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Microsoft: Users May Have To Prove Legal Windows Use

Microsoft is piloting an opt-in notification service for its Windows Genuine Advantage online verification program in the U.S., which may make it mandatory for users to get Automatic Update or Windows Update Rights.

Microsoft may make it mandatory for Windows users to prove they have a genuine copy of Windows or Office in order to get updates from Automatic Update or Windows Update.

Last fall, the Redmond, Wash. software giant extended its year-old Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) anti-piracy online program that notifies Windows customers if they are using counterfeit or illegal copies of Windows.

A pilot of the notification service – called Genuine Software Initiative (GSI) -- was initially launched in November in Norway and Sweden and then later in five additional countries.

This week, Microsoft expanded the WGA notifications pilot to a "random subset" of English speaking customers in the U.S., U.K., Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.

Microsoft said the notification service for Windows Genuine Advantage in pilot is voluntary but acknowledged that it may become mandatory later this year.

"The WGA Notifications pilot is opt-in, so all participants are given a choice about whether or not they wish to participate. Users can choose to suppress the notification," according to a statement issued by Microsoft to CRN Thursday. " While the pilot is presently opt-in, as it expands later in the year, AU and WU customers may be required to participate."

Launched in July 2005 WGA is an online validation tool that enables customers to determine whether they have a genuine, legal copy of Windows on their PCs. This week, that program was expanded to include Office, called Office Genuine Advantage (OGA).

The notification service is currently in pilot testing for Windows Genuine Advantage, Microsoft said.

As part of the notification service, customers who opt-in to the pilot and are found to be running non-genuine versions of Windows will get a message during log-on that they are running non genuine Windows and will be directed to the WGA web site for details or a recommendation, Microsoft said.

Microsoft said if the customer chooses not to obtain a legal copy of Windows at that time, they "will receive reminders" until they are running genuine Windows,

Microsoft on Thursday said it filed lawsuits against eDirectSoftware of Montana and two Chicago-area resellers -- Nathan Ballog and Easy Computers-- for allegedly distributing illegal copies of Windows.

In the case against Nathan Ballog, for example, Microsoft said it received electronic evidence of alleged wrongdoing via its Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) online program.

Last September, Microsoft filed eight lawsuits against computer companies in Arizona, New York, Minnesota, California and Illinois.

In one of the cases, against MicroCity4less.com, of Torrance, Calif, Microsoft relied in part on evidence submitted by consumers through the WGA program.

The notification service is currently in pilot testing for Windows only.

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