Windows Vista restrictions 'unprecedented'

by Saleem Khan, CBC News Online

The big day has finally arrived and the consumer versions of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Vista are available to everyone, much to the joy of personal computer makers who had seen sales slumping.

Most people will end up adopting Vista when they buy a new computer [Windows Media streaming video runs 2:32 minutes] according to most industry experts, observers and Microsoft itself — but that may not be a good thing.

The operating system's legal terms of use represent "an unprecedented loss of consumer control over their own personal computers," according to University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist.

Citing ample discussion on the internet — along the lines of writings by technology journalist Ed Foster, lawyer Wendy Seltzer and most notably University of Auckland computer science professor Peter Gutmann's paper, A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection — Geist spells out what he sees as legal restrictions that would turn Vista users into surrender monkeys with the click of the "I Accept" button on the End User Licence Agreement (EULA).

Much of Vista's objectionable capabilities appear to have been included at the direct request of industry lobbyists like the Motion Picture Association of America or the Recording Industry Association of America and appear to be linked to copyright issues, according to the allegations. Among the complaints: Vista can delete software without specific user permission or knowledge, video quality is degraded even for high-definition content, and Vista's security checks that occur dozens of times a second are a key culprit in the operating system's hefty hardware requirements.

The U.S. digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation has a guide to EULAs that's worth reading for anyone who uses any software, not just Vista users.

As Geist notes:

When Microsoft introduced Windows 95 more than a decade ago, it adopted the Rolling Stones "Start Me Up" as its theme song. As millions of consumers contemplate the company's latest upgrade, the legal and technological restrictions may leave them singing "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

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