Column: The messy case of the recovery discs


Column: The messy case of the recovery discs

I find the story of Microsoft's legal action against retail giant for allegedly creating and selling over 94,000 counterfeit copies of Windows Vista and XP intriguing, writes Billy MacInnes

First, there's the bizarre idea that a largish retailer selling PCs and laptops should be indulging in the practice of producing counterfeit copies of Microsoft's operating systems in a factory in Hampshire and selling them to customers. 

Then, there's Comet's defence. It claims to have "acted in the very best interests of its customers", arguing they had been adversely affected when Microsoft decided to stop supplying recovery discs with each new computer loaded with its Vista and XP operating systems.

 The company "has sought and received legal advice from leading counsel to support its view that the production of recovery discs did not infringe Microsoft's intellectual property". 

Mind you, Comet wasn't giving the discs away with the computers it sold but offering them as an optional extra for £14.99. Do the maths and you'll see that, according to Microsoft's complaint, the discs Comet sold brought in around £1.4m or so. 

The thing that really interests me is whether Comet's legal advice turns out to be strong enough to negate Microsoft's complaint. Because if it does, there will be a lot of other people in the country only too ready to start making recovery discs of their own.

After all, if Comet can make copies of Vista and XP recovery discs, then what's to stop someone making a whole load of copies in, say, their bedroom and flogging them down the market to all and sundry as "recovery discs"?

It may well be Comet's argument is stronger because it only sells recovery discs to people who are buying desktops and laptops from the store but that still leaves the door open for people assembling computers in their garages or wherever to sell recovery discs as well. This case could get very messy.

This was first published in January 2012

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