Q: When is it okay to pirate Microsoft software?

By tonyhughes Hughes, in , posted: 27-Sep-2007 12:33

A: When you feel you are justified to, and to hell with Microsoft, your telco, your PDA manufacturer, copyright law, and common decency.

At least thats the answer that many supposedly law-abiding people are touting as justification for stealing the latest version of the Windows Mobile operating system, to run unlicenced on their PDA devices.

Windows Mobile devices generally ship with either WM5 or WM6 these days. Some manufacturers release updates from WM5 to WM6 (an updated ROM), or even an updated ROM of the same WM version, fixing bugs, or adding features and functionality.

But these upgrades are not always available, because the manufacturer sometimes just doesnt create that combination, or the telco doesnt put in the development effort or the planets dont quite align.

It seems there is an absolute groundswell of people worldwide openly discussing, trading, linking, uploading, downloading and otherwise sharing what is known as 'cooked' roms.

Example: Telecom New Zealand released the HTC Apache (Audiovox PPC6700) some time ago with WM5. There is no official update to WM6 for Telecom New Zealand users, but many people have loaded on a 'cooked ROM' which is Windows Mobile 6, hacked/cracked/tweaked to run on the Apache.

I am failing to see how this is any different to pirating Vista to put on a laptop that shipped with XP, for which the manufacturer is not releasing a new OS+Driver disk for.

Therefore, is this not piracy?

Being talked about on MANY internet forums quite openly, by many people who would not dare to openly say they pirated a game, or a desktop or server OS, but seem to be happily touting the advantages of pirating a mobile OS.

Very odd.

There may be argument that if the OS is not available through official means, and isnt going to be, then why not do it?

How about because it is not your intellectual property, and you dont have the legal right to?

Just because you feel inconvenienced by a hardware manufacturers/telcos/distributors decision, surely doesnt give you the right to go and pirate Microsoft operating systems?

Does it?

"But how else am I meant to get it"
Doesnt make it okay to steal it! Wait. Or upgrade to a device that DOES have WM6.

"HTC/Imate/Palm et al SHOULD have released the upgrade. My device is very new."
Doesnt make it okay to steal it! Wait. Or upgrade to a device that DOES have WM6.

"Microsoft should be happy that people are using/testing/bugfixing/speading its software"
No... "REALLY"???

Basically if you havent purchased the right from Microsoft with your device to run WM6, then surely you are stealing / breaking the law / pirating / infringing copyright / whatever you want to call it.

And its all happening in the open!

I wont link to anyones conversations - use google to seach for "cooked rom" and you will find plenty.

So c'mon people... tell me. What have I missed here? What makes all this okay?

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Comment by inane, on 27-Sep-2007 13:49

I certainly hear and agree with a number of the principals on which you speak.,

however I personally feel this is something that Microsoft should address directly,

I understand there is a total landmine of issues, but if microsoft were to issue a method by which you could purchase a licence for use then most people would.

Although since my switch to predominantly opensource products I feel that people should spend all that hardwork getting opensource options up and running on the phones instead.

this particular sort of problem is widespread when it comes to copyright infringement, also into the gray areas of the law also.

I have heard of plenty of people who have been tempted to download songs that they can't purchase from anywhere,

I think metallica fixed this in a novel approach with the metallica vault (the last albumn they released had a login that let you into a site where you could upload any bootleg copies you had of illegally recorded songs or limited edition songs, and you could download any that were there)

all you can really say is: intellectual property abuse is bad ok?

HOWEVER: your point:

I am failing to see how this is any different to pirating Vista to put on a laptop that shipped with XP, for which the manufacturer is not releasing a new OS+Driver disk for.

There is a huge difference, I can go and purchase a vanilla copy of vista, ok, so it doesn't have a driver disk for my laptop, but I can still purchase it and try to get it going,

in fact if i have the inclination I can write my own unofficial drivers so that my legitimately purchased copy of Vista will work.

WM6 on the other hand I have not see sold seperately _anywhere_

Comment by bradstewart, on 27-Sep-2007 15:12

Windows Mobile is different to your standard desktop OS.

You must already have a device that supports it and you have been licensed to use it.

Most people are just installing a modified version of the OS that is already there. They aren't denying any money to Microsoft. Sure it's a grey area but for the most part it is just tweaking.

It is a bit of a different story when it comes to people installing WM6 on a device it was never released on. This denies Microsoft any revenue that they may have gained from people upgrading to a device that may have come with it preinstalled.

But if there is an official carrier ROM out there available for download for your device but not from your carrier (like what is happening with the VF NZ Treo 750v) then I don't see any issues with installing that.

Comment by weatherman, on 28-Sep-2007 07:54

I wouldn't have thought the issues were any different here between mobile and desktop operating systems. My PC runs XP, and I don't really think I could get away with changing to a "cooked" Vista and just claim it as an "update". I would expect to have to pay for my "new" OS.

I believe WM5 and WM6 both have Windows CE 5.xx as their basis (correct me here if necessary, Mauricio!), but changing from 5 to 6 can hardly be regarded as an update, just as my example above couldn't. Its a new and hopefully better OS, so were I running a WM device, I'd expect to pay to change.

However....I'd expect and indeed require that the new OS was available, and this doesn't seem to be the case, for reasons previously stated. And being a techwimp, I'd also fight shy of a "cooked" version because I'd lie awake at night waiting for it to implode!

Thank goodness my smartphone is Symbiam.......!


Comment by paradoxsm, on 28-Sep-2007 17:22

WM5 was utter crap, admit it. WM6 is really the next big step from WM3, I'd happily pay the regular licence fee and install on the hardware of my choice but of course I cannot so it's not really our fault.

I quite often pirate stuff then buy the licence and never install the "uncracked" version. Coreplayer and Half-life 2 are two examples.

I'm all for paying for stuff and do all the time that is totally void of all DRM, onlike unlocking, copy protection rubbish and CD keys.

Author's note by tonyhughes, on 28-Sep-2007 17:39

So because its not released for your hardware, its okay to pirate it? And it shouldnt be illegal because its not your fault you were forced to steal it?

Comment by James Shiell, on 28-Sep-2007 23:36

What about those cases where Microsoft has released it free to manufacturers and OEMs, some of which have failed to pass it on to consumers?

A real example is the HTC TyTN - MS release MS6 free to HTC. HTC released a [free] upgrade for some users, as did some rebranders. T-Mobile, however, won't for the Vario II, because they'd rather ignore the [many] bugs in the release version and sell more Vario IIIs.

No one loses out in this circumstance. MS have already licensed WM6 to the OEM, the OEM has released an upgrade, the reseller doesn't have to do testing/support and the customer gets a device that doesn't crash twice a week.

I do agree, however, that is rather dodgy with cases such as the Apache. It is a good opportunity for MS to offer a license for such users and keep them on WM, rather than making them go shopping for a while new device. In the meantime, it falls in to the illegal-but-bloody-convenient category. And hence those who want it will no doubt find some internal justification.

Comment by Matthew Boniface, on 17-Oct-2007 00:12

This is an awesome discussion and I feel torn between views (but only consider with stealing because I too want WM6 for my device, and I can't [legally] have it) But, as a software developer I have to concur with Tony on this.. If you consider this example: Honda release a new revolutionary engine (with patents and all) and release it in a new model. They do not sell the engine separately because they don't want it installed in any other car model. Honda may have done this because they want to have tested on this new model and know the performance/durability and don't want reputation of the new technology damaged by any use that was untested. People may be upset because they had bought the proceeding model or want the engine in their Ford. But at the end of the day they can't just go and copy the design of that car just because they want it.... Okay, so it's not perfectly the same.. But it does carry much of the point. You have to understand that Microsoft made this product and therefore should retain the right to decided what it is purchased for. It's true that you may think that Microsoft are stupid for this (e.g. for narrowing their market share) - but they still are allowed to have legally enforceable decisions. If you pirate, you are ignoring the big picture and simply focussing on yourself.. no matter what you say (which will make you feel better), this is pirating and is still morally wrong.

Comment by t94xr, on 27-Oct-2007 06:56

"So because its not released for your hardware, its okay to pirate it? And it shouldnt be illegal because its not your fault you were forced to steal it? " exactly...

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