Microsoft adds license for making Windows XP legal

Microsoft Corp. amped up its antipiracy campaign last week, adding a software-licensing program aimed at large customers that need to “get legal” after being fingered for using counterfeit or illegally installed copies of Windows XP.

The new program, dubbed the Get Genuine Windows Agreement (GGWA), plugs a big hole in Microsoft’s 18-month-old effort to stop the pirating and unauthorized use of Windows, said Cori Hartje, director of the company’s Genuine Software Initiative.

Home users who were nabbed for running counterfeit versions of Windows have been able to buy legitimate licenses quickly and simply, Hartje said. “But we didn’t have a good way to programmatically address the same need for larger-scale customers,” she added.

The GGWA is based on Microsoft’s standard volume- licensing contracts. Hartje said she expects that most of the organizations that use it will do so not because they find counterfeit copies of Windows XP on the PCs they buy, but because they have “mislicensed” the operating system.

Sunwest Management Inc. in Salem, Ore., is the kind of user Hartje has in mind. CIO Milton Bliss said the operator of nursing homes and retirement communities was contacted by Microsoft for a software audit last year. Sunwest didn’t have good inventory management tools and was found to be using more licenses than it had paid for, Bliss said.

“The challenge is knowing exactly what is on your network,” he added.

But Barry Libenson, CIO at Ingersoll-Rand Co.’s corporate offices in Montvale, N.J., said Microsoft’s contract terms are complex and “in some cases Draconian.”

“There’s a very good reason why people don’t always follow the license, and it’s not because the customers are stupid,” said Libenson, who also was contacted about license compliance issues last year. “It’s because Microsoft’s licensing is still very hard to understand.”

Paul DeGroot, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, said that the GGWA should ease “the pain of getting legal” for users. “But I don’t see it having an impact on piracy rates,” he said.

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