According to a report from Computerworld, Microsoft has asked a federal judge permission to serve Internet Service Provider Comcast with a subpoena to identify alleged software pirates suspected to have used stolen keys to activate thousands of copies of Windows 7 and Office 2013.
In a March 4 motion to a Seattle federal court, Microsoft stated:
"For an unknown period of time -- but for at least the past three years -- the Infringing IP Address has been used to activate thousands of Microsoft product keys. Despite reasonable efforts, including various investigative techniques, Microsoft has been unable to positively identify the Doe Defendants. 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."
Old versions of Windows like Windows 7 use a 25-character alphanumeric string to individually lock the software license to a device. Microsoft is saying these stolen keys have been stolen from the company's supply chain, and they have been used more times than legal or were activated outside the geographic region they were intended for.
To move away from this reliance on product keys, Microsoft slightly altered the activation process in Windows 10 by introducing "digital entitlement", which means that the activation status of a device is now stored on Microsoft's servers. As soon as a device is activated, this activation status should remain even if the user re-install the software at a later time (as long as there's no significant hardware changes). While Windows 10 is a currently a free upgrade for Windows 7 users and has already reached a 13% market share, it's still not surprising to see Microsoft trying to protect its intellectual property. Please tell us in the comments if you think Microsoft is doing the right thing here.