September 17, 2004 12:17 PM PDT

Microsoft: Can we check your software license?

Microsoft is trying to get to know its pirates a little better.

The software maker has launched a pilot program in which some visitors to the main Windows download page are being asked to let the software maker check to see whether their copy of the operating system is licensed.

Visitors do not have to partipate in the program to get their downloads. They'll also get their downloads if they do participate and their copy of Windows turns out to be unlicensed. But Microsoft said the program is a first step in trying to provide a better experience for customers using legitimate copies of Windows.

Since the program is optional at this stage, Microsoft expects that most of those who know their software is bogus will not take part.

"I would expect that people who know they are running pirated Windows are going to be very interested to know what we are doing, but they could easily choose to not opt in," said David Lazar, a director in the Windows client unit.

Those whose copies are found not to be genuine will be encouraged to go back to the company from whom they bought the PC or software upgrade. They'll also be given other information on obtaining genuine software before being allowed to download whatever software they were seeking. In its current form, the program offers no particular benefit for those who are running licensed software.

Eventually, Microsoft could make the program mandatory. The company could also prevent those that have unlicensed copies of Windows from downloading software updates on Microsoft's site.

Still, Lazar said, it is a sensitive group of customers Microsoft is targeting with the program--namely, people who bought a computer that they thought had a legitimate copy of Windows, but are somewhat unsure. Microsoft wants those people as customers, so it wants to be sure to treat them kindly, even as the company seeks to encourage legitimate Windows use.

"We've got to pilot the infrastructure," Lazar said. "We're kind of making a value judgment (on whether a copy of Windows is genuine). We want to make sure we get that correct and the experience for everyone is a positive one."

Lazar said Microsoft's goal is to have 20,000 users go through the procedure before deciding how to expand or modify the program, an effort that he estimates could take anywhere from six weeks to three months.

Dubbed the Windows Genuine Advantage, the program is part of Microsoft's overall antipiracy campaign, Lazar said, noting that the company's efforts fall into three categories: education, enforcement and engineering. The new program is part of the company's effort to engineer its software to encourage legitimate use, Lazar said.

The Business Software Alliance, of which Microsoft is a key member, estimates that piracy costs software makers $29 billion annually, although some have taken issue with the means by which the group calculates those figures.

Lazar stressed that Microsoft is not blocking access to any updates, in particular to Windows XP Service Pack 2, which the company is encouraging all customers to upgrade to. The company is not requiring customers to have a genuine copy of Windows to get SP2, though it has blocked a few registration codes that have been known for several years as pirated.


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
And they weren't doing already?
It's a good bet that Microsoft has already been doing this on the sly. Ask anyone who uses Windows update if MS checks on their licensing, and you'll get a lot of people saying "Yes."

This appears to be a worsening trend among software vendors - treating all of their customers as criminals.

For those of you who think that this observation is unreasonable, think about this.

What if you were made to show proof of ownership of your car PRIOR to having it repaired for a recall? Or to show proof that you own the car prior to being allowed to fill it with gas?

Or... you had to show proof of ownership for using your computer prior to pressing the power switch?

To hide behind the lame excuse of checking license keys just to get a patch for a defect they had coded into a product you purchased, and calling it a "Customer enrichment" proceedure is... stupid. Even for Microsoft to think that people would beleive that.

Wow, are we still in the United States of America? Or in a Communist state?
Posted by Tex Murphy PI (165 comments )
Reply Link Flag
USA = no longer a free country
To specifically answer you last question, let me tell you that your
"Patriot Act" is enough to declare your country as no longer
being a free country. I am sure it may not be declared a
communist country either...
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
Your comment
Although the general comments are true... your last comment about communism shows you know NOTHING about communism and have been infected by the capitolist propaganda america spews out every day.
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Link Flag
Yet another reason to buy a Mac
Most likely, Macs will not be supporting this technology. Most likely, Macs won't be able to play these protected CDs. Most likely, there'll be lots of returned CDs (that don't work on various consumer players). Most likely, this will perpetuate the illegal P2P online trading. Most likely, many people won't be upgrading to Longhorn (either because they don't have the supporting hardware or don't want the embedded DRM) unless they're forced into using it when it comes shipped with a new computer.
Posted by sanjef (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mac's are closed systems, meaning you can't build one from scratch. you can only get one from apple, which means the OS is 100% non pirated.

any ways who would want a mac, there so behind with hardware support and power.
Posted by simcity1976 (136 comments )
Link Flag
another reason to dump microsoft
that is another linux is getting stronger
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Linux? Talk to me...
I know nothing about Linux. I don't know anyone that runs it. Good? Bad?
I'm all ears. the middle of the sea...
Posted by kahe55 (2 comments )
Link Flag
If It Walks Like A...
If it walks like a duck, talks like one and smells like one, then it probably is ... meaning to say Microsoft has come up with this nonsesne to justify spying on users of its products ... why don't they just tell the truth? They just want to sneak a peak at what's on our PC's and use the 411 for whatever purposes(s) which likely have nothing to do with software licensing issues!
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Are they (Microsoft) not already sneaking a peak at what's on our PC's already ...everytime we go to downlaod updates? And, speaking of those updates, I downloaded all of the ones they told me I needed, and I had more blue screens of death visit me ...which never did before the updates!

If they would make a product that's not so full of holes and so forth, perhaps we'd not need the updates in the first place???
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And why do you continue to submit?
If your PC masters at Redmond are making your life so
unbearable, why haven't you given them the boot, the pink slip,
their walking papers?
Posted by (55 comments )
Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.