What Can Victims of Piracy Do?

I've been overtaken on the high seas by a band of marauders flying a skull and crossbones - Oh wait a second, that was a different life. But I did buy a used laptop on Ebay running pirated XP-Pro software. I found this out because I had automatic update turned on and the Microsoft site informed me that this was the case. Further, I would no longer receive security patches leaving my machine vulnerable. The only "fix" offered was to purchase a legal copy of XP-Pro from the Microsoft update site.

I suggested that Microsoft go after the perpetrator (who is probably still in business) rather than the victim. I felt that by doing this they would provide a service to themselves, Ebay and the folks who shop on Ebay. No response.

I don't expect you to tell me why Microsoft prefers persecuting victims rather than perpetrators - I think I know the answer; it's easier and they have leverage. But how about moving a downgrade copy of the OS from one machine to the other? Does that expose me to potential problems? Is there anything special I need to do so that it will be recognized as legal?
-- Pete

You probably aren't going to like my response, but actually, both you and Microsoft are victims of software piracy in this case. To say Microsoft is "persecuting" you is like saying your bank is persecuting you if they refuse to accept a counterfeit bill that you try to deposit just because someone passed you the bill without your knowledge. If you tried telling the bank that they should credit your account anyway and go after the perpetrator to get their money back, you'd get the same response.

All that aside, Microsoft makes security patches available to all Windows users whether or not their systems pass the validation test. That's because having unpatched computers out there poses a danger to everyone. But if your system can't be validated, you'll have to download and install the patches manually instead of getting them automatically through Windows Update.

If you got a copy of the XP software with the laptop, you can send it in to Microsoft and fill out a piracy report telling them where you bought it, and they'll send you a valid copy of Windows at no charge. If you don't have a copy of the CD or proof of purchase, you can still fill out the piracy report and get a copy at a slightly discounted price.

No, it's not fair that you didn't get what you thought you were paying for when you bought the laptop, but keep in mind that it was the eBay seller who treated you unfairly. As always when buying used goods or items from venues like this, buyers should beware. Depending on your state laws, you might be able to inexpensively file a suit in small claims court against the seller.

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