False WGA notification criminal offence in UK? RRS feed

  • Question

  • Hi,

    I have so far seen three nearly new retail PCs displaying the WGA warnings at boot.

    By chance? they were all HP-Compaq machines, though purchased from different retailers. All have the Windows holographic key label and the full CD & manuals pack with them.

    I get the impression that if Microsoft detect the same Windows key in use on more than one PC, they trigger the WGA alert on all PCs using that key, including any legitimately purchased ones.

    Disregarding coincidences with random key generators, their printed requirement that the label with the CD key is fitted to the outside of the PC case is virtually begging people wanting 'free' keys to simply read them from the labels on machines in shops. The legitimate buyer is then penalised - illegally - through no fault of their own.

    English law is very different to US law and it's about time Microsoft acknowleged this.

    1: 'shrinkwrap' agreements any any other after-sale conditions are explicitly excluded in English law. The contract is formed at the instant the seller agrees to sale and accepts payment. Conditions or requrements cannot be added retrospectively.

    The only relevent part of the MS licencing that I can see to be valid is the fundamental copyright requirement that you OWN one licence per software installation. Use of specific keys etc. is post-sales info and therefore not relevent to UK law.

    On WGA itself, when it gives a false notification on legally purchased software (regardless of cause):

    2: The banner stating the machine's software may not be licenced is defamatory. As it's written text this is libel, which is an illegal act even if no harm or damage can be proved. In the case of a machine owned by a business, where the WGA banner is seen by a customer, the actual damage could be immense.

    3: Under the terms of the 'Computer Misuse Act' (Section 3 - Unauthorised modification of computer material) it is a CRIMINAL offence to (among other things) modify a system file without the computer owners consent.

    The action of the 'WGA tool' is no different to a hacker defacing a web site - it does not matter if it can be repaired or not, the initial action is a criminal offence in England.


    Thursday, October 5, 2006 7:57 AM