Office antipiracy checks to become mandatory

Microsoft will make its Office antipiracy checks mandatory.

The Office worker productivity and collaboration suite is about to become the next piece of software from Microsoft subject to mandatory piracy checks.

The company's Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) program will require mandatory validation of Office software on Friday, the software vendor quietly disclosed on Thursday. After that date, any Office Online templates downloaded from within the Office 2007 Microsoft Office System applications will require validation of legitimacy.

Similarly, starting in January, users of Office Update will have to validate that their Office software is legitimate before they can use the service, Microsoft added.

The company said in a press statement Thursday that the validation process will be "quick and simple" for users. The OGA program, currently in the testing phase, is now available in 26 languages worldwide.

OGA is a sister program to Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), launched in July 2005 as a program that automatically checks a user's version of Windows to ensure it is not counterfeit or pirated.

Microsoft has integrated this check directly into the next version of Windows, Windows Vista, as part of what it is calling a "Software Protection Platform." Through that automatic validation system, a Vista user must activate his or her copy of the software with a valid activation key within 30 days after the software is purchased or face the OS going into reduced functionality mode. In that mode, users can browse the Web for an hour but then the system will log them out, and they will have to log in again if they want to browse more.

Microsoft has increased its efforts in recent years to fight software piracy and counterfeiting of its software products. But these efforts have met with some resistance from users, especially when early bugs in the WGA checks were tagging legitimate software as counterfeit or pirated.

Microsoft also was forced to turn off a notification feature in the WGA that sent information to Microsoft from users' PCs when some complained that the feature was acting like spyware.

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