Windows 10 Scan-and-Block Piracy Fears May Be Unfounded

John Lister's picture

Some of the terms and conditions applying to Windows 10 users appear to give Microsoft permission to block software it suspects is illegal. However, it seems the clause may be a case of a careless cut-and-paste, rather than a firm policy.

The text appears in the Microsoft Services Agreement. That's not strictly the terms and conditions of Windows 10 itself, but rather Microsoft's various online services. It's come to wider attention because so many of these services are used by apps built into Windows 10.

Microsoft Can Block Games and Peripherals

Among the agreement's clauses is a sentence which reads:

"We may automatically check your version of the software and download software updates or configuration changes, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games, or using unauthorized hardware peripheral devices." (Source:

That's prompted confusion and anger among some parts of the computing community, particularly gamers. They are arguing that even if Microsoft has the right to try to fight piracy, it's a step too far that it should be able to effectively disable the user's software.

There's also a question about exactly how Microsoft knows what software is on your machine in the first place, with fears that if it can and does scan for programs, it could also be looking at other files such as documents.

Piracy Legal Wording Likely Taken From Xbox Service

In practice, however, it appears this is more likely confusing wording rather than conspiracy. The most likely explanation is that the text is simply copied from existing agreements for customers of Xbox Live, the service that lets console owners play against each other online.

The measures in the sentence don't merely apply to pirated games, but also to users trying to modify software and hardware to gain an unfair advantage against other players. That's why there's a reference to "unauthorized hardware peripheral devices." (Source:

Microsoft has yet to comment publicly on the clause. It's that lack of clarity that may be making what appears to be a misunderstanding much worse.

What's Your Opinion?

Should a company ever have the right to remotely block software it believes to be unauthorized, even if it wasn't them who produced it? Could Microsoft be more clear about exactly what it can and can't do (both legally and practically) to a Windows 10 device? Or is this simply a case of 'Microsoft-bashers' looking for something to complain about?

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Dennis Faas's picture

The only time I feel that Microsoft should have the legal right to scan someone's computer and block software from operating is if the computer / user in question is using a third party Microsoft service along with the said pirated software.

For example, if someone downloads a pirated Microsoft game and then tries to use Microsoft's servers to go online in order to play that game, then Microsoft should be able to reserve the right to block the user from using their service (servers).

On the other hand, I do believe Microsoft mentioned previously that Windows 10 is now considered to be "software as a service" (SaaS), so I'm not quite sure how that affects the definition of "service".

jamies's picture

So, we seem to have several legal considerations:
If MS did not mean this to be part of the terms and conditions, then what else in what other sets of terms and conditions did they also not mean.

If we (the public) are to accept that Microsoft (corp, etc.) includes terms in their documents that are not to be applied, can we - de-facto, disregard all such entries.

If the terms are to be applied - because MS delegated officers and contracted persons and/or organisations writted em, and MS published them, then how soon before there are class actions against MS (et al) for:
Not taking action to prevent unlicensed and inappropriate use or modification of some software or hardware.
Actually taking action to prevent unlicensed and inappropriate use or modification of some software or hardware.
And - the action when lots of businesses suffer losses because windows 10 updates stop those PC's starting and running the windows apps that have actually been purchased in good faith.

So - which firms of lawyers should I be investing in

Slopski_68's picture

In-as-much as Apple has done this since its beginning, why is worthy of a comment when Microsoft is going to do it?

Joe M's picture

I assume you are referring to a new feature in windows 10 called Telemetry and Data Collection. I assume that this is a privacy concern for some and they will not upgrade to 10 because of it.
Well guess what. It is in windows 7 and 8 also. You may already have them installed.
See if these updates are already on your windows 7 or 8 computer.
Since they were listed as optional update, i assume they do not need be installed ever.
I clicked on the “more information” for the updates that took me to:

Below is what it said.
About this update: Kb3075249
“this update adds telemetry points to the user account control (uac) feature to collect information on elevations that come from low integrity levels.”

about this update: Kb3080149
“this package updates the diagnostics and telemetry tracking service to existing devices. This service provides benefits from the latest version of windows to systems that have not yet upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to visual studio application insights.”

If you have any of these updates already installed on your windows 7 or 8 PC, they can be deleted.
I had both of them and they both were deleted (kb3075249 & kb3080149). The next time i check for updates, they were listed again as an option.

I guess Microsoft really wants to be big brother.
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