Microsoft clarifies Windows 10 piracy stance

March 20, 2015 // 11:35 a.m.

Tags: #digital-rights-management #drm #piracy #terry-myerson #upgrade #windows-10 #windows-threshold

Companies: #microsoft

Microsoft has 'clarified' reports that it would be offering customers running non-genuine Windows installations a free upgrade to Windows 10 at launch, explaining that while they may be able to upgrade it won't change the illegitimate status of their operating system.

In an interview with newswire service Reuters following a conference in China earlier this week, Microsoft's Terry Myerson was quoted as stating that the company would be 'upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10' when the operating system launches later this year. The surprise move was positioned as an attempt to 're-engage' with the numerous users of pirated software in China, but seemed strangely generous for a company which has spent decades developing increasingly invasive anti-piracy and authentication technologies for its software - up to and including a trusted computing initiative dubbed Palladium, which has only appeared piecemeal since its unveiling in 2002.

For those excited by the idea of a cheap if illegal way to upgrade existing unlicensed systems to Windows 10 in the summer, a clarification to Myerson's overeager statement made by a Windows spokesperson should be read carefully. 'Although non-genuine PCs may be able to upgrade to Windows 10, the upgrade will not change the genuine state of the licence,' the spokesperson told Venturebeat when approached for comment on the matter. 'If a device was considered non-genuine or mislicensed prior to the upgrade, that device will continue to be considered non-genuine or mislicensed after the upgrade.'

In other words: pirated copies of Windows 7 and upwards will be able to upgrade to Windows 10, but they won't suddenly stop being pirated. Details of what impact this will have are not yet available, but existing versions of Windows work unlicensed for 30 days after which the machine will be disabled after an hour's use - and while it can be reset, you'll only get another hour.

The real 're-engagement' strategy Microsoft is taking with the Windows 10 launch, then, is to push unlicensed users to legitimate upgrades through the built-in Windows Store. Given that techniques for bypassing the licensing restrictions built into existing Windows releases are unlikely to work with Windows 10, those taking advantage of the chance to upgrade will be nagged until they invest in a licence - or until the crackers release a patch, as they have done for every other version of Windows ever released.

Windows 10 is scheduled to launch this summer, meaning before the end of September, and will be a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 upwards for the first year of its availability.
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