Legal to post product registration codes?

What are the laws regarding the posting of registration codes or serial numbers for software? Say someone in a newsgroup says they’ve lost the registration number for a Windows OS, or a game, or EZ CD Creator, or whatever. Is it legal to post an answer, giving them this information?

Presumably the shrink-wrap end-user license agreement (EULA) would prevent you from doing that.

Plus there’s the DMCA, which does a fairly broad jobs of making circumvention of copy protection methods illegal.

And how about contributory copyright infringement as a chaser?

You don’t actually purchase software. Your purchase a license to use the software. For some software, you cannot use it until you enable it with a software license key, AKA, a serial number. Presumably, if you use licensed software you did not purchase (meaning you did not obtain the software license key by legal means), it’s called theft.

Correction: The use of software without a valid license is Copyright infringement, not theft.

Hmmm… I could argue like this, just to do it: I buy a piece of software, let’s say Adobe Creative Suite. I read the license agreement, and decide I don’t agree with it. Therefore, I don’t install the applications, and the license doesn’t apply. But I have this serial number. The license doesn’t apply – I’m not using the software. Therefore I’m free to post that number anywhere I want, right? Of course that doesn’t cover your liability in using that number.

The stipulation of the original post says that the newsgroup poster who is asking for the information LOST the serial number / registration code. He / she PAID for the software and is entitled to use it. No copyright infringment is suggested.

Who is the DMCA? I thought the lawmakers in the United States Congress decided what is illegal.

Then the original owner should probably contact the company on this matter. If he or she registered the software - to protect against instances like this - it shouldn’t be a problem.

DMCA is a law passed by Congress - digital milenium copyright act.

“What is the DMCA?” is the better question. Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

Remember, Google is your friend.

My original question is not one of copyright, but of free speech.

Is it a violation of any US law for me to tell you, or post it as an answer in a newsgroup, the serial number / registration code for a piece of software? I know it’s considered rude. I know it could be construed as stealing. I know people might tsk, tsk such a bad thing. I know it would bring the end to civilization as we know it. I know the person could contact the vendor (GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!). I guess I’m looking for a legal cite.

Is it illegal for me to tell someone that the serial number for Microsoft Thing Doer is ABC123?

Freedom of speach, sounds like something from when the old US of A broke away from the Motherland and started to run things themselves. Things are quite a bit different nowerdays, there is this program to descrabmle the security on DVD’s DeCSS that is actually illegal to even have the code printed on t-shirts IIRC.

you could try a free speach aurgment, but it’s not a sure thing by a longshot.



Thanks for these sources. I still don’t see anything that would hold a person libel for posting a serial number in a newsgroup in answer to a person who states he owns the software. True, an unscrupulous person could CLAIM they bought something they really stole, but one would have no way of determining this.

For the sake of argument, let’s say you and your friend go to Best Buy. You both buy Windows XP. That’s two shrink-wrapped boxes at full retail price. You drop your friend off at his house then go to your house and begin loading Windows XP on your computer. Suddenly the phones rings. It’s your friend, who tells you that when he opened his Windows XP box, the card with the serial number fell on the floor and his Yellow Lab scarfed it down. Would it be illegal to read him the number from your card?

What if he didn’t go with you to Best Buy, but called with the same story?

You would still be responsible, if he was lying and he hadn’t bought it. It doesn’t matter what you think is true, it matters what actually is true.

Thus the legality of posting product registration codes is not determined by the poster, but by the user. If you cannot control the identity of the user, such as in a newsgroup, then you are increasing the odds greatly that it will be used illegal, and that the original posting was against the law.

What got me thinking about this was a question from someone in a Windows troubleshooting newsgroup. The poster wanted to reinstall Windows 98 but had lost the product key. Someone answered telling him where the product key could be found using RegEdit and following the subkeys to a copy of the number. If the number is there, anyone with a computer with the operating system can go there and get it. Sort of defeats the purpose, it seems.

I don’t know if this is true for other software, but it was interesting, I thought.

Well, if your friends gets their copy of XP up and running before you do – using your serial number – you are SOL. Your machine will not be registered because he’s got your number!


Oh yeah, Windows XP has a unique serial number for each copy doesn’t it? Another way Microsoft is making life difficult for the consumer.

How does a unique serial number make life difficult for the consumer?

Kinda depends whether the consumer shared it or not :slight_smile: .

My understanding (not personal experience) is that people have problems when they try to upgrade their computers, or add components or reformat. Apparently the new scheme makes it troublesome to do anything like that and reinstall the operating system. XP assumes you are a thief and won’t let itself be reinstalled without a special blessing from on high from Microsoft.

Someone with more on this can elaborate. This is just what I heard when XP came out.