After first introducing a voluntary way for users to ensure that they only used licensed and legal copies of Microsoft Office products, the software giant announced on Monday that it is about to make scheme mandatory.
The move means that users who are caught using software that can't be proved to be 100 percent legal won't get access to add-ons and updates from Microsoft.
As of Friday, Office Online templates downloaded from within Microsoft Office System 2007 applications have to be validated. As of January 2007, Office Update also must be validated by Office Genuine Advantage (OGA). The OGA scheme was introduced in April as a pilot.
Users who are denied access to the applications because their versions of Office do not pass a validation test will need to prove that their software is valid before they can proceed.
Microsoft says it will "continue to provide a complimentary copy of Microsoft Office to help qualifying customers who unknowingly acquired counterfeit versions of Microsoft Office 2003". But users will need to "fill out a counterfeit report, provide proof of purchase, and send in their counterfeit CDs" to prove their entitlement to a free replacement copy of Office.
Customers who have "unknowingly acquired" a counterfeit version of Office and can't provide these details will have to pay a licence fee. This would be $359 (£191) for the Office Genuine Advantage kit for Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003, while the Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003 costs $269 and the Microsoft Office Student and Teacher Edition 2003 costs $139.
Tony Lock of analysts Sageza said that the licensing changes were not unexpected. He believes it makes sense for Microsoft to bring its licensing strategies for Office and Windows in line. "But I think most of the problems comes from Windows and not Office," he said.
Lock does not believe that this is part of a strategy to bring Windows XP and Office licensing in line before the launch of Vista. "Vista is a whole different set of issues," he said. "Microsoft has a lot of potential problems to face compared to this."
Microsoft had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.
Earlier this month, Microsoft was forced to own up to problems with Windows Genuine Advantage when some validated Microsoft customers were denied access to their applications because of a software problem.