Feeds

German ruling loosens MS lock on reselling of Windows

Does this mean MS OEM and licence agreements are illegal?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Microsoft's ability to sell a whole new operating system with every PC that ships, and to block the growth of a secondary/secondhand OS market, has been checked slightly - in Germany. A German appeal court has ruled that Microsoft can't stop dealers selling software it intends should ship only with new PCs separately.

But the ruling may not be much of a precedent, even in Germany, and considering the way Microsoft's contractual arrangements with PC OEMs have been going recently, it possibly won't make too many waves. The court has so far issued a statement of its ruling, but won't be producing the justification for some weeks.

The particular case involved a dealer who'd been sued by Microsoft for selling unbundled OEM software for MS-DOS and Windows for Workgroups in 1997. By that time you'd reckon that WfWg was of approximately nil value to either Microsoft or the OEM, so pursuing the hapless dealer does seem a tad vindictive. But that's not the important bit.

The dealer may have got off simply because he didn't have a contractual relationship with Microsoft, but in that case OEMs wouldn't be significantly affected, because their OEM agreement would still prohibit them from selling on, say, that big stack of Win95 they never got around to shipping. Nor would it make it legal for end users to sell the software after they'd finmished with it, if this breached their EULA (End User Licence Agreement).

Actually, considering the nature of the agreements you generally 'sign' when you open the shrink-wrap or click in the box, it's puzzling how come any legal software makes it to the secondhand stores.

But from what the court said when delivering its verdict, the implications of the ruling seem rather wider. The court feels that you can only exercise your rights of authorship once, which presumably means that you can place restrictions on the initial sale, but not on secondary sales. If that's the case it possibly means it's legal for OEMs to sell on copies of Windows they've already paid for (or even to sell licences, without shrinkwrap), and it's certainly legal for you to sell your copy of Windows after you've finished playing with it. In Germany.

The fallout from this, even in Germany, is however substantially muted by a cunning plan Microsoft prepared earlier. How easy is it to buy a PC with an unlocked copy of Windows on delivery media that you could physically sell, these days?

Microsoft has of course been going over to bios-locked installations that will only run on a particular machine, and protected medialess delivery where the code is on the hard disk, and can't easily be shifted onto another machine either. So theoretically it's your right - in Germany - to sell your Windows on, but in practice it's physically impossible. Does that mean that it's OK to crack the locks, squirt the code onto a blank CD and sell it? Or even that Microsoft could be on the receiving end of a class action lawsuit on behalf of German Windows users who want to sell their Windows? We await the court's full ruling with some interest. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft WINDOWS 10: Seven ATE Nine. Or Eight did really
Windows NEIN skipped, tech preview due out on Wednesday
Business is back, baby! Hasta la VISTA, Win 8... Oh, yeah, Windows 9
Forget touchscreen millennials, Microsoft goes for mouse crowd
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
Lotus Notes inventor Ozzie invents app to talk to people on your phone
Imagine that. Startup floats with voice collab app for Win iPhone
'Google is NOT the gatekeeper to the web, as some claim'
Plus: 'Pretty sure iOS 8.0.2 will just turn the iPhone into a fax machine'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.