According to the software titan, a majority of its legal concerns with resellers have surrounded “hard disk loading” — the practice of selling a machine with a copy of Windows or Office, but no legal license for the software. But that may be changing, as Diana Piquette, license compliance manager at Microsoft Canada, says they’re seeing more companies getting involved with selling COAs in place of an actual software license.
“They’re getting innovative, and we’re seeing an increased amount of this kind of piracy going on,” Piquette said. “We wanted to make sure we brought this to an enforcement level, and that we got education and awareness out there to end user customers. They need to understand that a COA is not a valid license.”
The certificate of authenticity is the label that Microsoft has system builders put on new machines to indicate that copies of Windows installed on that machine are legitimate. The problem here is that some resellers are apparently separating the COA from the software and selling it separately to customers looking to buy software, as if it were a valid license for the software being sold. The lawsuit filed alleges that the company, which was not identified any further by Microsoft, not only did this, but actually counterfeited the certificates of authenticity, allowing it to sell COAs for copies of Windows it did not even possess.
“In order for a PC to be properly licensed, it needs a valid copy of Windows and a valid COA attached to the PC,” Piquette said. “A COA on its own may be valid, but it doesn’t mean anything.”
While this is the first lawsuit Microsoft has brought against a reseller for any alleged inappropriate actions with COAs, the company says that such piracy is on the rise, and it expects to take further action in the near future.
“You’ll see more actions and more announcements in regards to this until we feel there’s a good understanding with both users and resellers about this issue,” Piquette said.
Further details of the alleged behaviour and identity of the defendant are not being made available by Microsoft, and Piquette could not comment on when the case might go before the courts.