Microsoft confirmed Wednesday that it will offer free replacement copies of its Office application suite for people whose versions were tagged as counterfeit -- if they can prove they bought the bundle with the best intentions.
Last week, the Redmond, Wash.-based developer launched an Office anti-piracy pilot program, Office Genuine Advantage (OGA), pointed at users running localized versions in Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Greek, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Russian, and Spanish.
OGA will be optional, at least initially, but Microsoft has reserved the right to up the ante later, as it has already done with the similar Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) initiative.
The new Office counterfeit counter relies on an ActiveX control that checks for "several known counterfeiting methods," according to Microsoft, including stolen volume licensing keys, a common method of pirating Office.
Although the OGA Web site lacks details on what Microsoft will do for users caught with a pirated version of Office, on Wednesday a company spokesperson said that that information is laid out after the ActiveX control detects a bogus copy.
"There is a process for receiving a complimentary replacement of the Office software," the spokesperson said. "It requires that the OGA user submit proof of purchase, the counterfeit CD and a counterfeit report with details of their purchase. Upon fulfilling those requirements, the user qualifies for the complimentary offer."
That's identical to one of the two methods Microsoft now uses when WGA detects fake editions of Windows XP. The for-free Windows is only offered to users who have unknowingly fallen victim to what Microsoft calls "high-quality counterfeit [copies of] Windows."
Microsoft has already posted notices on some Office downloads -- including a new add-on toolbar that lets users enter international characters from 26 languages into Office 2003's programs -- to "recommend" Office validation.