Microsoft: Users May Have To Prove Legal Windows Use - InformationWeek

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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.

While privacy advocates may take issue with making it mandatory to get updates, many resellers and system builders – whose business is undermined by unscrupulous resellers who load illegal copies of Windows on PCs, Microsoft says – have endorsed WGA.

At least one Microsoft solution provider and system builder, however, said the notification service may go too far if it harasses customers.

"Microsoft already has a major issue with customer respect and trust. Often times an end user isn't aware of the main components of their system, let alone their authenticity," said Mike Healey, CEO of TenCorp, Needham, Mass. which was recently acquired by Greenpages. "I'm not defending real crooks, but notifications to an end user are simply too confusing. Let's hope the notification gives them an 800 number with a tech support person that will help them resolve their question - rather than leave the customer frustrated."

Microsoft is attacking the piracy problem on both technical and legal fronts.

In the cases filed Thursday against eDirect Software, of Billings, Montana, and Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada, in the District of Montana, Microsoft alleges violations of copyright and trademark law, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and Anti-Counterfeiting Amendments Act.

Microsoft claims that eDirect Software – "a well known Internet company in the channel" has repeatedly distributed counterfeit software, tampered with software and provided illegal product keys with unlicensed software not authorized for resale.

In the other two cases, Microsoft alleged counterfeit and hard disk loading violations against the two Chicago area resellers based on complaints called into its anti-piracy hotline and Microsoft's own test purchase program to net violators.

One observer said Microsoft has rolled out the WGA program slowly to ensure it could handle the number of validations and flag false positives and claims it benefits resellers as well as customers.

'Microsoft has offered incentives to people who have been defrauded to get a genuine copy [of Windows]," said Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a newsletter in Kirkland, Wash.

"There are definite risks to customers running non-genuine Windows, if files were altered or substituted to get around activation or to otherwise create the pirated version, then the customer is at risk for damaged data or security vulnerabilities," Cherry added. "I don't think Microsoft has to supply security patches to customers who cannot validate that their copy is genuine."

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