Exclusive: Microsoft Discusses Comet Lawsuit

By: Shaylin Clark - January 4, 2012

This morning we reported that Microsoft had filed suit against British retailer Comet for illegally reproducing Windows software. Customers who purchase Windows-based computers at Comet are offered the opportunity to purchase recovery discs as well. The recovery discs are produced in-house by Comet, however, and not by either Microsoft or the computer manufacturers. Microsoft apparently found this practice unacceptable, and has filed suit.

While preparing the story this morning, I attempted to contact representatives of both Microsoft and Comet. I was unable to get in touch with anyone from Comet, however a representative from Microsoft replied via email earlier this afternoon. They sent me the following statement, attributed to David Finn, Associate General Council, Worldwide Anti-Piracy and Anti-Counterfeiting at Microsoft:

Today, Microsoft filed a legal action against UK retailer Comet in the High Court in London. This action focuses on Comet’s unauthorized production of recovery discs, which are one type of recovery solution. Recovery solutions allow customers to repair an operating system, or to reinstall it in the rare event of a system failure.

In 2008 and 2009, Comet approached tens of thousands of customers who had bought PCs with the necessary recovery software already on the hard drive, and offered to sell them unnecessary recovery discs for £14.99. Not only was the recovery software already provided on the hard drive by the computer manufacturer but, if the customer so desired, a recovery disc could also have been obtained by the customer from the PC manufacturer for free or a minimal amount.

Illegally replicating software and then selling it is counterfeiting. We’ve often encouraged our customers to buy from a trusted retailer. In this case, it is disappointing that a well-known retailer created so many unwitting victims of counterfeiting.

To sum up, then, Comet has been copying Microsoft’s software without permission, and using it to sell consumers recovery discs they either don’t need, or could obtain for less money directly from their computer’s manufacturer. All in all, it looks like Microsoft has a pretty good point on this one.

About the Author

Shaylin ClarkShaylin Clark is a staff writer for WebProNews. Email: sclark@webpronews.com, Twitter: @stclark81, Google Plus:

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  • Chris Novak

    While I have no financial interest in Comet, lack of recovery discs affects tens of millions of computer owners.

    Issue #1: Is a set of Recovery Discs unnecessary? (I think they are necessary)
    Issue #2: When selling Recovery Discs, is it a ‘product’ or a ‘service’? (I say service)

    I submit Comet’s recovery discs are a necessary service for PC users, and they’re good for the country, keeping otherwise serviceable computers and related electronics out of landfills or from needing to be recycled before their time. Without recovery discs, donations of used computers would dry up, as otherwise PC owners fearful of identity theft would insist on wiping hard disk drives – wiping out recovery partitions as well.

    Recovery Discs didn’t used to be an issue, as manufacturers included the discs with every system unit shipped. To save money, PC manufacturers shifted the cost of recovery discs to consumers, making them responsible for creating these. While consumers can do it, any survey will find that very few do, or are even aware of WHY they should create recovery media, thinking “isn’t that the OEM’s or Microsoft’s job” ?

    So what happens to a consumer purchases a computer/laptop, does NOT purchase blank DVDs, and thus doesn’t spend roughly 2 hours burning and verifying a set of recovery DVDs from their new computer’s recovery partition?

    Probably for the first few years, nothing. Recovery discs are insurance because hard drives are mechanical (motor spinning platters, read-write heads moving back/forth), and if they completely crash, the manufacturer-included recovery partition is as inaccessible as the customers data. My experience shows the average mechanical hard drive to exhibit age about 5 years old (bad spots developing), and completely wearing out and crashing at 6-8 years old.

    After a hard drive crash, you can install a new hard drive (usually larger ones are available by then), boot from your Recovery Discs to completely re-install Windows, then re-install your applications, install 5 years of updates, and then restore your data from backups.

    But if you never burned a set of recovery discs, your computer IS trash, unless you spend money and endure a week of downtime for your PC manufacturer to send you a set of discs so you may begin the rebuild process.