Another Example of Authentication Causing Problems for Honest Users

I have no issues or problems with publishers taking reasonable steps to ensure that their software is not pirated by someone. What I do have a problem with, however, is when those publishers implement “authentication” schemes that cause problems for the legal users but do nothing to stop the real threat of large scale pirates.

APC Magazine  has an article detailing how the author’s upgrading of a device driverPirate resulted in his copy of Windows Vista being deactivated. After a telephone call, the author was able to get the software reactivated. However, it is simply ridiculous that he had to jump through those hoops simply because he upgrade some device drivers.

This would annoying, but probably acceptable, if the activation process actually prevented people from pirating the software. That, however, is clearly not the case.

As the author explained:

So pirates haven’t been slowed down at all, and the rest of us — the legitimate purchasers — are left to live with Windows Activation. You really need to ask the question – who’s benefiting here? Certainly not users, and given the amount of discontent this is likely to cause, arguably not Microsoft either.

In its attempts to combat piracy, Microsoft has created a system which doesn’t focus on the problem correctly. After all, how do you define piracy? At its most basic level, piracy occurs when you install software on a machine when you aren’t licensed to do so. But the Windows Activation model isn’t designed to address this particular problem – as far as Windows Activation is concerned, there’s no difference between someone who tries to image two machines with the same activated version of Windows, and a legitimate user who wants to upgrade their system.

If you buy a retail version of Vista, as long as you’re not breaking the terms of the license, then surely it’s none of Microsoft’s business what you do with that software. Legitimate users shouldn’t be monitored and inconvenienced to this extent.

Microsoft is not the only culprit here. Many software companies use some form of activation to authenticate their software. The problem, however, is that most of these methods only annoy the people who paid money to purchase the program and do nothing to stop the pirates.

Maybe someday, a publisher will realize that there is an advantage to not treating your customers like thieves.