Cheap software off eBay?

To start off, I am NOT asking about how or where to get pirated software, I am merely asking if the software in question is pirated.

My question is this: how can the software off eBay be so cheap when compared with any retail shop? (E.g., $200CDN for a copy of Windows XP Pro that costs at least $460 in stores.) I read that, from MS’s website I believe, 90% of software bought online is illegal, is that true or is it another biased cost-of-piracy “estimate”? I’d imagine that if eBay helped sell illegal MS software, MS would be all over their ass.

Basically, is the majority of “big name” software on eBay illegal? If it isn’t, why is it so cheap?
PS: I did a search and didn’t come up with much.

It could be an OEM CD that is meant to only be sold with a new computer. On Ebay yhey are usually sold along with an old broken harddrive to make it legal.

I got a copy of Office 97 from Ebay for $20 back when it was still about $180 or so in stores. It came shrinkwrapped with one of those silly Microsoft certificates of authenticity. I even Registered it with MS, and they didn’t send a death squad to my house, so I think its legal.

I’m talking about full, retail, new-in-box software.

COULD be stock from a defunct software or computer store.

I recall seeing an auction (not online) for a shipping container of computer hardware and software that the shipee failed to pay shipping charges on and there were many new titles in it.

FWIW - my one auction buying experience for software yielded the following from the seller after the sale, “It’s a backup copy.”

Pirated. I declined.


I don’t think ebay allows illegal stuff to be sold, if they know about it. I watched a sale for some music that must have been illegally recorded. I asked the Seller if s/he had a photo of the CD. They said no, so I suspected it was not legit. Ebay pulled the listing near the end of the auction. I would ask the Seller a question about their stuff and carefully review their feedback. If Seller does not reply, then don’t bid.

I bought my compy of XP directly from Microsoft for $25 or $35 (Actually I bought XP Home and XP Pro each for that price). They had lots of other software for sale to. All I needed was my Student ID. Perhaps it could also be that type of software being sold. But then again, it could be a couple of thrid shift workers at Wal-Mart ripping it off the shelves.

Sometimes people sell you the original after they make a backup copy for themselves. However, just because the software is cheap doesn’t mean it’s illegal.

Joey P, could you give me a link? I’m going to college next year and need to buy Office XP, which was what prompted my question. (Office XP Standard for Students costs $220CDN at my local university, which I’m not going to btw, but I could get Office XP Pro off eBay for the same price.)
Urban Ranger, I’m pretty sure making a “backup” copy then selling the original copy is illegal. One license = one machine in most cases.

Do you need Office XP, or can you use OpenOffice? Free is better than $220 CND.

About the only reasons I can see for needing Office XP are if you are exchanging documents of Microsoft format with other people, and need perfect compatibility, or if you do not think you could switch because it would be too hard to learn.

If you just want to print papers and such, you may be able to go with the free choice and not worry about the legality of the software.

If the ad says that its a CD-R you can be sure it’s bootleg (you can also be sure that eBay will cancel it before long).

If it’s cheaper than it is in stores it could be an OEM version or an Academic version, and buying either isn’t blatantly illegal like a pirated CD-R, but kind of ‘grey market’. You’re not really supposed to buy them like that.

If it’s only a little cheaper it’s probably completely legit.

Of course there is the chance that they are fully bootlegged CDs (not CD-Rs), complete with fake printed box & manual. A large percentage of some country’s (mainly China’s) GNP come from manufacturing unlicensed software.

Douglips, I guess one could say that I don’t need Office XP, but I believe it would be quite a bit more convenient for me to share documents and print files. Right now actually, I have a few Excel files that I want to access but can’t (they were from my old computer).

Hail Ants, I don’t know if posting links to auctions is against forum rules or not, but I’ll be better safe than sorry. However, if you go to eBay and search for “windows xp” or “office xp” you will probably have a better idea of what I am talking about. I was inclined to think that the whole deal was fake before, but then I ordered a copy of xp pro and activated it with MS without a problem.

It was through the University of Wisconsin system, you’d have to check with your school system.

XP Pro from MS: $50.00
This will give you a full professional version, and some collectibles.

MS scans ebay auctions & shuts down any of them that they don’t agree with. Takes them
only an hour or two sometimes. that ‘add a piece of hardware’ idea doesn’t make it legal
according to MS (When they wrote me) but some people still try it & succeed for some reason.


Something else to consider. Some of the cheap software was made for a foreign market. When I upgraded to Windows ME on my old computer, I bought it on Ebay for only $21. Everything on the CD was in Portugese. The box and instruction book were in English. Contacted MS and the nice fellow informed me the CD was for Portugal and Brazil use only, not for the U.S. Learned a whole lot about modifying regedit files to get everything in English.

MS has deals with some state schools (like all Ohio state schools, I believe) to sell their programs for $10 a disc and also have their OS’s and some larger programs available for borrowing from the library (one license for each registered student.)

When I was looking for Visual Studio, I saw a lot of “educational copies” on eBay for cheap, because they had been purchased through school and there’s money to be made by selling your copy. Every student was allowed to buy one copy of whatever program was available, and it was a completely legit copy.

Check with your college to see if you have this deal, or find a friend who goes to another college to see if they are going to use their copy, and offer to buy it. Or check this link to find a place that can sell you MS software at a discount (not $10 a disc, but at least a discount) by using your student ID.

      • Not just China: A relative has visited the Philippines several times over the years and noted that pirated media was for sale, cheap, from street vendors everywhere. DVD’s, music and software. Movies became available on the street two weeks after they opened in the US. For the equivalent price of ten or fifteen dollars, you could buy a CD with several of the top-rated programs in any category on it, no matter what the original price of the software was. Years ago before music and video went digital, there were pirated cassette and VHS tapes everywhere. You couldn’t buy a legit copy if you wanted to there; nobody sells them.
  • Japan has very good intellectual property laws, but most other countries in the region don’t bother with doing much about it.

Some private schools, too. At UChicago last year, I bought WinXP and Office XP for a total of $35. People on this thread who are college bound, give your school’s computer sales dept. a call and ask. (And don’t buy the computers from them, just the software! :slight_smile: )

Looks like neither my local university nor the one I’m going to offers a good deal outside of the “for students” version, which I can pick up at almost any electronics shop anyways (and it’s the same price). Time to look on eBay I guess.