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Microsoft

Microsoft Uses WGA To Obtain Record Jail Sentences 311

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the zomg-i-can-ping-my-router dept.
theodp writes "According to Microsoft, 'No information is collected during the [Genuine Advantage Program] validation process that can be used to identify or contact a user.' That's little comfort to the software counterfeiters who were just handed jail sentences ranging from 1.5-6.5 years by the Futian People's Court in China, especially since Microsoft contends that much of the estimated $2B in bogus software was detected by its Windows Genuine Advantage program. 'Software piracy negatively impacts local economic growth,' explained Microsoft VP Fengming Liu in a celebratory New Year's Eve press release. But then again, so does transferring $16B of assets and $9B in annual profit to an Irish tax haven, doesn't it?"
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Microsoft Uses WGA To Obtain Record Jail Sentences

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  • GOOD! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plasmacutter (901737) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @08:56AM (#26290473)

    Seriously, There is a persisting writeup from a japanese LUG years ago talking about how pirated copies of windows cannibalize the linux userbase and dev base.

    Pirated windows is the bane of linux, and I applaud microsoft for slitting their own throat by pursuing windows counterfeiters.

    • What you're basically saying is that just one raid justifies MS annoying all of us legitimate users and treating us like criminals.

      • Re:Not good! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Starayo (989319) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:07AM (#26291059) Homepage
        I'm using an illegitimate copy of XP right now. My genuine copy lies at the bottom of my desk drawer, rendered useless by the asshats that decided to make small hardware changes require reauthorisation, using up my allotted attempts. After getting no help at all from customer service I downloaded and installed a cracked copy in less than the time than it took for customer service to answer my bloody call...

        I am now certain to exterminate WGA from any and all computers I come into contact with.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          It's not like WGA works anyway. I remember when it first came out they had this program you had to download and run to verify that you were running "Genuine Windows" before it would let you download things from Microsoft's website. So I downloaded it and ran it in Wine, which is apparently "Genuine Windows".
        • Re:Not good! (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anpheus (908711) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @01:53PM (#26292109)

          I call them up every time I reinstall. "Hello, how can I help you." "I reinstalled windows because of a virus." "Ok, enter this key:"

          It only takes a couple minutes.

          • Like you, I have *NEVER* had a problem reinstalling Windows on machines, either hardware upgrades or virus killing, no problems at all.
          • Yup, it works every time, regardless of hardware changes.

      • by jopsen (885607)
        If you don't like how MS treats to choose another vendor... Isn't that how the free market works?
      • Re:Not good! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JohnBailey (1092697) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @12:43PM (#26291657)

        What you're basically saying is that just one raid justifies MS annoying all of us legitimate users and treating us like criminals.

        Nothing justifies it, but sticking with a company that treats you like a thief is pretty much acceptance of the charge. You are guilty until proven possibly innocent this time... And Microsoft reserves the right to alter how you are allowed to use their product at any time. An extra check here, a stricter enforcement of the reactivation policy there, and you will move to the next version, or buy a new copy for as long as it is available. Don't like it, you are free to go elsewhere. The WGA software was enough to give me the final push to move to Linux, and I had a fully legit copy of XP. For many, this isn't a big enough problem, and for others, it is something they don't even know about. Basically, Microsoft can do what they like, and until it is tested in court, you are stuck with whatever conditions Microsoft choose to apply.

      • by remmelt (837671)

        Listen, it's your choice to stay with them. There are alternatives. If they treat you like a crook, leave them. What's the problem?

        • Re:Not good! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 01, 2009 @02:01PM (#26292171)

          What's the problem?

          The problem is that the world is not as black and white as you make it out to be. Because of their job requirements, their lack of technical ability or many other possible reasons, many people cannot leave the Windows world. If I refuse to ever use Windows again I would be out of a job and it would be very difficult to find a new one (unless I was willing to leave the IT field and work construction or as a dishwasher or something).

          Windows is the big player in the desktop OS world. Leaving it is simply not a viable option for many of us.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      That's been obvious for years. I imagine many people can still recite a Windows 98 key from memory.
      Office 97 spread virally the same way.

      As far as I'm concerned, Windows should become more bloated, more annoying, and harder to maintain. Geeks can handle it and make a few shekels on the side, while users will be pushed to other operating systems.

    • Yea but ... (Score:3, Informative)

      by tuxgeek (872962)
      I recall Bill Gates stating that if people are going to pirate an operating system, he preferred they pirated M$ Windoz.
      Didn't Ballmer get the memo?
    • by Mista2 (1093071)

      I agree, I predict that as Vista and Windows 7 get harder to pirate or copy, the user base of WIndows will shrink to the point where Linux becomes much more popular.
      I know for me having my legit version of XP and having to phone activate my Vista everytime I reinstall drove me to try linux, and now I'm hooked 8)

  • WGA forum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nstrom (152310) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:00AM (#26290487)

    I'm betting that a good amount of the information used in this case came from posters on the WGA forum [microsoft.com], where people can post if they're having issues with WGA. One of the tools available in that forum is a WGA diagnostic tool [microsoft.com] which will generate a sanitized text dump of a user's windows validation information. Most cases on that forum are people whose brother, cousin, or sketchy PC shop installed a common warez release of Windows on their systems, but several there are people who bought apparently legitimate software from resellers which failed validation and later turned out to be counterfeit. Microsoft got in touch with these users, identified the resellers, and I'm betting that this news story is the result.

  • Sounds to me like they were just bragging that WGA actually noticed when a user had a counterfeit copy, not that it had any effect on the sentence.

    • by jd142 (129673) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @10:07AM (#26290751) Homepage

      Right. If the submitter had actually read the article, this would have jumped out at him:

      "The counterfeits were also discovered through customs seizures"

      The fact that *after* they had seized the software, WGA was capable of detecting it when installed is just pr for WGA and not an indication that WGA is sending personal information to MS. It may or may not being doing that, but you couldn't prove it by this article.

      If you really want to see what WGA is sending to Microsoft, just capture the packets on their way to the internet and see what's being sent. Has anyone done that and found anything of real interest?

      • As I understand it, WGA was simply used to identify the copies of the software, and probably also the master from which all the counterfeit copies were made. From then on it's simply a matter of hunting down the person who owns the master copy.
  • WGA exists to bug users that have stolen the software and so Microsoft has an overall clue about how many people have stolen the software, not go after specifics.

    I remember seeing a report from Microsoft saying they knew for a fact that 1 in 3 corporate machines were stolen. If they wanted to target for the purposes of bringing them to court it wouldn't exactly be difficult; they just want to irritate thieves and have an idea how many rogue copies there are.

    • Re:Tenuous Summary (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tx (96709) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:22AM (#26290561) Journal

      In this case it sounds like we're talking about commercially-pirated-and-passed-off-as-genuine software, rather than end-user-pirated software.

      FTA: The counterfeit software was found in 36 countries and 11 different languages. It was so sophisticated that it contained legitimate computer code written by Microsoft for programs such as Windows XP and Vista and Microsoft Office, but also had touches of the criminals' own coding as well. That was allegedly added to mimic security programs and fool users into believing the product was authentic.

      So it may actually be the case that some of the end users actually thought they had authentic products, and were alerted by WGA. I doubt this happens often, but Microsoft is bound to mention it if it does happen.

      • Re:Tenuous Summary (Score:4, Interesting)

        by FredFredrickson (1177871) * on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:45AM (#26290671) Homepage Journal
        I work in computer repair, and a lot of our customers get the WGA notification that warns them they've "stolen" software when they just haven't actually run the check correctly. If anything fails during a windows update, it's likely to pop up. And god forbid a windows update fails due to random reason #2358. Personally, I'd like them to be a bit more accurate.

        People call my store all the time accusing us of giving them stolen software. I explain that they have an OEM sticker on their PC and we'd never do that, but heck, Microsoft might get them to buy a second or third copy- so maybe that was their plan.
    • by 1u3hr (530656)
      I remember seeing a report from Microsoft saying they knew for a fact that 1 in 3 corporate machines were stolen.

      Baloney. Unless this is Vietnam or a similar third world country. I can believe one in three have failed WGA, but that is NOT the same thing at all.

  • And a lot of you guys will be screaming murder. Have you realized that GPL enforcement and Windows license enforcement comes from the same thing as Copyright law?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by init100 (915886)

      Have you realized that GPL enforcement and Windows license enforcement comes from the same thing as Copyright law?

      There is one big difference though: Microsoft often comes after end users of its software, while GPL enforcement never concerns use. GPL enforcement is only directed at companies and organizations that distribute the code further without fulfilling the license obligations, specifically the requirement of source code availability.

    • by Paradigm_Complex (968558) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:13AM (#26291103)
      Most GPL && Linux fans in the audience welcome Microsoft's efforts to crack down on Windows piracy. People who are using pirated copies of Windows are using Windows drivers and Windows applications and Windows games and overall increasing Windows market-share. If someone is not using Windows (pirated or otherwise), they'll be much more likely to jump towards Linux - especially if they're looking for a free(-of-charge) OS. The GPL fans should be cheering at such suicidal actions from Microsoft.

      /.'s arguments against WGA (and other sorts of DRM) have more to do with how it treats the legitimate end-users rather than getting software without cost/payment. There isn't really anything comparable with GPL'd software, what with how the GPL is specifically designed to avoid such things.
    • by pembo13 (770295)
      What are you talking about? Most Linux folks at least (a big part of the GPL community) like when Microsoft cracks down on pirates.
  • So did MS lie when they assured me that no personal information was collected when I installed WGA?
    (RTFA)
    Maybe not. Oh well, so much for a massive class action.
    • Ratting on suppliers (Score:3, Informative)

      by tepples (727027)

      So did MS lie when they assured me that no personal information was collected when I installed WGA?

      As I understand it, WGA includes a tool to submit an anonymous tip against your supplier. So it collects no personal information about you but instead about your supplier.

    • In order, the beneficiaries of class action lawsuits are:

      The lawyers. -- the majority beneficiary. The lawyers from both sides are the only ones to actually receive noticeable returns

      The companies -- the class action absolves them from any further liability for the thing being sued over.

      The coffee shops -- where the lawyers meet to discuss strategies and flirt with comely baristas.

      And.. that's it I guess. oh, if you're a member of the class, you might get a coupon for a free donut or $5 off your next pur

  • Theft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:16AM (#26290545)

    "But then again, so does transferring $16B of assets and $9B in annual profit to an Irish tax haven, doesn't it?"

    What's the point of adding that statement? So it's OK to steal from someone who is "rich" or who has a shrewd accountant?

    I don't like Microsoft any more than the next guy, but winking at large scale theft of their product because they somehow "deserve it" is just plain wrong.

    Cheers,

  • by mgkimsal2 (200677) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:23AM (#26290577) Homepage

    'Software piracy negatively impacts local economic growth,'

    And buying Microsoft software takes money out of local economies and sends it to Redmond. (And buying Apple software does the same thing, but to Cupertino).

    I say that using non-free software can also negatively impact local economies, but people do it anyway.

    Really, answering my own post here, it's not just as black and white as that. Companies using open source would help energize their local economy by using local companies/consultants, but often they don't. And companies using MS software, while spending for it, may use local companies/consultants as well, keeping some of the money local.

    However, in the case of real large scale piracy, it's the worst of both worlds, because money has left the local economy, and not gone to the rightful owners (in this case, Microsoft).

    • by dimeglio (456244)

      I'm also curious to know how MS invests in the local economy. To me, local means city or town. So maybe they sell professional services through local reps but to me this is really a profit center that can't practically be served by Redmond because of language or cultural barriers.

      It would be interesting to see a ratio between local investments by MS and "piracy" rates based on WGA data.

      • by mgkimsal2 (200677)

        They provide an ecosystem which allows local professionals to earn a living (developers doing .net stuff, etc.) However, it often entails a lot of money leaving the area (licensing costs) when *decent* equivalents exist. Lot of open source stuff just doesn't cut the mustard, but plenty of it does.

      • by Artifakt (700173)

        The legal definition of 'local' is more likely to be the whole state where Microsoft makes its headquarters (Possibly for companies taking advantage of things such as Delaware's liberal incorporation rules, the headquarters rule is replaced with wherever they are incorporated). If the company gets any tax advantages for a branch office, factory or other physical presences being located in some other particular state, again, the definition of local is normally the whole state. Unless a city or town (or count

    • by digitalhermit (113459) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @11:01AM (#26291023) Homepage

      OT, I know, but God I hate manager speak.

      Why do they say "negatively impacts" when "harms" is a better word?

      Software piracy harms local economic growth.

    • by westlake (615356)
      And buying Microsoft software takes money out of local economies and sends it to Redmond. (And buying Apple software does the same thing, but to Cupertino).

      Microsoft is building a $300 million dollar research campus in Baking's university district.

      China's "Silicon Valley."

      100,000 square meters of floor space.

      5,000 scientists and engineers. Microsoft Breaks Ground on New R&D Campus [microsoft.com]

      Microsoft is a multinational with employees, facilities, and investments across the globe. To understand its impact you

      • by B3ryllium (571199)

        Have you not been paying attention? Microsoft is FLINTHEART GLOMGOLD, not Scrooge McDuck.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:31AM (#26290615)

    The summary appears to suggest that Microsoft was lying about WGA not collecting personal information, otherwise I just can't see why that statement appeared in the summary at all.

    Unfortunately, the facts don't support that accusation. All we know is that WGA was used to count how many users had a particular counterfeit copy of Windows; this does not require any identifying information, just a license key. Microsoft then determined through other means that this particular copy originated with a particular pirate group (and yes, piracy is the correct term here).

    I also fail to see what Microsoft's accounting practices have to do with this story. Is the submitter trying to suggest that a wrong committed by Microsoft somehow negates its right to seek justice in court? That's not how it works.

    Obligatory disclaimer: I'm no more of a Microsoft fan than anyone here, but biased, sensationalist story-telling pisses me off.

  • WTF? (Score:4, Informative)

    by gazbo (517111) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:31AM (#26290621)
    Did the person who submitted this story even read it before writing the summary? Did Taco even bo...actually, I'll not waste time finishing that sentence.

    Short version for those who can't be bothered to RTFA: WGA doesn't send personally identifiable data, and the people sentenced were not end users but pirates (yeah, I said pirates. Suck it bitches.) who sold on illegal copies.

    • WTF? Did /you/ even read the summary? It never said anything about sending users' identifiable data to MS, rather the opposite in fact, noting that MS claims it does NOT collect said user identifiable data. The summary says nothing about the users going to jail, either, but rather the large-scale copyright violators who supplied the software in the first place -- which is what you were claiming too, except you said the summary said different. Can't you tell the difference between the words "software cou

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gazbo (517111)
        There is no point whatsoever to the first sentence of the summary except to imply that data is being sent:

        "According to researchers, 'there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.' That's little comfort to Joe and Mary Blogs whose son has been diagnosed with autism."

        Why mention the MMR vaccine at all unless you want to suggest a link? Same with the reference to personally identifiable data in the summary.

        • Simple. It's emphasizing the difference between "no data" and "no user identifying data". Just because the /user/ isn't identified does /not/ mean /other/ data isn't sent, in this case, possibly /supplier/ identifying data.

          The GPL makes a similar distinction. Other than the no warrantee bit, it doesn't apply to the user, only the distributor. There's a difference. Well, here there's a difference too. Whatever MS might be saying about user identifying data doesn't apply to /distributor/ identifiable da

  • Taxes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The AtomicPunk (450829) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:33AM (#26290627)

    It's hard to blame Microsoft for moving money offshore to avoid taxes, we're the idiots that tax the hell out of our populace and our companies and think no bad could ever come from it. Perhaps if we were a bit more supportive of success rather than spending $700B - $1,700B rewarding failure ...

    • ridiculous (Score:3, Interesting)

      by toby (759) *

      Microsoft is a convicted criminal enterprise. It beats the hell out of the rest of us why Americans remain so unconcerned about the vast scale of their theft, not to mention the tax evasion - and continue to let them get away with it and even defend them... No wonder your house of cards is collapsing...

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        It beats the hell out of the rest of us why Americans remain so unconcerned about the vast scale of their theft, not to mention the tax evasion - and continue to let them get away with it and even defend them

        When was Microsoft convicted of tax evasion?

    • by Compholio (770966)

      It's hard to blame Microsoft for moving money offshore to avoid taxes, we're the idiots that tax the hell out of our populace and our companies and think no bad could ever come from it.

      The US actually has lower taxes than most countries (especially compared to the EU). Our "base" tax rate is higher, but as a result of exceptions for every little thing our citizens (and especially our corporations) pay significantly less than those of other countries.

    • Ok so do you want to pay them then?

      The individual tax rate and taxes for services used is very low in the United States compared to other 1st world countries.

      Corporate taxes are not however. My dad was taxed 50% when he worked in Canada and so was his pension even though he was American. What incentive will it make people to work harder if taxes take more.

      Fact of the matter is taxes suck and we can't live wihtout them unfortunately. Accountants will find loopholes and I bet if you cut the corporate tax rate

  • Local growth (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MikeRT (947531) on Thursday January 01, 2009 @09:50AM (#26290689) Homepage

    'Software piracy negatively impacts local economic growth,' explained Microsoft VP Fengming Liu in a celebratory New Year's Eve press release. But then again, so does transferring $16B of assets and $9B in annual profit to an Irish tax haven, doesn't it?"

    Yes, it does. So, the natural solution to this is to give corporations incentives to keep their money local instead of sending it to tax havens. America used to be a tax haven for foreign investors. If we want to pull out of the recession quickly, we should restructure our taxes and spending accordingly, to encourage people to squirrel their assets away on our soil, rather than Ireland, Switzerland, the Caribbean or Indonesia.

    This is just basic, good sense, especially if you are one of those people who believes that the rich can buy influence. If you believe that, then what makes you think that they won't be able to get their assets overseas while the middle class and lower end of the upper class get taxed into oblivion?

    • by sjames (1099)

      So the solution to entities dodging their social responsibility is to declare it no longer their responsibility? If you cut MS and co. a break on their taxes, someone else has to take up the slack. That someone is the middle class who are less able to afford it.

    • by rtechie (244489) *

      So, the natural solution to this is to give corporations incentives to keep their money local instead of sending it to tax havens.

      Yeah, incentives like "If you try to evade taxes by sending your money offshore we will put you in jail."

      Why don't you think these companies OPERATE in Ireland? You know the answer, because Ireland doesn't have the population, infrastructure, educational system, etc. these companies need to operate. And that infrastructure if paid for largely by tax dollars. Make no mistake, thes

  • ....human.

    You are born and you will die and in your human lfe time you have to fit it in to the ideologies others have created. But why if there is a better way than teh way being used?

    If anyone is looking for to use MS windows pirating as an excuse for the bad economy or in any way contributing to it... Wake up.
    The economy is not what it is because of the knowledge, natural resources and man power we have, as what we have here calculates to a far better result.
    But it is what it is because of how badly it h

  • Buying a Microsoft product from Microsoft "negatively impacts local economic growth."

    Buying from a pirate directly contributes to local economic growth - in the short term, at least.

    It seems likely that any Microsoft product is a long term liability, though.

  • Excuse me? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135)

    That's little comfort to the software counterfeiters

    You say that as if they deserve anything other than what they got. They knew the risks, they knew the penalties (or should have), they got caught. Now, it is time for them to pay the price.

    Maybe all you poor little whiners who cry every time someone is busted for violating other people's rights should imagine how you would like it if someone violated your rights. Oh, that is right, when someone violates the rights of FSF or the like, you want the book thro

  • One more reason to move toward Open Source and tell these fuckers to take a hike. Having a nasty, paranoid mind-set, I have avoided WGA like the plague. There's less convenient but effective ways to keep my system updated, and properly-maintained security to deal with the time lag.

    I'm not worried about piracy, but I don't for a minute believe Microsoft's claims about WGA. I'm certain they're collecting personal information, and I'm equally certain that at some point, they'll find a way to sell it or of

  • Right thing. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@@@slashdot...org> on Thursday January 01, 2009 @12:05PM (#26291429)

    Despite the hatred against Microsoft, commercial or large-scale cloning of MS-products is not ok.

    The right thing to do, is to destroy Microsoft completely, burn Bill and his EEE (extend, ...) and marketing team in hell and nuke everything from orbit, just to be sure. ;)

    • Despite the hatred against Microsoft, commercial or large-scale cloning of MS-products is not ok.

      The right thing to do, is to destroy Microsoft completely, burn Bill and his EEE (extend, ...) and marketing team in hell and nuke everything from orbit, just to be sure. ;)

      Nah, we don't need the fallout. Better solution: put them in orbit and don't bother sending along any oxygen tanks.

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