Microsoft Offers Help To Software Piracy Victims

Launched Monday, Microsoft's Get Genuine Windows Agreement (GGWA) allows organizations that have been duped into buying illegitimate versions of Windows XP Professional to obtain volume licensing agreements and avoid liability issues that stem from running illegal software.

GGWAs for small and medium businesses have a five-license minimum and are sold by partners, while GGWA for large businesses are sold through large account resellers or direct from Microsoft, according to Cori Hartje, director of Microsoft's Genuine Software Initiative.

The GGWA provides broader coverage than the Get Genuine Kit for Windows XP that Microsoft launched in July 2006, Hartje said.

"Many of our volume type customers are interested in having one 'get right' type of agreement, a single purchase that takes care of everything all at once," said Hartje.

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Microsoft has recently stepped up efforts to prosecute software pirates and unscrupulous system builders, some of whom use counterfeit certificate of authenticity labels, or COAs, to deceive customers into believing that the illegal software they're buying is genuine.

"There are some system builders that are shipping bogus copies of Windows, and customers are getting caught with bad copies that they can't register, and they get stuck," said Scott Braden, senior Microsoft analyst at Miro Consulting, a Fords, N.J.-based firm that specializes in Microsoft licensing.

Kevin Baylor, principal at Aequus IT, a solution provider in Bradenton, Fla., sees the GGWA as a step in the right direction, but not necessarily one that will make much of an impact on the software piracy situation.

"I definitely think the program will be helpful, especially for small businesses, which are generally happy to comply with licensing. But while Microsoft is on the right track in fighting software piracy, I don't feel it will completely negate its effects," Baylor said.

As with Microsoft's other volume licensing programs, pricing is set by the channel. One Microsoft partner who asked not to be named estimated the cost of legalizing a single copy of Windows XP Professional at $200, with the cost fixing 10 machines running around $1,200.

"From a customer perspective, they're going to be upset because they'll have to spend a significant amount of money. But this does give them a way out," Braden said.

Some of Microsoft's antipiracy efforts have angered users. In August, Microsoft fixed a glitch with the validation scheme for Windows XP and Vista that was flagging legitimate versions of the OS as pirated ones. Microsoft subsequently said the problem was due to human error.