OEM software -- deal or deception?, Part 2

Dennis Faas's picture

Can OEM software be sold at ridiculously cheap prices? That was the question which Infopackets Reader Pete N. pondered last week:

" Dear Dennis,

My email box has been bombarded lately -- as I'm sure most of your readers have -- with solicitations for OEM Software (sans the box and manual) available at ridiculously cheap prices. The deal is very tempting, but can you tell me the pros and cons of buying and using this stuff? I find it hard to believe that the only difference [when purchasing OEM software] is that you don't get the manuals and boxes. Can you explain? "

After composing last week's article on the subject, I asked Infopackets Readers for their comments. Infopackets Reader John H. writes:

" I saw your article on extreme discount software, and have been getting mass emailings from one specific source, called 'CDCheap' at www.goodsoft.biz, and have been wondering about their reliability. I have gotten their ads for several months and the prices are extremely low ... I was interested in whether any of your other subscribers had any experiences in dealing with these guys and also if I would be in violation of the OEM agreement if using this software? Would I need to have my own agreement with Microsoft? How would the law apply in a case like this? "

The answer to John's questions were found after reading the following questions and comments sent in from Readers Graham W., Dan P., and Barb B. (respectively):

" I ordered 2 copies of Windows XP Pro from one of these advertisers about a year ago. After about a month, 1 CD arrived wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string and a stamp and return address which were written in non-English [Clue #1].

I patiently waited another month for the 2nd CD to arrive and then tried accessing the web site where I purchased by CDs. The site was no longer valid, [Clue #2] so I ... contacted the agent in the UK who deals with the payments -- I had to resort to fax as they wouldn't initially respond to my e-mails [Clue #3] -- and eventually I was put in touch with the vendor.

To cut a long story short, it took me months of many emails back and forth before the 2nd CD arrived. I was disappointed to find that although the cardboard sleeve and CD looks genuinely Microsoft, the 2nd CD has the same Installation Key as the 1st one I received [Clue #4], so I was no better off. I presumed from all this that I have been ripped off with pirate copies. "

Dan P. continues the conversation with:

" I recently fell for this and found that my credit card company denied the charge because it originated in Russia. Luckily they (my credit card company) called me immediately to verify the charge. Unusual? I thought so."

And, Barb B. asks:

" Just read your review on OEM software 'specials' on the Internet. I have been shopping online for copies of Windows XP, and it seems most of what I find turns out to be OEM. Question: is it possible that you wouldn't be able to get all of the updates for it from Microsoft or that it wouldn't work with your existing computer? "

My response:

Absolutely. As I have previously discussed, Microsoft has developed a special software protection scheme which makes it difficult to register a pirated copy of Windows XP. If you buy a pirated copy of XP, you may end up with an O/S that is not updatable... and eventually exploited by hackers.

Mike M. from Tennessee made an interesting point about 'the fine print':

" If you read the fine print from these web sites that are supposedly selling OEM software, note that some will claim that the software will be 'recognized as backup software only.' In other words, you can NOT register this software even though it will install and run on your computer. I've also seen sites advise that you have to go to them to get any updates, service packs, etc. This basically tells me that this software is neither recognized nor authorized for sale by the manufacturer. It is a another case of caveat emptor. "

Side note: 'Caveat emptor' means, "The axiom or principle in commerce that the buyer alone is responsible for assessing the quality of a purchase before buying." (Source: Dictionary.com).

Oddly enough I received 2 spam emails from the Russian company "goodsoft.biz" (AKA "CDCheap") over the weekend. After looking over their site, there was one thing that caught my eye at the very bottom of the page, which states:

" CDCheap, Inc. disclaims any proprietary interest in copyrights, trademarks and names other than its own. "

Interesting. I may not understand too much about law, but I think that basically says that they don't care about pirating the software that they sell. Nonetheless, I forwarded these unsolicited emails to abuse@microsoft.com and piracy@microsoft.com.

I suggest you do the same.

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