Microsoft to court: Make Comcast give us the Windows-pirating subscriber's info

Microsoft is using the IP address ‘voluntarily’ collected during its software activation process to sue a Comcast subscriber for pirating thousands of copies of Windows and Office.

pirate flag
Andrew Smith (Creative Commons BY or BY-SA)

In the legal arena, Microsoft is going after Comcast in order to unmask the person behind an infringing IP address which activated thousands of Microsoft product keys stolen from Microsoft’s supply chain.

The Redmond giant wants the court to issue a subpoena which will force Comcast to hand over the pirating subscriber’s info. If the infringing IP address belongs to another ISP which obtained it via Comcast, then Microsoft wants that ISP’s info and the right to subpoena it as well.

From 2012 to 2015, Microsoft maintains that an IP addy assigned to Comcast pinged its servers in Washington over 2,000 times during the software activation process. “Detailed information” such as the activation key and IP address activating Microsoft products is transmitted to Microsoft; it’s considered to be “voluntarily provided by users.”

Although Microsoft used the terms “voluntary” or “voluntarily provided” numerous times, even if you paid for Windows or Office, just try installing it without agreeing to the terms of service – as in forget about it – and the same goes for trying to install and keep Microsoft software running without a valid activation key. Nonetheless, if you opt to run Microsoft software then you opt to voluntarily hand over your data. Microsoft considers contact with its activation servers to be “voluntary” and “intentional;” it uses the data as part of its cyberforensic methods.

As TorrentFreak pointed out, the Microsoft complaint (pdf) filed in a federal court in Washington states:

Cyberforensics allows Microsoft to analyze billions of activations of Microsoft software and identify activation patterns and characteristics that make it more likely than not that the IP address associated with the activations is an address through which pirated software is being activated.

Yet neither cyberforensics nor “various investigative techniques” helped Microsoft “positively identify the Doe Defendants.” The complaint added, “At present, the best information Microsoft has for identifying the Doe Defendants is the Infringing IP Address and the dates and times the Doe Defendants used the Infringing IP Address to activate product keys.”

“Defendants activated and attempted to activate at least several thousand copies of Microsoft software, much of which was pirated and unlicensed,” Microsoft’s legal team wrote. The product keys “known to have be stolen” from Microsoft’s supply chain were used to activate Windows 8, Windows 7, Office 2010, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2008. The product keys, Microsoft said, were used “more times than is authorized by the applicable software license,” used by “someone other than the authorized licensee,” or were “activated outside the region for which they were intended.”

Whether or not the IP traces back to a Comcast subscriber or was assigned by Comcast to a different ISP, as the The Register pointed out, “It would be a significant gaffe on behalf of the alleged pirates if the IP address data pointed to their real identities.”

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