Win10 likely won't be scanning for or disabling pirated games

— 1:24 PM on August 17, 2015

Software pirates the world over are up in arms (or perhaps rattling their sabers?) this morning about a Wired article that claims Microsoft has included some sort of scan-and-disable feature that will nuke counterfeit games on your PC. We did some digging to see whether Wired's claim is true, and we found that the details are somewhat more nuanced than that.

The controversy seems to stem from the Microsoft Services Agreement's section 7, paragraph B. This is a separate agreement from Windows 10's EULA—the Microsoft Services Agreement applies only to a range of products like Cortana, Skype, and "Xbox and Windows Games published by Microsoft," and not to Windows 10 itself. Here's the relevant excerpt:

Sometimes you’ll need software updates to keep using the Services. 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. You may also be required to update the software to continue using the Services. 

There's a distinct lack of "scanning" in this agreement. Instead, all Microsoft seems to be saying is that when an app covered by the agreement is updated, it could be automatically updated on your PC, too. If the installed version of an app is pirated, an update may disable or otherwise break it, effectively locking you out until you buy it. That's a far cry from scanning for and disabling all pirated games, in our view.

This brouhaha assumes that pirates have a leg to stand on in the first place. Microsoft has been enforcing anti-piracy measures for a long time on both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One with games and firmware updates. Software updates must be installed to use the console and play games on Xbox Live, and consoles will disconnect from the service until the update is applied. The company seems to be applying a similar policy to its own services on Windows 10, and if the policy breaks some pirated software, it doesn't seem like Microsoft will mind.

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