Microsoft Taking Stock of Anti-Piracy Efforts

Microsoft uses a day in December to highlight its ongoing efforts to stop illegal reproductions.

Microsoft remains hard at work protecting its own interests when it comes to software piracy, an effort that the company says is helping partners, as well.

As part of a Consumer Action Day this month, Microsoft detailed some of the latest steps and statistics in its ongoing anti-piracy campaign. Consumer Action Day highlights included educational and enforcement actions in more than 70 countries.

Most of the enforcement actions were relatively minor compared to the massive international piracy bust of 2007 that interrupted a China-based ring responsible for an estimated $2 billion in counterfeit Microsoft software. The December event did highlight a number of smaller-scale, recent raids and enforcement actions in Egypt, Israel and other countries.

A few educational actions involved the channel. In Germany, Microsoft launched an "originals club" for software resellers. In Latvia, Microsoft system builders and resellers got a new online course on intellectual property rights.

The headline number in December was a surge in what Microsoft calls "voluntary reports" to more than 150,000 such reports in the past two years.

"The majority of our enforcement cases announced today resulted from tips and reports from consumers," David Finn, Microsoft's lead anti-piracy attorney, said in a statement.

Clearly, much of that voluntary reporting results from automated features of Microsoft's newer operating systems that phone home to Microsoft and lock users out of their systems, which Microsoft bills as a feature with the argument that much counterfeit software has been shown to hide malware.

Indeed, one element emphasized in Microsoft's Consumer Action Day materials was the product activation and validation processes with Windows 7. "Windows Activation Technologies in Windows 7 are built off the Software Protection Platform introduced with Windows Vista, which enables Windows to protect itself by detecting when attempts have been made to circumvent or tamper with built-in product activation technology, and helps customers more easily activate the product and resolve potential issues," the company said in a statement.

The company also called attention to investments in nine Product Identification (PID) Analysis Labs around the world. Microsoft employs forensic experts in the labs to perform digital disc fingerprinting and optical manufacturing tracking on counterfeit software. The intelligence from those efforts goes to help law enforcement agencies. According to Microsoft, work in the PID Analysis Labs has led to more than 1,000 customs border patrol seizures in the last two years.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.