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Chasing Pirates: Inside Microsoft’s War Room
November 7, 2010 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Chasing Pirates: Inside Microsoft’s War Room - From the special thread that Chinese factories counterfeit in mile-long spools that adorns software authenticity stickers, to near-perfect bootleg discs leaving microscopic evidence of their factory origins, to Mexican and Russian gangsters who are dealt with very carefully, the NYT covers Microsoft's multi-pronged, international war on piracy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (30 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thank you for the link to the article and I'm fascinated by the fact that its just been written and published...

but

I just can't seem to get all worked up in sympathy over this. At all.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 6:59 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The most interesting thing about this article is how much space it gives to positions contrary to Microsoft's. Between the argument that they actually need piracy to maintain their market share, the pull-quotes from free-software advocates, and the discussion of whether non-US governments should spend so much effort enforcing US-owned copyrights, this is a very different article from the glorified BSA press release the paper would've run five or ten years ago. It's nice to see a wider range of such arguments reaching acceptability in mainstream, non-Internet-nerd discussions.
posted by RogerB at 7:45 AM on November 7, 2010 [12 favorites]


The company’s profit from Windows and Office remains the envy of the technology industry, and critics contend that Microsoft simply charges too much for them. In countries like India, where Microsoft encourages local police officers to conduct raids, the company can come off as a bully willing to go after its own business partners if they occasionally peddle counterfeit software to people who struggle to afford the real thing.

“It is better for the Indian government to focus on educating its children rather than making sure royalties go back to Microsoft,” says Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia Law School and a leading advocate of free software.

Mr. Finn argues that Microsoft has no choice but to be aggressive in its fight ...


Wow. Talk about blatant misrepresentation. Eblen Moglen is an advocate for piracy now?

The widespread use of pirated software in markets like India and Russia is problem for Linux distributors that might otherwise be competitive there, and education is an area where they think their offerings can be competitive. But hey, if we don't mention what kind of "free software" he's advocating, nobody will notice, right?

This position is accurately explained later in the article:

“We love Microsoft’s heavy-handedness,” says Jim Zemlin, the executive director of the Linux Foundation, a nonprofit organization. “We want 100 percent of the people using Windows to pay for it, because in those places where you have a lot of pirated use of Windows, we don’t have any cost advantage.”

So it looks like someone decided to spiff up the article by inserting the quote from Moglen where it would appear to be a defense of piracy. The article also ends up being rather confusing, equating complaints from competitors that Microsoft cynically tolerates piracy up to a point with complaints that it's too hard on pirates.
posted by nangar at 8:13 AM on November 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


This is a fascinating read, it has some problems as nangar points out, but still very interesting.

Thanks.
posted by device55 at 8:37 AM on November 7, 2010



I just can't seem to get all worked up in sympathy over this. At all.


Not all articles are intended to give one an emotional frisson. Sometimes it's just a bunch of stuff that happened.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:58 AM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Ohhhhh, now I want a "Microsoft EVIDENCE" bag! I don't think they sell those in the company store though.)
posted by girlhacker at 9:32 AM on November 7, 2010


I don't entirely get why people still pay for Office OR pirate it when Open Office exists. You can even export to the MS formats when you need to send it out. (I guess the Excel clone sucks a bit for advanced things, but "Writer" works just fine for me).
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:40 AM on November 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


(I also think MS has made it pretty hard for reasonable people to get a hate-boner for them anymore. I mean we have a company that lets me save a ".doc" from OpenOffice, install Windows legally on Mac hardware, and the founder is the world's biggest philanthropist. Some might say they've become a lot like what Apple pretends to be.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:43 AM on November 7, 2010 [12 favorites]


I just can't seem to get all worked up in sympathy over this. At all.

IndigoJones has a point. Another would be that it's not sympathy for MS you should be considering, but rather emotions relating to the other players that come up tangentially in the story:
- the local resellers that have a "quota" to meet under threat of the local gang
- the description of the familia taking up piracy as a nice "high margin, low risk" business alongside kidnapping and drugs
- the sources for the story, who actually fear for their lives in defending MS, IP, etc.

Those were my WTF moments when reading the article.
posted by whatzit at 10:11 AM on November 7, 2010


You both have a point, whatzit (and IndigoJones). On reflection I realize the word choice "sympathy" conveyed the wrong interpretation for what I meant to say, which was closer to "meh, MS piracy problems in the third world hoo haa"

And I guess I was being a tad lazy in not supporting that further, in that its not a throwaway line so much as having seen the issues around this challenge first hand (used to work for HP India as well as being part of the team from the local marketing agency that launched MS 95 in India) and the attempts to impose external standards and metrics and pricing without any comprehension of the challenges and operating environment in the street, I just can't get worked up over this anymore.

This from the article captures much of the grey market's customer perception as well, many of whom see it as "sticking it to man" when they condone, use, support or enable this,

these efforts underscore a certain level of desperation on the part of American companies and the economy of ideas on which they have come to rely. “This is the postindustrial United States,” he says. “We will make other governments around the world go around enforcing rights primarily held by Americans. This is a very important part of American thinking around how the country will make its living in the 21st century.”

posted by The Lady is a designer at 10:22 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel a little bad for MS at this point. For the last fifteen years they've been trying to find other revenue sources then Windows (client and server) and Office licenses and haven't come up with much to show for it. No wonder that they're fighting so hard to protect their cash cows from piracy, if they lose that battle, they don't have much to fall back on.
posted by octothorpe at 10:25 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just keep changing the method for authentication. Not that big of a deal.

Askiba

Sent from my pirated copy of Windows
posted by Askiba at 10:28 AM on November 7, 2010


I don't entirely get why people still pay for Office OR pirate it when Open Office exists.

I use OpenOffice at home. I would dearly love to move to OO at work, but there are a few things that I do every day that MS Office does much better - including certain searches and mail merging, and Calc never works like I want it to. I actually tried it for about two weeks (I work for a non-profit, and we would love to not spend the money to keep the MS suite updated), but it just didn't cut it for how we operate. This is why MS is doing well IMO. Businesses use it, then people use it at home because they know how it works. People are lazy and don't want to learn new things. If those people feel it's too expensive, they pirate it.
posted by gemmy at 10:44 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sent from my pirated copy of Windows

Why are you pirating Windows instead of using a free OS? I'm asking this seriously. I would never use pirated software, but if I did, it would be because of printer drivers, and because Windows 7 is actually pretty nice to use. I think OSs should be pay-what-you-will.
posted by fuq at 11:38 AM on November 7, 2010


I don't entirely get why people still pay for Office OR pirate it when Open Office exists.

I want to like OpenOffice but I've never had a good experience with it. I'm surprised every time I try it that the main alternative to a Microsoft product feels even more bloated, sluggish, and counterintuitive.
posted by roast beef at 11:43 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I noticed a "Microsoft forensics expert" using a Microsoft Surface on page 2. Try and pirate that!
posted by Monochrome at 11:47 AM on November 7, 2010


(I also think MS has made it pretty hard for reasonable people to get a hate-boner for them anymore. I mean we have a company that lets me save a ".doc" from OpenOffice, install Windows legally on Mac hardware, and the founder is the world's biggest philanthropist. Some might say they've become a lot like what Apple pretends to be.)

And Windows 7 is a pretty decent OS.

Oh, and MS Security Essentials is excellent.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO MY WORLD THE WALLS MELTING THE ONE BEYOND HE CALLS
posted by Sebmojo at 12:09 PM on November 7, 2010


Impress also doesn't have too good compatibility with Powerpoint, so that's an issue if you need to do group presentations.
posted by ersatz at 12:48 PM on November 7, 2010


When does anyone actually use the security thread? As an end user, I've never needed it, and all Microsoft's authorization steps once you have the software are digital. Is it just there for busting enormous counterfeiting operations? Is there even a where a potential purchaser can learn how to spot fakes?
posted by breath at 2:47 PM on November 7, 2010


I'm not sure why anyone uses that bloated pos openoffice when there is edlin
posted by Ad hominem at 5:26 PM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


So ... the message here is that if society uses closed source software, it helps support organized crime?
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:43 PM on November 7, 2010


I would feel SO much nicer about this if the bloody Windows 98 license sticker on the bottom of my Aspire One (Linux netbook user, here) hadn't worn to complete illegibility AND the special thread fell out.
posted by Samizdata at 6:49 PM on November 7, 2010


I'd like to second the comment on how piracy ending would be the single best thing that ever happened for free software. Although, Microsoft is good enough and cheap enough that I think it would survive. It's Adobe that would crash and burn in such an environment. I think the day that occurred on would probably end up being some sort of official holiday.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:38 PM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


the attempts to impose external standards and metrics and pricing without any comprehension of the challenges and operating environment in the street, I just can't get worked up over this anymore.

Interesting perspective, thanks for sharing. I wonder how it is now, given that MS has a huge workforce in India now, and actually develops products in their IndiaDev center.
posted by the cydonian at 12:29 AM on November 8, 2010


From the article:
Through an artificial intelligence system, Microsoft scans the Web for suspicious, popular links and then sends takedown requests to Web service providers, providing evidence of questionable activity. “The Web sites look professional,” he says. “And some of them even offer customer support through call centers in India.”
I had to laugh. :)
posted by the cydonian at 12:36 AM on November 8, 2010


I wonder how it is now, given that MS has a huge workforce in India now, and actually develops products in their IndiaDev center.

I don't know so much about MS nowadays but I do recall that Adobe had major challenges and were, in early 2007, almost deciding just not to bother entering these markets because of hte headaches. I can try digging up the reference but it was a couple of continents and few hard drives/email addresses ago...
posted by The Lady is a designer at 3:03 AM on November 8, 2010


(I also think MS has made it pretty hard for reasonable people to get a hate-boner for them anymore. I mean we have a company that lets me save a ".doc" from OpenOffice, install Windows legally on Mac hardware, and the founder is the world's biggest philanthropist. Some might say they've become a lot like what Apple pretends to be.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:43 PM on November 7 [7 favorites -] Favorite added! [!]


I've been saying this for years, but I think that, for people with opinions on this sort of thing, Microsoft has transitioned from most-hated tech company in the world, to generic, neutral 'computers stuff'. The same way that IBM did in the late-80's/early-90's, and now most people have no opinion at all about IBM. Irrelevancy in development of new consumer products probably plays a large role in this for both companies.

Apple and Google are fighting for Microsoft's former spot at the "top".
posted by Who_Am_I at 7:20 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I continually ran into "this just isn't working for me" issues in Calc, and Writer was unimpressive. I broke down and bought Office 2010 for home use this weekend because of it. The part of me willing to sit through the headaches of using OpenOffice has diminished significantly in the face of me having a full-time (i.e. decent paying) job.

And I feel a little bad for Microsoft. Bit mostly because I remember how much everyone hated on them before, and can't help but notice that Photoshop costs more than Windows does.
posted by SMPA at 8:59 AM on November 8, 2010


I mean we have a company that lets me save a ".doc" from OpenOffice...

In what sense does Microsoft "let" you use a particular file extension from software they didn't create?

I want to like OpenOffice but I've never had a good experience with it.

Me either, which is why I consider it a very good workalike to Office (and really, the whole WIMP model in general). Which is why I say: If you are complaining about Linux, it just means you haven't used Windows recently enough.
posted by DU at 9:18 AM on November 8, 2010


I like open office. I like to strip the toolbars down to the two or three items I use and then save what I write as an .rtf. If I need to do something, I look for the command in the comprehensive "menu" at the top. It does what I tell it to do and we're both happy.
posted by fuq at 2:40 PM on November 8, 2010


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