Licensed to...?

Submitted by hrm on 8 October, 2008 - 16:46

I've been trying to work out how to get a copy of Windows XP to run in a VM at work – not that I actually want one as such, but it's useful to have for those Word documents that OpenOffice won't open, and for the occasional website that requires IE. The machine I'm using was supplied with Windows, and has an XP license sticker on it, with a license key. This would seem, on the face of it, to be fairly straightforward.

After some digging, I arrive at what seems to be the relevant place on our internal systems services website. We apparently have a site license for Windows and Office for the whole organisation. This is good. The MS Campus Agreement allows me to install Windows and Office on a University PC, which is what I want. So I follow the link for "Installation Instructions"…

The media needs to be ordered from <company>

Err… media? How about an ISO? No, apparently not. Media it is, then. Now, how do I do this?

Before ordering, check that the software you want is not available under the Microsoft Campus Agreement.

It is. That's how I got here in the first place. Obviously, there are some issues with obtaining this stuff from central systems. I know! We have a nice friendly helpful departmental IT services group. Why didn't I think of them before?

15 minutes later…

It takes three people 10 minutes to find the license text relevant to a member of non-teaching staff installing Windows on a University machine. These are the people who are meant to be ensuring that the license agreements are adhered to – if they have trouble finding the right text, how is anyone else meant to be able to work it out? After much reading through of the license, it appears that, yes, I am allowed to have Windows on my machine. Hooray*! However, while I would apparently be allowed to install it on my home machine(s), I'm not allowed to install it on my work machine myself. Yes, that's right – I'm not allowed to take the media upstairs and install Windows on a desktop box owned by my employer. A member of systems staff has to do it for me. This is a license condition, not a rule imposed by my local organisation.

Oh, and apparently the license rules are different for different countries, too. The only plausible reason that I can think of for MS to want to set up something this complex and needlessly restrictive is that they want people to breach the license conditions so that they can sue the arse off them. However, I always favour the cockup theory of history to the conspiracy theory, so I can safely mark this down as mere incompetence rather than active malice. It's still unbelievably annoying, though. Just like DRM, the only people it hurts are the ones who try to follow the rules.

* For very small values of "Hooray".