Microsoft Corp. has enlisted some technical firepower to combat customers who fail to make good on software license agreements, which limit users from sharing copies of a program.
In the soon-to-be debuted Microsoft Office XP and its family of software products, which are set for release on May 31, intellectual property protection is built in.
Executives representing the software giant's licensing technology and intellectual property divisions detailed a copy protection technology included in its upcoming software that prevents users from installing software on multiple computers. The presentation was made Wednesday at Microsoft's Mountain View campus during one of its "Silicon Valley Speakers Series" events.
Known loosely as the "Office Activation Wizard," Microsoft has added an activation process to its latest consumer products that protects against "casual copying," according to Allen Nieman, technology product manager for licensing at Microsoft. A common method of piracy in all parts of the world, Nieman estimated that as much as 50 per cent of the pirated software on the market is obtained through the casual sharing of software.
Microsoft has a long history of combating software piracy around the world, noting in its first-quarter earnings last week that industry efforts are paying off.
With the Activation Wizard, users are required to activate all new or preinstalled versions of Microsoft's software and the process is completed by filling out an electronic form with the 25-character product identification number that comes with each software product. The software is then issued an installation identification number using PKI (public key infrastructure) technology specific to the computer it is installed on.
Once the activation process is completed, a user can either register the activation number with Microsoft over the phone or directly on the Internet, where it is stored in a database. The company can then scan the database for conflicting activation numbers to identify software installed with a duplicate license.
While the technology prevents software from being installed on multiple machines, the activation process does allow for secondary use rights, Nieman said. Software owners can install products on a laptop as well as a desktop PC. The technology also allows users to reinstall the software on a computer, as each license is tied to the hardware configuration of the user's computer.
"There's a lot of trend analysis going on," said Brad Smith, deputy general counsel for anti-piracy at Microsoft, explaining how the system identifies license infringements. "It can tell if you have just replaced your hard drive, or if you installed software on another computer."