There have been many discussions in various places on the Web about the Microsoft Vista licensing since Microsoft released it.

Ed Bott on his Microsoft Report ZDNet blog recently (October 11th) wrote an blog entry about it entitled A sneaky change in Windows licensing terms where he states the following:

I read through the license agreement for Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate (PDF) and saw lots of new language. Much of it just formalizes what Microsoft has been doing under separate agreements for some time, such as the Validation requirements introduced with Windows Genuine Activation.

But I have yet to see anyone point out one significant change in retail licensing terms. Think you can transfer that retail license to any machine you want? Think again. In Section 2, “Installation and Use Rights,” the text reads:

“Before you use the software under a license, you must assign that license to one device (physical hardware system). That device is the “licensed device.” ”

Sections 15 and 16, “Reassign to Another Device,” and “Transfer to a Third Party,” are new. You can go read the exact terms for yourself. The short version is that you may “reassign the license to another device one time” or “make a one time transfer of the software, and this agreement, directly to a third party.” [emphasis added]

That limitation on retail licenses is a remarkable change. Previously, a retail license could be removed from one computer and reinstalled on another with no limits. Now, you get to reinstall one time and one time only.

Much more in Ed’s posting.

After that posting, Paul Thurrott did a write up saying he checked with Microsoft and basically the Microsoft product manager told him that this was simply “clarification” of the WinXP license. To which Ed Bott came back with his rebuttal: Get facts, not spin, about Vista’s new license.

Memo to Paul Thurrott: If you’re going to write an article entitled “Windows Vista Licensing Changes: Everything you’ve read is wrong“, it helps to get your facts right. After reading a post I wrote last week about Vista licensing, Paul spoke to a Microsoft product manager, who says there’s no change in the license terms for Windows Vista, just a “clarification” of an existing restriction that already applies to Windows XP users.

Again, much more in the posting by Ed.

Sadly I have to say, I really expected more from Paul than going with word of mouth and not checking the documents which are so clear.

And despite what some are saying about it, I totally disagree with shrink wrap licensing, period. Sure if a ‘seasoned’ user wants to find the license, they can look online for it. But a new user getting his first computer may not have that option. And will MS pay the restocking fee for the user, if they read the license from Dell and decide that license is not for them — that is if they fully understand the legalese when they race through it to get to that new computer?

Well, I called a day ago to get another activation on my Retail XP Pro which was being installed on a totally different computer because I am giving it away. I no longer am using Windows XP since the WGA fiasco on my computer. I have had it with XP and I will NOT be using Vista.

Anyway, I didn’t want to take a chance on the activation failing since it was on a totally different system, and also because, I had already activated several times (once that went bad) since I got the system from a friend and I had reinstalled it after (the gone bad activation screwing up some hardware detection) and subsequently wiping the drive and putting in some new hardware (video card, hard drive and memory). This was a Full Retail version someone gave to me along with a computer a couple years ago. And with the previous owner, it came with the computer when they had it built at a Mom and Pop shop. It was WinXP Pro Full Retail version.

So, because I didn’t want a failure of activation (which had happened before) to potentially happen again because I was giving it away, I chose to activate by phone. Turns out the number given when you choose to activate by phone puts you into the automated thing these days.

It was a pain to have to tell this automated female voice the bazillions of numbers (installation numbers on your screen), then the automated female voice gives you the bazillions of numbers for confirmation to type into a bunch of boxes, and then asks you to confirm to the automated female voice that it activated successfully, and that was it. Done. Activated successfully….yet again and on different hardware entirely. Which is how it should be…if activation has to be required at all.

The last time I added hardware I called MS to activate since it had failed on the previous hard drive’s install when I added hardware. I talked to a person that time.

So, I’d say, there goes the sleight of hand that MS is trying to push on us … ‘clarification’ huh? Ed Bott and the Microsoft documents that have been on the Internet on their website for a long time for WinXP Full Retail Edition are correct. There is and never was a set limit to the number of times one can move/transfer the Full Retail Edition of WinXP — from computer to computer, or owner to owner, as they are trying to say now.

As much as Microsoft charges for their Full Retail edition of their OSes, there should never be any restriction on the hardware its placed on anyway, IMHO. They are shooting themselves in the foot.

NOTE: It is reasonable to expect that you use that license on a single computer IF the license states it is for one computer (which the WinXP license does say), but it is not reasonable to limit that license to a single box and ‘marry’ it to that hardware like they are doing with the OEM Resellers. Hardware needs change, hardware fails.

And don’t even get me started on the “new preinstalled” systems (no system disks supplied) that started and failed with Packard Bell computers eons ago, and now they have resurrected again. Give folks the daggone restore disks! Or better yet, give them the MS install disks so they can do an inplace repair of their operating system for the smaller gotchas that can happen with Windows instead of having only an option of overwriting the hard drive when Windows go weird. And provide the system driver and software disks for the system they bought. Is that so much to ask when you buy a computer? And how about not installing adware/spyware/crippleware on the system before it even reaches the owner?

But I digress, our computers are not DirecTV or Dish Network set top boxes where they insist on ‘marrying’ the hardware to the ‘smart card.’ Or TiVos where they insist on ‘marrying’ the hard drive to the system hardware which also is a sucky policy since hardware fails and you are not talking about a cheap item to purchase. But these are our daily use computers — that we do all kinds of things on — where our needs can and often do change as new software, hardware etc. come on the market, or as hardware fails and needs to be replaced.

Nor, is it, in my opinion, reasonable to expect someone to deactivate software or operating systems before moving it to another computer, especially if the previous computer fails before you can do so.

And I certainly do not appreciate MS trying to schmooze their way out of a MAJOR change in licensing by saying it’s just a ‘clarification of the previous WinXP license and no change at all!

This is all a bunch a C.R.A.P. (as David Berlind has so aptly put it on his zdnet blog) like all other forms of DRM (Digital Rights Management, or more aptly as David calls it, Digital Restrictions Management).

Here’s an article that jbredmound posted earlier at Scotsnewsletter forums that was written back in 2003 on DRM/Copy Protection that I think Microsoft, Apple and hardware, software and entertainment vendors should read and take to heart:

Copy Protection Is a Crime
…against humanity. Society is based on bending the rules.

Wired: Issue 11.06/June 2003
David Weinberger

Digital rights management sounds unobjectionable on paper: Consumers purchase certain rights to use creative works and are prevented from violating those rights. Who could balk at that except the pirates? Fair is fair, right? Well, no.

In reality, our legal system usually leaves us wiggle room. What’s fair in one case won’t be in another – and only human judgment can discern the difference. As we write the rules of use into software and hardware, we are also rewriting the rules we live by as a society, without anyone first bothering to ask if that’s OK.

Further into the article he states:

The usual criticism is that the scheme gives too much power to copyright holders. But there’s a deeper problem: Perfect enforcement of rules is by its nature unfair. For contrast, consider how imperfectly rules are applied in the real world.

There is so much more in the article and it’s right on the money.

These companies need to realize that we are human beings who are making use of digital tools. These digital tools need to conform to our changing human needs, not the other way around. There has to be wiggle room. Period.

Tools are for our benefit, and when they no longer meet the need, the tools can be easily replaced.

Peachy (also on Scotsnewsletter forums) suggested that this might be a Modest Proposal for Vista activation that Microsoft should really consider: http://overclockers.com/tips01049/index02.asp

Apparently, Adobe already allows you to deactivate Photoshop when you want to put it on another computer, so why can’t we deactivate XP when moving to a new motherboard?

My response to that is, sure, in a perfect world that sounds reasonable … but only in a perfect world. Real life gets messy. Most people won’t know they need a new motherboard or hard drive till the old one fails.

Besides, when someone buys an operating system (Retail Version in particular), they have a reasonable expectation that the license is tied to them as the buyer — not the hardware — and can be transferred to another computer, or another owner.

Besides, putting spontaneous human situations into digital rigidity is pure folly.

It hasn’t worked out real well for many buying music when their computers screw up. There have been folks that have lost their entire libraries and have had to cut their losses.

Is this the life we want with our OSes too?

No thank you.

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Comments on: "Vista Licensing Sneaky Changes" (3)

  1. erictravis said:

    Can you say Linux? I know you can…

  2. LOL!

    zlim over at http://forums.scotsnewsletter.com posted this t-shirt picture:

    Gotta love it. 😉

  3. […] After the foolish move by Microsoft to change the Vista Licensing and then backing off when tinkerers everywhere went ballistic about it .. now they pull this whammy. I bet no one was told that this would be the case when they bought the Upgrade, huh? […]

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