Microsoft raises stakes via anti-piracy program

Microsoft is to unleash a PR campaign to get consumers and businesses to join its clampdown on software piracy as it steps up efforts to identify illegal code.

From the second half of the year, visitors to the US firm’s download and update web pages will be required to sign up for Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), a program that checks the authenticity of software.

A UK PR campaign by Inferno Communications will target consumer and business media to explain how WGA works and the benefits of opting in to the scheme.

Five million people have volunteered to take part in WGA globally, but compulsory registration will be eased in throughout 2005 in recognition of the fact that many Windows users are unaware they are using pirated software.

A pilot programme will be run for Norwegian, Czech and Chinese-language versions of Windows before it is rolled out elsewhere in the second half of the year.

The campaign will emphasise Microsoft’s argument that illegal software often contains viruses and other security threats.

‘When our customers participate in WGA they can protect themselves from the uncertainty and risks associated with counterfeit software,’ said Microsoft anti-piracy manager Alex Hilton.

The 2004 IDC Global Piracy Study found that pirated software accounted for 36 per cent of units on the worldwide market in 2003. In the UK, 29 per cent of software was found to be illegal, costing companies £850m.

The report concluded that reducing piracy by ten per cent over four years would create more than one million new jobs and more than £200m in economic growth worldwide.

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