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Microsoft's anti-piracy measures ruffle feathers
Published: 2006-07-05

Recent updates to the software giant's technology for detecting authorized copies of its Windows operating system have some critics crying foul and have become the focus of at least two lawsuits.

The class-action lawsuits, one filed on June 26 in the Western District of Washington and the second filed on Friday, claim that Microsoft misled consumers regarding the functionality of its antipiracy updates, known as Windows Genuine Advantage. And last week, the blogosphere rumbled with rumors that Microsoft planned to implement a "kill switch" to shut down any unlicensed copies of Windows.

Microsoft has denied both sets of allegations. Using the standard language for commenting on a lawsuit, the software giant called the most recent legal actions "without merit." Through a spokesperson, the company also denied any intent to kill off illegal copies of Windows, but did acknowledge that newer features of Windows would be dependent on WGA's determination of authenticity.

"In alignment with our anti-piracy policies we have been continually improving the experience for our genuine customers, while restricting more and more access to ongoing Windows capabilities for those who choose not to pay for their software," the spokesperson said.

Among the services and features for which WGA will act as the gatekeeper are Windows Update service, Download Center, Internet Explorer 7, Windows Defender, and Windows Media Player 11, and future updates.

The to-do over Microsoft's anti-piracy measures signals that companies and consumers are still finding the right mix for what restrictions can be imposed on users systems by third-party content providers. Last year, consumers roundly rebuffed music giant Sony BMG after that company used surreptitious coding to install digital rights management software that had all the hallmarks of a rootkit, a collection of programs that allow another person illicit access and control over a user's computer. The company settled several class-action lawsuits in May.

UPDATE: The article was updated at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday with information regarding the second lawsuit filed against Microsoft.

Posted by: Robert Lemos
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