -- usually the business is forced to go back through tax records to come up with receipts and invoices. Overall, it is usually a combination of physical evidence -- invoices, credit card transactions, physical media, license keys, registration codes, email messages, etc -- that combined provide compelling, if not conclusive, evidence of legal purchase. If a company changes its name, or merges with another, there will be sufficient documentation of what has occurred that this wouldn't be a problem. An original receipt doesn't even need to show the name of the purchaser (i.e, buying MS-Office at Staples doesn't make your copy illegal just because Staples doesn't print your name on the receipt).

            Remember that, at least in the US, the evidence must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If you have original media, CD-cases and CD-Keys -- all the mechanisms of Microsoft's license enforcement -- it is unlikely that a jury will find in the BSA's favor for lack of purchase records.

            • Re:So true (Score:4, Insightful)

              by TimTucker (982832) on Monday January 29, 2007 @07:35PM (#17807532) Homepage

              Remember that, at least in the US, the evidence must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If you have original media, CD-cases and CD-Keys -- all the mechanisms of Microsoft's license enforcement -- it is unlikely that a jury will find in the BSA's favor for lack of purchase records.

              Reasonable doubt only applies for criminal cases, though, not civil. I'm sure that Microsoft has more than enough lawyers to file a few civil suites.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Quintin Stone (87952)
              In the US civil court, it's a "preponderance of the evidence". In other words, whichever case proves more convincing. As you say, the BSA is not a government agency so their law suit would be in the civial court.
            • by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday January 29, 2007 @07:59PM (#17807832)

              Your participation with their audit is voluntary unless they have sufficient probably cause to justify a warrant, in which case they will be accompanied by a law enforcement agent.

              Wrong. Participation is voluntary, unless they get a court order, filed as part of a lawsuit. it's not a warrant. Warrants are used in criminal cases, not (private party) civil suits.

              Remember that, at least in the US, the evidence must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

              Yet again, please get your facts straight. Copyright violation is a civil, not criminal, matter. In civil court, the standards of evidence are much, much lower- which is why you can get a parking ticket, have it blown off your windshield, and have the fine double (and if you refuse to pay, your license revoked.)

              That said- YES, you should ALWAYS tell the BSA to get off your property and not to come back without a court order. Unless they're fairly certain that you have enough license violations to justify the labor, they won't be back.

            • Missing point (Score:3, Insightful)

              by HPNpilot (735362)
              You are completely missing the point. The BSA is looking to make money by getting a "settlement." If you refuse to do this they will sue and it will cost you a small furtune to even GET to a jury. It could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, not to mention lost productivity. This is what they hold over your head! Either give us $30,000 or we sue you and even if you win you lose far more than that.

              As they collect these settlements they use that to force other companies into settling.
            • Re:So true (Score:5, Informative)

              by eric76 (679787) on Monday January 29, 2007 @09:11PM (#17808596)

              The question isn't what a jury is going to find. It is what the BSA considers acceptable to keep them from taking you to court for software piracy. They know that the enormous litigation costs means that few, if any, cases will ever see a jury.

              From Proof of License in BSA Audits [bsadefense.com]:

              Not Considered Valid Proof


              Copies of Checks to Software Vendors
              Dated Purchase Orders
              Undated Software Licenses
              Credit Card Statements Evidencing Software Purchases
              Certificates of Authenticity
              Media, Manuals, or Key-Codes
              Invoices Bearing and Entity Name Other than the Entity Named in the BSA's Initial Letter

              Valid Proof of Purchase

              Dated Invoices in the Name of the Audited Entity
              Soft Records (online account statements) from Recognized Resellers
              Signed and Dated License Agreements
              Soft Records from BSA Member's such as Microsoft Licensing Statements
              Cash Register Receipts for Retail Sales where Product, Version, Quantity and Price Paid are Included.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Anonymous Coward
                >Not Considered Valid Proof
                > -Certificates of Authenticity

                If a MS Cert is not valid proof, then what the fsck good is it?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ditoa (952847)
          I have done software auditing for a number of companies from small (1-50 people) to large (2000+ people) so I feel that I am aware of how licensing works within companies of different sizes.

          Small companies are much easier to organize license wise (due to smaller number of computers (normally)) however as not many small companies have a dedicated license person (or if they do a lot of the time this person is the "tech guy" and does not know all that much about licensing (but thinks they do, which is dangerou
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bitsy Boffin (110334)

          BSA is willing to take, and the apparently difficult rpocess that a company has to go through to prove that their software is legitimate

          Here is how you deal with the BSA if they ever come knocking...

          BSA Guy: "Hello, I'm with the BSA, we would like to come in and do an audit to ensure that you are not running any pirate software. It's a good thing. Really."
          You: "No. Please leave this premesis now."

          That's it. The BSA is a private organisation. If they want to go snooping through your computers then

      • Re:So true (Score:5, Interesting)

        by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:34PM (#17805932) Homepage Journal
        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          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.

          I'm sorry, I must be new here. Exactly what UK law gives the BSA, or anyone else, any authority to enter private property and seize assets?

          Whe

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by mrchaotica (681592) *

            I'm sorry, I must be new here. Exactly what UK law gives the BSA, or anyone else, any authority to enter private property and seize assets?

            The Windows EULA.

            (No, seriously -- that's the basis on which they claim their authority. The idea is that, by installing Windows, you agree to let them extor...err, "audit" you.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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 com
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by deadlinegrunt (520160)
          "Will MS compensate businesses for the time they have to spend proving that their copies are legal?"

          A lawsuit works both ways. The plaintiff can become the defendant very easily if one is not careful.
          Will they compensate? Doubt it. Do they compensate for massive worm/trojan outbreaks that cripple businesses from coast to coast as a result of using their software? Why would they compensate in this case then when the scale is much, much lower on the visibility radar?
        • Re:So true (Score:5, Informative)

          by jstomel (985001) on Monday January 29, 2007 @06:09PM (#17806474)
          Nope, read your EULA. Microsoft has the right to audit at your expense at any time.
          • Re:So true (Score:5, Funny)

            by Firehed (942385) on Monday January 29, 2007 @06:39PM (#17806810) Homepage
            Chances are that if you stole the software, you're in violation of the EULA, in which case that right of theirs disappears. How's that for a loophole!?
          • Re:So true (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Itninja (937614) on Monday January 29, 2007 @07:29PM (#17807452) Homepage
            EULA logic:

            1: Retail stores are not required to (and usually do not) accept open-box software returns
            2: In order to actually read the EULA, you must open the software box
            3: You must accept the EULA to use the software
            4: If you do not agree to the EULA, you are instructed to promptly return the software to the store
            5: See 1
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by TheRaven64 (641858)

              1: Retail stores are not required to (and usually do not) accept open-box software returns
              They are in the UK. They are required to take returns within one year of purchase if the goods are not suitable for the purpose for which sold. If you find a store that refuses, inform your local trading standards office, and they can face a heavy fine.
      • Re:So true (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Monday January 29, 2007 @06:01PM (#17806354) Homepage Journal
        I don't condone copyright infringement. Now that's out of the way:

        The problem is that it sounds as if BSA has near-police powers, which is going too far.

        I am also curious if it would backfire. I remember the story a while back where a business got hit with a stiff fine and heavy legal fees. They paid up and simply switched to open source software after that. Commercial software makers would never get another dime from that business beyond the settlement.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by truthsearch (249536)
        You know, not to be a troll, but I really don't see what the big deal is.

        How about when the BSA enters your property with armed marshals [msversus.org] and shuts down your business while you're doing everything you can to be compliant with licenses? At least it converts some to open source [com.com].
    • by JimDaGeek (983925) on Monday January 29, 2007 @06:13PM (#17806524)
      Like "any other business"? Are you on crack? Name the last time you went to a restaurant and had the restaurant company come to your house to "validate" what you are eating? How about the last time you bought a car and Ford, GM, Toyota, etc. came to "validate" your car and how many drivers you have in it or what gas you use? Oh, what about your auto insurance company? When what the last time they came out to "validate" how many miles you drive to work (which does determine your rate)?

      Nope. Most companies do not get away with what MS does. Only a monopoly could. I guess you are too young to remember when you couldn't _buy_ a phone? I am not. I remember having to lease phones! Just like we have to "lease" MS Windows.

      If you only want to stay in the software world, well, tell me the last time Apple sent out cronies to "police" their install base? Or how about Red Hat? The only companies that can get away with abuse like MS are monopolies.

      Too bad MS got off with only a smack on the wrist for their last monopoly conviction.

      Please stop making up excuses for the crap that MS does. They are a really nasty company that needs to go down hard.
  • oh yeah (Score:5, Interesting)

    by User 956 (568564) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:13PM (#17805632) Homepage
    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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by eclectro (227083)
      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]?
    • Why now? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:51PM (#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.

    • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Monday January 29, 2007 @06:09PM (#17806476)

      They're starting with the small ones, because we all know what would happen if they started with the big ones.
      It has been my experience that the bigger a company gets and the more money there is floating around the less the PHBs care about workstation OS licenses. It's the little companies who are more likely to try to pinch pennies by cheating on Windows licenses and software licenses in general. When a company gets to a certain size the cost of Workstation OS licenses tend to take second place to the licenses they have to buy for much more complex production software products where the costs can rapidly spiral into huge sums of money that can dwarf what ever they are paying for Windows workstation OS licenses. Most of the larger companies I have worked for actually made regular efforts to check the licensing status of their various departments and paid up the Workstation OS licenses without giving it much thought. Most of the effort went into wringing the last bit of value out of the obscenely expensive production software.
  • Then they will give a discount on offending copies, problem solved.
    • by errxn (108621)
      Either that, or go ahead and actually follow through with the threat [infoworld.com]...
    • 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.

      • by soft_guy (534437)

        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?
  • Back in my day... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bonker (243350)
    ... we prosecuted extortion under organized crime statutes.
  • Cringely (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mfh (56) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:15PM (#17805656) Homepage Journal
    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? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Adambomb (118938) * on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:15PM (#17805660) Journal
    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? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DM9290 (797337) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:46PM (#17806100) Journal
      "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.

      • Re:Gets Tough? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, 2007 @08:55PM (#17808464)
        DM9290 brings up very valid points. I was threatened with such an audit. This practice DOES happen ALREADY in the US. MS demanded that I pay them money for suspected license violations (lacking sufficient licenses for the number of machines I had). I politely told them I wasnt sending them anything or letting them on my property. The BSA followed up with a demand for money or a forced audit. I told them (not as politely) to go to hell and I would have any of their personnel arrested and sue them if any of their personnel (or MS's) stepped on my property.

        Here's the clincher... our machines were (quite frequently) hit by machines from MS's "internal" network before this - perhaps to ascertain the number of machines we has running. BUT... here's where it gets interesting... all our machines were running OS/2 Warp or Warp Server - except 2 Macs - which were running MacOS 8 and 9. I reminded them that THEY have no control over licensing to OS/2, and even though it wasnt their business I had legal copies of OS/2 for FAR more stations than I had. I then advised both MS & the BSA that I permanently was refusing them the right to enter my property for ANY reason and any such action contrary to that would be considered criminal tresspass as they had been notified in writing. A few more scans of my network and I never heard from them again.

        Until my final letter and a few nasty calls to the BSA though, I was being threatened with a 5 figure fine and imprisonment (I didnt know it was their right to make such threats - they were worded as "you will be..." not as "if you are found in violation of, you may be").

        Needless to say, what if I was a poor windows user, in full compliance, but bound by MS's idiotic license agreements to allow such behavior?

        - RobertMfromLI

        PS: And yes, I really was running all OS/2, eComStation or MacOS - no Windows.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by argStyopa (232550)
      No, that part of the process isn't onerous.

      However, if you're a small business owner that consents to an audit (because you do have licenses for everythin) and then finds out that merely having the original media, license, and certificate of authenticity is INSUFFICIENT and you have to essentially re-buy everything to comply? Would you agree that's somewhat burdensome and/or unfair?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ivan256 (17499)
      In 2001, the company I worked for switched from a Windows NT 3.5 server to Linux. The workstations stayed with Windows and upgraded to Windows 98. We payed for all of our upgrade licenses for the workstations and for full licenses on the whiteboxes we built to add to the network... Everything was perfectly legal. But we didn't upgrade the server with the rest of the network and it triggered a BSA audit. The audit took about 100 hours of two administrators time to document all the software on all of our boxe
  • by Virak (897071) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:16PM (#17805684) Homepage
    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.
  • In other news... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
    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.
  • 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]).
  • MSDN (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jsnipy (913480)
    I wonder how universal MSDN subscribers will affected by this?
  • BSA? (Score:5, Funny)

    by i_am_socket (970911) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:18PM (#17805724)
    You know its bad when they send the Boy Scouts of America after you.
  • 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!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by burnin1965 (535071) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:23PM (#17805792) Homepage
    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!
  • Obligation? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Luthair (847766)
    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.
  • by MysticOne (142751) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:27PM (#17805838) Homepage
    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.
    • 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.
    • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:39PM (#17806002) Homepage Journal
      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.
    • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:42PM (#17806038) Homepage

      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LParks (927321)
        Its not just in the EULA, but its also in the Microsoft Master Business Agreement, which you must sign before entering into any contract with MS.
      • by harpune (557684) on Monday January 29, 2007 @06:27PM (#17806686) Homepage
        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. Can you provide a citation?
      • by Sloppy (14984) on Monday January 29, 2007 @07:40PM (#17807608) Homepage Journal

        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.

        I feel like a fool, because as I mention here [slashdot.org], I don't see that clause in here. [slashdot.org]

        But let's assume that I didn't read it carefully, and the EULA really is how Microsoft obtains that right from their customer. If an audit requirement is in the EULA, then that's a strong argument against EULAs being enforcible. I'll explain...

        One of the problems with EULAs, is that there's never any proof (or even evidence) of the contract. Microsoft doesn't have your signature on file. EULA proponents say that the agreement is implied by the presence of the software. Ok, but even if we accept that, where's the externally-visible evidence?

        Two users buy a bunch of computer components and put together their computers. User 1 then buys a copy of MS Windows and installs it, thereby agreeing to the contract (according to EULA proponents). User 2 installs Linux; he never bought a copy of Windows, never had one, and never even implicitly agreed to any EULA.

        From the outside, these users appear identical. Supposedly, Microsoft has a contract with one of them and not the other, but they don't even know. You can't even determine who agreed to the EULA and who didn't without an audit! But the Linux user, even according to the most rabid Microsoft apologist, never agreed to a Microsoft EULA or a BSA audit.

        How can you invoke one of the terms of a license, before it is known whether or not there ever was a license?

        Using licenses to support BSA audits, begs the question [wikipedia.org] as to whether or not the user consented to an audit.

  • by Thanatopsis (29786) <despain.brian@NOSPAM.gmail.com> on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:27PM (#17805852) Homepage
    The tighter you squeeze, the more star systems that will slip from your grasp."
  • Been there (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zenray (9262) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:29PM (#17805868) Journal
    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.
  • CAL:s is a swamp (Score:3, Insightful)

    by KokorHekkus (986906) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:30PM (#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]
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:30PM (#17805890) Journal
    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.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jvagner (104817) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:32PM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:35PM (#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 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:38PM (#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.
  • by vertinox (846076) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:59PM (#17806334)
    Hrm... I think the editor made a mistake.

    It should be "Microsoft to Get Tough on Paying Customers"

    Seriously, with all the Windows Verification in force we are lucky to be able to swap a network card without having to call Microsoft to get re-authorized.
  • by ikekrull (59661) on Monday January 29, 2007 @07:49PM (#17807722) Homepage
    Why, its almost as if people who license Windows find themselves with an undisclosed balance sheet liability - the cost of an audit, and the risk that even legally purchased copies of Microsoft software will need to be re-purchased because of a lack of documentation.

  • by Glowing Fish (155236) on Monday January 29, 2007 @08:02PM (#17807866) Homepage
    In all of my Linux vs. Windows discussions, I've noticed a pattern: I usually end up arguing legitimate use of Linux vs. illegitimate use of Windows. Many people don't even know that they are using Windows' illegally. Many people have no idea that having the CD does not mean you are allowed to install it on as many computers as possible. This is something people should learn as they step up from using Windows to play games to using it in business, is that their are rules you have to follow. You are probably not going to get caught for using your brother-in-laws copy of Windows to play games. But people who go into businesses often are totally unaware of that.

    A few times at Free Geek [freegeek.org], people have asked me why we don't use Windows. After all, these computers coming in have Windows on them, right? So we can just pass it on to another person, right? And none of these people have bothered to read the EULA, which states:

    The initial user of the Software may make a one-time permanent transfer of this EULA and Software to another end user, provided the initial user retains no copies of the Software. This transfer must include all of the Software (including all component parts, the media and printed materials, any upgrades, this EULA, and, if applicable, the Certificate of Authenticity). The transfer may not be an indirect transfer, such as a consignment. Prior to the transfer, the end user receiving the Software must agree to all the EULA terms.
    (Point 13 of the Windows XP Home EULA)

    People who talk about how "easy" Windows is are not looking at the fact that Windows is more than just the software you use..."Windows" is also the legal terms of ownership. And those often, especially when you are working in a business, get very far from easy. If Microsoft was really auditing the usage of their software, it would get next to impossible. But often people don't know, or just don't care about this. If they were, they would have to factor it into their calculations of "ease".

"Bureaucracy is the enemy of innovation." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments

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