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Is Microsoft really gonna make me pay for piracy?
October 2, 2010 10:20 PM   Subscribe

Am I really gonna get busted for using a pirated copy of windows 7?

I just sold this guy on ebay a toughbook i put windows 7 on (pirate of course). that was a week ago.
today, the man emails me and tells me that "the windows 7 on this laptop is saying it's counterfeit" and asked for the validation code. so i sent him the two serial cracks the windows 7 torrent came with. he said both of them were denied and says that "if [he] cannot validate, microsoft is consiering it counterfeit and are requesting source of the software".
so, what are the consequences of this man reporting that i put a pirated copy of windows 7 on his computer to microsoft? will they even give a shit? will ebay or anyone else give a shit?

in terms of trying to give this guy what he wants,
the computer i sold him came with xp originally but i don't have the discs anymore (but i still have a warranty with them).

the dell laptop i bought after that, however, did come with windows 7 and i DO have the discs for that.

legally, can this man use my legal copy of windows 7 (from my new laptop) on a different computer i legally purchased (the ebay laptop) or
should i just get the man a new copy of the original xp discs that the machine was born with?

thanks for all the help, all.
posted by defmute to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
In my opinion, Selling a pirated copy of Windows over ebay is a bad idea. I'd give it to a friend, with the understanding that it is in fact not legitimate, but selling to a random person over the net is pretty dangerous. If he reports it, they might contact you...I think they care more that you sold it than that you have it.

I don't believe you can use the Win7 discs from the other PC on the system because OEM versions are tied to the hardware they came with.

I'd be pretty pissed if I bought a PC thinking it was a legit OS and it wasn't.

Your only course of action may be to purchase a legal copy of the OS (Win7 Home = $110) and ship it to him.

Good luck with it.
posted by AltReality at 10:31 PM on October 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


You basically screwed the guy if you didn't disclose that the software wasn't legit. If you want him off your case, give him enough of a refund to buy a legit Win 7 license. And in the future, if you're selling computers and don't have legit software, sell them "as is" or bare. You screwed up. Since this is an ebay transaction, he's got most of the power, especially if he used paypal. I would acknowledge your mistake, be as helpful as possible, and don't do it again.

Likelihood of him getting actual Microsoft anti-pirate squad involved? Pretty slim. Odds of him backcharging you through paypal and hosing your finances? Pretty good.
posted by cosmicbandito at 10:35 PM on October 2, 2010 [13 favorites]


Did you say in your listing that it was counterfeit? Because I would assume any software on a second hand computer I bought was genuine if not told otherwise, and I think that most other people would too. Your 'pirate of course' comment doesn't wash with me at all. If you didn't explicitly say that it was pirated then you owe the guy a legitimate copy of Windows 7 that will run on that computer, that's part of what he paid you for.

Whether you can use the same copy on two computers will be listed in the end user license, it's usually spelled out pretty clearly what you can and can't do. I expect the answer for an operating system will be no, but check anyway. I wouldn't try messing around giving him your validation code unless you're sure it's allowed in case they flag that copy too and stop it from working on your computer as well as his. If it is possible and you go ahead then you need to tell the guy what you're doing so he knows what kind of software he's being given (for example, if you're allowed to use that version of Windows on two computers he needs to know you've got one and he only gets one).

If sharing isn't legal and you weren't upfront about what he was getting then you can either buy him a copy of Windows 7 or get him to return the computer and give him a refund. In future you're probably better off just wiping the computer clean and selling as is than adding pirated software.
posted by shelleycat at 10:37 PM on October 2, 2010


Oh yeah, don't try to fob him off with XP unless you also give him some of his money back (probably enough back that he can upgrade to the Windows 7 he thought he was buying).
posted by shelleycat at 10:39 PM on October 2, 2010


should i just get the man a new copy of the original xp discs that the machine was born with?

If you advertised the laptop as coming with Windows 7, you owe him a (legit) copy of Windows 7. That's what he thought he was getting, after all.

If you don't want to go to the trouble of buying a license of the software you listed with your auction, offer to refund him the auction cost of the laptop and the cost of his shipping, so that he can send it back to you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:45 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Data point: Microsoft is a lot less likely to go after casual pirating. However, actively selling a pirated copy of Windows 7 is going to get a LOT more attention.
posted by davejay at 11:03 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if you said there was a legit OS (the reasonable assumption is legitimacy, so if you just said "loaded with Windows," that's what you meant, whether you meant to mean it or not), and he paid for a legit OS, and you sent him a pirated OS that bricks his new laptop, you committed fraud.

Forget about the copyright issue. FRAUD! A criminal offense that you could go to jail for.

Best option: Send the dude a brand new copy of Windows 7 ASAP.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:06 PM on October 2, 2010


You mentioned that it originally came with XP. Even if you don't have the discs, do you still have the serial number by any chance? Otherwise, it really does seem you're SOL unless you try cosmicbandito's suggestion.
posted by spiderskull at 11:06 PM on October 2, 2010


legally, can this man use my legal copy of windows 7 (from my new laptop) on a different computer i legally purchased (the ebay laptop) or
should i just get the man a new copy of the original xp discs that the machine was born with?


No, and no. If you advertised Windows 7, you need to buy the guy a copy of Windows 7, refund the cost of Windows 7, or take the machine back with a full refund.

I just sold this guy on ebay a toughbook i put windows 7 on (pirate of course).

Fail. You have nothing to hide behind. You sold someone a pirate copy of windows. Don't do that.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:07 PM on October 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, you basically shit on this guy. I'd be pretty rankled with you. Order up a legit copy of Windows 7 and get it to him.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:08 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


legally, can this man use my legal copy of windows 7 (from my new laptop) on a different computer i legally purchased (the ebay laptop) or
should i just get the man a new copy of the original xp discs that the machine was born with?


No, you cannot do this. OEM licenses live and die with the hardware they are sold with, they cannot be transferred. No uncertain terms about that.
posted by tracert at 11:18 PM on October 2, 2010


I echo what others have said. You shouldn't be pirating stuff in the first place, and selling a pirated copy of Windows 7 to someone was a bad move. It would have been better to offer the computer without Windows, and say in the ad that they'd need their own copy to install. So I agree with others in the sense you should offer a refund to the tune of a legit copy and then hope he dosen't dob you in to Microsoft.

Also, I don't know if asking this question non-anon on AskMe is a good idea if you're trying to prevent Microsoft from finding out what you've done. I don't know for sure but I imagine MS has bots scouring the web for pirate+windows. Perhaps ask a mod to consider making it anonymous, if not deleting the question altogether?
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:18 PM on October 2, 2010


You asked "will anyone give a shit?" Well, yes, that was a really shitty thing to do to someone. You advertised it as having Windows 7 and if it's not a genuine OS, Microsoft won't support it.

You owe him a legit copy of Windows 7, and I wouldn't be surprised if he gives you negative feedback. You *could* send him the legit copy of XP, but if you really want to clean your karma and/or prevent negative feedback/further issue in this matter, you should buy him a copy of Windows 7.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:21 PM on October 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, if you do (and you should) send him a valid copy of Windows 7, don't be a cheapskate and send him the Starter edition or something-- send him the Home Premium version.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:24 PM on October 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Burhanistan: "Also, if you do (and you should) send him a valid copy of Windows 7, don't be a cheapskate and send him the Starter edition or something-- send him the Home Premium version."

Unless you advertised it as having Windows 7 Ultimate, then you should really send him that.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:32 PM on October 2, 2010


Ethical background:

I can't speak for Microsoft, but a lot of software companies kind of turn a blind eye to people "sharing" commercial software. Smart companies realize that this kind of piracy can sometimes be converted into a sale. What no one likes is a third party (that would be you) selling their software without the original author getting a cut. They also don't like it if you are sharing or selling pirate software in large volume. I don't know how aggressive Microsoft is these days, but they do have a mafia for tracking down piracy.

From a general transactional commerce perspective, it is your responsibility as a seller to honestly represent what you are selling. There is some wiggle room when it comes to the details (lots of stuff advertised as "mint condition" isn't, that's why pictures and physical inspection are important). Blatantly misrepresenting the product you are selling is seriously not cool. Although the dollar values are different, what you did is similar to advertising a Ferrari when what you really have is a Fiero in a bodykit.


Looking at your posting history, you've got some strange ideas about how the world works. You should consider looking for a respected member of your community that is willing to mentor you through the crazy issues you seem to be running in to.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:35 PM on October 2, 2010 [10 favorites]


Just buy a legit license for Win 7 and give him that serial number.
posted by delmoi at 12:09 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's not a genuine OS, Microsoft won't support it.

Not just that, they break it so it is non-operational. While it's sometimes possible to sneak around the verification process if you know what you're doing, this clearly hasn't happened here (nor should the buyer have to try). Microsoft has refused to validate the pirated version and the guy currently has an unusable computer. defmute, I hope you can see how this is pretty unacceptable to the buyer.
posted by shelleycat at 12:12 AM on October 3, 2010


If the computer has an XP hologram-type sticker (which it probably does) it has a valid XP license. You can get replacement XP discs from the manufacturer (or from other sources--I think all you need is an OEM XP disc of the right type (Pro or Home) for it to work, not necessarily from your manufacturer). However, since you sold it as a computer with Windows 7, you're pretty much obligated to deliver. You could get an upgrade version, possibly.
posted by alexei at 12:28 AM on October 3, 2010


It seems like the likelihood that you'll get caught is high enough to give this guy an actual copy of Windows 7. That'd be the ethical thing to do anyway.
posted by NoraReed at 1:29 AM on October 3, 2010


As well as all the things people above have said, I'd add that if this was a PayPal transaction, and if the buyer raises a dispute through PayPal, it will suspend your account if it turns out you've been selling fake or pirated goods and may block you from opening another account.
posted by essexjan at 1:36 AM on October 3, 2010


Am I really gonna get busted for using a pirated copy of windows 7?

Probably not. Are you going to get busted for selling a pirated copy of windows 7? Quite possibly.

The anti-piracy protections in vista and windows 7 are considerably more robust than that of windows XP. While it is possible to get round it by flashing the BIOS of the laptop with a modified version, or using a modified KMS VM and an enterprise version, putting an activation crack on it from a torrent you got off the internet is not an effective way of going about it. Mandatory updates via windows update usually break those in short order, and are certainly detectable.

Their primary purpose is to notify buyers that they've bought a machine with a dodgy copy, when they thought it is was genuine. By reporting it to microsoft via the built in mechanism, they may give him a legitimate install he can use - but he has to report the whitebox seller he got it from, in this case, you. They do have entire legal teams set up for pursuing sellers who do this. Whether they'll go after a single report is debatable. I've certainly seen them go after a whitebox seller who was re-using a single legit copy on PCs he was selling.

Speaking of which, OEM copies, such as you got on your new pc, are not transferable. That's why they're a fraction of the full price retail copies, which are re-usable on new PCs (as long as you take them off the old one, obviously).

You have three options:

1) Buy and ship a legitimate OEM copy of windows 7, probably home premium, to the guy. I'd advise he install the laptop clean from it, as his install is in a completely unknown state with the cracker software you've given him. Even assuming you installed windows 7 home premium OEM, giving him a legit code may not work on the current install.

2) Get and ship him legit OEM restore disks for the OEM copy of windows XP it's licenced for.
You should be able to get these from the maker of the laptop direct at nominal cost. Given the many different ways OEM authentication works on XP, it's best to get the proper restore disks, as random ones off the internet may well not work with the legit code printed on the laptop sticker.

3) do nothing, and hope he doesn't report you to microsoft as a fraudulent seller, and ebay/paypal as a fraudulent seller. Ebay will definitely take action, see here, and so will paypal - they'll reverse the charge, at least so you'll be out the funds he gave you for the laptop in the first place. Microsoft may, or may not based on his report via the windows anti-conterfeiting wizard that's coming up on his PC. They are more likely to take action once ebay report it to them based upon the fraud report your buyer may submit to get his money back.


I don't recommend option 3.
posted by ArkhanJG at 1:39 AM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


so, what are the consequences of this man reporting that i put a pirated copy of windows 7 on his computer to microsoft?

Potentially, paying off a massive fine for years.

will they even give a shit? will ebay or anyone else give a shit?

Yes.
posted by Menthol at 1:46 AM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Taking the machine back and offering a full refund would be option 4.

Also, you should really ask the mods very very nicely to anonymise or delete this question, as you've just confessed to fraud and copyright infringement with what appears to be your normal account, both of which carry hefty legal penalties.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:10 AM on October 3, 2010


"Of course?"

You seem to assume everyone does this.

Everyone does not.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:54 AM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are you aware that the Business Software Association pays a substantial *reward* for people who turn in software pirates? As in, in some cases, thousands of dollars in reward money.

This guy can get back much more than the machine is worth by reporting you. I'd make very, very nice in any follow up, offer to refund his purchase *AND* keep the machine, *AND* send him the legit XP discs at least.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:56 AM on October 3, 2010


Refund the money.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:58 AM on October 3, 2010


Effigy2000 writes "Also, I don't know if asking this question non-anon on AskMe is a good idea if you're trying to prevent Microsoft from finding out what you've done. I don't know for sure but I imagine MS has bots scouring the web for pirate+windows. Perhaps ask a mod to consider making it anonymous, if not deleting the question altogether?"

pirate + windows returns 14 billion google hits; defmute has no personal identification information in their profile; they are pretty safe.
posted by Mitheral at 7:09 AM on October 3, 2010


will ebay or anyone else give a shit?

Yes, as someone who makes a living selling on ebay, I give a shit, as this kind of pure scumbaggery adds at least one more person to the world who will probably never use ebay again.
posted by the bricabrac man at 12:02 PM on October 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


I would like to make the following suggestions...

If you are not in possession of a transferable license for the Microsoft Windows family of operating systems, please refrain from committing acts of copyright infringement. Third party transfer of illegitimate licenses is strongly investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Please take note of the following freely transferable / free and open source operating systems and distributions :

BSD Licensed Systems :

PC-BSD
DesktopBSD

GNU GPL Licensed Systems :

CentOS
Fedora
OpenSUSE
Ubuntu

These operating systems can be safely distributed or installed on computer hardware without the need to adhere to the otherwise strict conditions imposed by Microsoft.

All are easy to install and provide a similar or better end user experience while leaving you free and clear of worry about pesky things like proprietary software licenses, and copyright infringement.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 1:03 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I was sold what was described as legit software on eBay and received a pirated copy, I wouldn't bother to contact the seller. I'd dispute the entire thing with eBay/paypal/ my credit card company.

If only I could sell pirated copies of windows on eBay for even half the street price, I'd have a fortune.
posted by Brian Puccio at 1:08 PM on October 3, 2010


Aside from everything else people said, you should have posted this an 'anonymous'.
posted by ZaneJ. at 4:04 PM on October 3, 2010


[A couple comments removed. Cut it out with the name calling, and this is not the place for a general argument or bull session about software piracy.]
posted by cortex at 5:06 PM on October 3, 2010


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