Piracy is a major issue for software manufacturers like Microsoft. Privacy is a major issue for software users like you and me. Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 10, is walking a fine line between both of these loaded P-words.
Here’s what happened:
- “Microsoft Services” are things like communications application Skype, voice assistant Cortana, and online gaming service and storefront Xbox Live. There are many more, but those are some of the biggies.
The specific line that caused an issue was, “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 unauthorised hardware peripheral devices.”
In plain English: Microsoft reserves the right to stop allowing you access to its “Services” should it find “counterfeit games” (read: pirated games) or “unauthorised hardware peripheral devices” on your system. And it can check your system remotely, as Windows has for years.
This sent up a red flag for privacy folks. Even The Hulk weighed in!
SO IF WISHING TO PLAY ONE YOUR FAVOURITE OLDY BUT GOODY PC TITLES ON WINDOWS 10 THEN PIRACY WILL BECOME NECESSITY, GREAT JOB MICROSOFT
— THE HULK-IN-SPHERE (@HULKGAMECRIT) August 20, 2015
And you know things are serious when The Hulk weighs in.
Not exactly the breath of fresh air we were hoping for, but it does break down the language a bit more clearly. If nothing else, it spells out Microsoft’s motives behind scanning Windows 10 user’s computers for pirated software.
This line in particular stands out: “Software that is pirated or botted places the safety and security of our customers at risk, including a higher risk of malware, fraud, public exposure of personal information, and poor performance or feature malfunction.”
Where things get blurry is Microsoft’s definition of “non-genuine software.” How does Microsoft define said software? We asked, but haven’t heard back just yet.
Ultimately, this is intended to protect users from having bad experiences on Windows 10, and to protect users of Microsoft Services from having bad experiences. How that will actually play out is another question.
One issue has already arisen: games using ageing protection software (“SecuROM” and “SafeDisc” software) won’t run on Windows 10. As PC gaming website Rock, Paper, Shotgun points out, this means hundreds of older games simply won’t function on Windows 10. It’s a calculated tradeoff Microsoft is making for the safety of the whole Windows 10 user base, rather than catering to a relatively niche group of folks looking to play older games.
Games which used these forms of DRM range from “Crimson Skies” to “Grand Theft Auto 3,” “Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004” to the original “The Sims.” Yet despite this change coming in Windows 10, blame can’t likely be placed at Microsoft’s feet. For one, SafeDisc is notoriously insecure and Microsoft’s decision to block it from their new operating system will likely protect more users than it hurts.
And that’s sound logic.
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