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It is now being widely reported that Microsoft will disable any unauthorized hardware peripherals as well as any pirated software installed on Windows 10 machines, based on semi-recent changes to the Microsoft Services Agreement. It was initially reported at Alphr, and picked up by pretty much every tech and gaming site on the net. The full services agreement can be found here, but the section raising concerns is section 7b, which is as follows:

We may automatically check your version of the software, which is necessary to provide the Services and download software updates or configuration changes, without charging you, to update, enhance and further develop the Services, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games or using unauthorised hardware peripheral devices.

The reports have raised alarm. Isn’t it a bit intrusive if Windows can disable any third-party software running on the machine? And what if they make a mistake and legitimate games are disabled due to false positives? It’s not like Microsoft is competent enough to pull off this scheme without making any mistakes. Concerns were also raised about what exactly constitutes unauthorized hardware by those who think the language is unclear.

Reddit user GenuineID however, is suggesting the outrage is unjustified. For starters, this agreement applies to Windows services and not Windows 10 itself as has been reported on some sites. To their credit, the Alphr article is one of the few that explicitly indicates that the agreement does not cover Windows 10. The list of services covered by the agreement is very long and can be found at the very end of the agreement. Included on the list of services are Xbox Live as well as Xbox and Windows Games published by Microsoft. This would suggest that the reference to disabling counterfeit games in section 7b refers to Microsoft’s own games that are covered by the agreement, and that Microsoft is not going to act as the piracy police by disabling third-party games. GeniuneID also suggests that references to unauthorized hardware are also relating to Microsoft’s gaming platform, such as modified Xbox One controllers.

GenuineID also mentions that these changes to the agreement are not new. They were first published early June, and made effective August 1. However, this sort of delayed reporting is to be expected when very few people actually bother to read the terms of service that they agree to. It seems the only people who bother to pay attention to service agreements are journalists on a slow news day.

Even with GenuineID’s points, some concerns remain. Microsoft reserves the right to alter its terms of service at any time, and some people are worried that a later version may disable modified games as well as pirated ones. Numerous publishers have been cracking down on mods in order to combat cheating and copyright infringement, even going after mods that offer the player no advantage and don’t violate any copyright laws. It’s possible Microsoft will go down this same path. Even if they do take an overly broad approach with disabling games and hardware, at least it should be contained to Microsoft’s own products and not effect third-party games.

Are you concerned about this section of the Microsoft Services Agreement, or is it being overblown by news sites.

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.