Boycott Microsoft

Slap Nutz

According to Slap Nutz, when you buy any 'XP' software, you do not own it, instead Microsoft owns you, all due to their restrictive End User Licensing Agreement (EULA), which violates the law and abrogates consumer rights. Her solution? Boycott Microsoft and their XP software!

I can remember when Microsoft was just another software company, subject to market forces and amenable to common sense. I can also remember when A.T.&T. was a telephone company. But that is all in the past. With Microsoft's release of Windows / Office XP, a historical departure for Microsoft occurred, signaling the first shot in a new war between Microsoft and its customers.

Under the new system, your obligation to Microsoft doesn't end when you purchase the software, that merely begins it. Not included in the activation dialog is the information that trivial system changes may invalidate your activation, you will be required to contact Microsoft each and every time you need to re-activate the software for whatever reason, or if you try to sell or give away the software (Microsoft only allows this to happen once), or if you try to exercise your right to install the software on two systems used by one person. Also, the total number of activations is always less than 12, after which you must throw the software away and start over.

The XP series (Windows and Office) has a new feature called "product activation" that perverts the relationship that normally exists between seller and buyer: when you purchase any new XP product, you don't actually own it, instead Microsoft owns you. The feature works like this:

You buy a copy of (say) Office XP. When you install it, the installation program requires you to contact Microsoft, otherwise the program goes into its "trial mode," a 50-day period after which the program is disabled. You must contact Microsoft to keep the program from shutting down. On being contacted, Microsoft "authorizes" the installation. It also asks you for a lot of personal information, some of which is optional — but only the first time:

• If you have to re-install Windows or the software because of a virus, a hardware failure or some other cause, you have to contact Microsoft again and explain why you need their permission to re-install your software. If they don't like your explanation, and in particular if they do not get your name, address, phone number, and E-mail address, you are out of luck — you must buy another copy of Office XP1.

• If you need to make a copy of the software on another computer for a legitimate reason (say you own a desktop and a portable but you never use them both at the same time), you're out of luck because you can't do this. Microsoft will assume you are a criminal and refuse permission1.

• If you decide to move your copy of XP permanently to another machine, Microsoft will not permit this, instead they will assume you are a criminal and refuse permission1.

• If you decide to de-install and sell your copy of XP to a third party, Microsoft will not permit the new buyer to install the software, instead they'll assume he is a criminal and refuse permission1.

• If, on the other hand, you jump through all Microsoft's circus hoops, it seems you are limited to eight re-installations (some say eleven), after which you might as well throw away your software. This means that if your system is attacked by viruses, if your hard drive fails, or if you regularly upgrade your pc's hardware and try to transfer your programs, you are going to be buying a lot of extra, expensive copies of Microsoft XP. Microsoft decides in advance whether you are a criminal or not...

In short, you can either (a) accept the default single installation (the only relatively painless one — but which requires you to contact Microsoft) and then throw the software away, along with any data files you have created that rely on the software, or you can (b) become a true Microserf2, a vassal, a petitioner, entirely dependent on Microsoft's conception of fair play.

And, no matter how your petition turns out, there is one thing that you need to realize, and that is that it's Microsoft who decides. You are no longer a citizen in a democracy, a responsible moral agent; Microsoft decides whether you are a criminal or not, and they decide this in advance.

Back when the American Constitution was the law of the land, a plaintiff had to wait until a crime was committed, then go before a duly appointed judge and appeal for justice. Microsoft has now circumvented these democratic inconveniences and has become a law unto itself. And make no mistake about it, Microsoft is breaking the law with their XP series, in many ways: Consumers do have legitimate, lawful reasons to re-install software, reasons to install the software on two machines used by one person, reasons to re-install after a system failure, reasons to un-install and sell a computer program. But under the Fascist XP system, consumers lose these rights.

I would list all the laws Microsoft is breaking with the XP series, but that would require more space than your computer has memory. Here are some highlights:

• Presumption of guilt: Under American law, a person is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The XP system assumes a criminal intent, which is a violation of constitutional law, and then the software acts on this assumption, a power normally reserved to the police, which is an additional violation of law.

• Prior restraint: This idea, basically acting to prevent a crime before it is committed, is a very delicate issue in constitutional law, and because of the potential for abuse, it is rarely permitted. Absent evidence of probable cause, it is never permitted. Because there are legitimate reasons to do things not permitted by the software, Microsoft is engaging in prior restraint, and is thus breaking the law.

• Misrepresentation: In commerce, there are a set of assumptions about an item that is offered for sale. To put it simply, a consumer item is assumed to be suitable for its stated purpose, and this is implicit — offering the item for sale creates some assumptions that, if they turn out not to be true, are actionable. The XP software series very simply is not what it seems to be; a set of computer programs meant to serve the consumer's needs. This is false as XP arguably only serves Microsoft's needs.

• Surveillance: By setting itself up as a moral judge of how people use their software, by micro-managing how people choose to use the XP programs, Microsoft has put into place the most insidious system of spying ever conceived in modern times. Once a consumer has experienced any version of modern-day reality, like a virus that requires the software to be re-installed, one person with two computers, or who buys a nice new computer, or who wants to sell or donate the XP software to a third party — however these events turn out, Microsoft gets every detail, along with all your personal information. If XP comes to full flower, Microsoft will know more about you than the US Government knows or ever imagined knowing.

That is the real reason for XP: It is not about preventing theft, it is theft — Microsoft, while preventing you from exercising your consumer rights, is also stealing information from you that you would never voluntarily give up. It is a desperate ploy to gather an incredible gold mine of information about you; your choices, your experiences, your name and address. And get this; you're paying them to do this to you!

Because of XP, very soon Microsoft will know so much about so many people that they will no longer have to sell software — they can simply sell their consumer database. But this will only happen if you act like sheep and buy XP series software. The choice, the power, is yours. "This passage says, in essence, that Microsoft has the right to examine your computer's hard drive and download software onto your computer automatically, without your knowledge or explicit consent."

Still not convinced? This passage is in the Microsoft XP EULA (End User License Agreement, the binding contract that every Microsoft XP customer agrees to):

"You acknowledge and agree that Microsoft may automatically check the version of the Product and / or its components that you are utilizing and may provide upgrades or fixes to the Product that will be automatically downloaded to your Workstation Computer."

This passage says, in essence, that Microsoft has the right to examine your computer's hard drive and download software onto your computer automatically, without your knowledge or explicit consent. On reading this language, one corporate customer said this:

"The idea that Microsoft can change our software without notifying us is totally unacceptable. Any alteration to our standard configuration can only be rolled out after careful evaluation and testing. Does Microsoft have no clue?" (full text at InfoWorld)

Conclusion? Microsoft holds you and your rights in contempt, and they want total control over your own personal computer — and your life. They expect you to take this lying down. Please, don't live up to their expectations. Write your congressional representatives and demand that Microsoft be stopped, and refuse to purchase any of the XP series of Microsoft software, and Boycott Microsoft!

1. Unless, that is, you succeed in convincing Microsoft that you are not a criminal. You do this by pleading, begging and giving up your personal information, like a felon, a parolee, an alien resident, a Microserf.

2. Microserf. Noun. One who pays to become enslaved to Microsoft.