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Microsoft Sues British Retailer Comet Over Recovery Discs

Argues Comet counterfeited Windows software by making discs for customers.

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Microsoft Sues British Retailer Comet Over Recovery Discs
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UPDATE: Microsoft attorney David Finn has responded to my request for comment. Click here for the full statement.

Microsoft announced this morning that they have filed suit against Comet, a British retailer that specializes in electronics and appliances. The suit accuses Comet of “creating and selling more than 94,000 sets of counterfeit Windows Vista and Windows XP recovery CDs.” The recovery discs were sold to customers who bought Windows PCs. In years past, Microsoft supplied such discs itself, but has stopped doing so.

In their statement, Microsoft insists that “Comet’s actions were unfair to customers,” and emphasized their concern to “ensure people get what they pay for,” and to shield customers from pirated versions of their software.

Meanwhile, Comet have issued a statement of their own. In it they insist that they are the ones who acting in the consumers’ best interests, based on their belief that “customers had been adversely affected by the decision to stop supplying recovery discs with each new Microsoft Operating System based computer.” Comet also asserted that their actions do not constitute infringement, and stated their intention to defend against the suit “vigorously.”

A request for comment from Microsoft has not yet been answered. This situation presents an interesting problem, in that both companies claim to be acting in the best interest of consumers. Moreover, Comet does not appear to be selling the discs to consumers independently. The only way to get them is to purchase a Windows-based PC from Comet. Which means that in effect, Comet’s customers are only receiving a product that they have already paid for. This is definitely a story worth watching. Check back for updates as it unfolds.

What do you think? Should Comet be allowed to make Windows recovery discs for customers who have bought Windows computers? Let us know in the comments.

[Sources: Microsoft Press Release; Comet Statement]

Microsoft Sues British Retailer Comet Over Recovery Discs


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  • Greg Eames

    The customers can use the computers purchased with the software on to make thier ownat least with Win 7. So all Comet is doing is providing a service for thier customers with the Microsoft software.

    I thought all computer manufacturers did this. I have several diskmyself with well know manufacturers names on them eg. Mecer and Sahar.

    So maybe Microsoft means that you do not pay for the disk therefore should not get them?

    • http://www.ientry.com/ Shaylin Clark

      The manufacturers do it, yes, but Comet is a retailer. In other word, HP can give you recovery discs when you buy a computer, but Best Buy can’t.

  • 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.

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