Microsoft Takes Piracy Battle to the Next Level

In a move to combat software piracy, Microsoft yesterday launched its Windows Genuine Advantage program worldwide.

The company hopes to save millions by clamping down on the use of unlicensed software. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) reports that 35 percent of the software installed on computers is pirated. That represents a loss of nearly US$33 billion to the software industry worldwide.

Windows Genuine Advantage is designed to differentiate the value of genuine Windows-based software from counterfeit software by delivering ongoing upgrades, including approximately $450 in software offerings available only to genuine users.

“During the 10-month pilot of WGA, we have been very encouraged by the large number of customers — more than 40 million in all — who chose to participate in WGA because they were concerned about piracy and wanted a way to determine whether their Windows software was genuine,” said Will Poole, senior vice president of the Windows Client Business at Microsoft.

“It also became clear that customers want to take advantage of special offers reserved for genuine users, with the peace of mind that their software will deliver the features, options and performance they need.”

Validating Your Operating System

On their first visit to the Microsoft Download Center, Windows Update or Microsoft Update, customers will be asked to participate in Windows Genuine Advantage.

They will be prompted to download an ActiveX control that checks the authenticity of their Windows software and, if Windows is validated, stores a special download key on the PC for future verification. That means Windows users will no longer be required to enter their 25-digit product key to validate their software.

The validation process does not collect any information that can be used by Microsoft to identify or contact the user. While all consumers using Windows Update will be required to validate their software at the Download Center, security updates remain available to all Windows users — with or without validation — via the Download Center or Automatic Updates.

Replacing Counterfeit Software

Two offers of genuine software will be available worldwide for Windows XP Professional and Home Edition for customers who unknowingly acquired counterfeit software. Qualifying customers who fill out a piracy report, provide proof of purchase, and send in their counterfeit CDs may receive a genuine copy at no cost.

Qualifying customers who submit a piracy report may receive a genuine copy of Windows XP Home Edition for US$99 or Windows XP Professional for $149. The latter offer will be fulfilled online and via CD through postal mail to help customers get genuine Windows as quickly and conveniently as possible.

“Microsoft has created a program that is fair to customers and reseller partners,” said Michael Cherry, lead analyst, Windows and Mobile, at Directions on Microsoft. “While Microsoft is requiring customers to validate, they’re putting their best foot forward to help customers out, in terms of simplifying the process, creating software incentives and offering to help customers replace counterfeit software they acquired unwittingly.”

Continuing Education

BSA director of enforcement Jenny Blank told TechNewsWorld that Microsoft’s program is one tool to transmit the message that using unlicensed software is not a good risk for companies. One of the most important messages, she said, is that there are serious legal downsides to using counterfeit software — you could be sued.

BSA offers two educational curricula designed to reach younger computer users. The goal is to teach them respect for intellectual property before they ever have the opportunity to make the wrong decision as an adult.

“When you have a problem of this size you have to approach it on many levels,” Blank said. “The good news is we have seen a one percent decline in piracy thanks to increased education, awareness and legislation.”

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