UK joins Australia in Microsoft's piracy amnesty

Microsoft is expanding its attack on piracy -- the Redmond-based giant has decided to give away free software to those who bought machines with fake copies pre-installed.Microsoft is offering anyone who's "unsure" about whether they've got dodgy software the chance to have it checked out by Microsoft, with the promise that if it does turn out to be counterfeit, they'll replace it.

Microsoft is expanding its attack on piracy -- the Redmond-based giant has decided to give away free software to those who bought machines with fake copies pre-installed.

Microsoft is offering anyone who's "unsure" about whether they've got dodgy software the chance to have it checked out by Microsoft, with the promise that if it does turn out to be counterfeit, they'll replace it.

The deal only covers Windows XP and only five copies per person can be swapped. It's all free, bar the initial postage and packing. The offer only applies to pre-installed home or professional Windows XP bought before 1 November.

A Microsoft spokesperson told ZDNet Australia  that if its customers have any doubts as to the legitimacy of their Microsoft software, they can submit it to the Product Identification Team for verification.

"In Australia, Microsoft provides a similar offering to that of the UK which has been in place for some time, whereby we will replace copies of our software which are found to be counterfeit," the spokesperson said.

Microsoft's Australian customers can use an online wizard to help them identify if they are running counterfeit software.

Microsoft also provides a Product Identification Service, which allows users to send in any suspicious software for verification by the company.

Alex Hilton, Microsoft's licence compliance manager, said the bulk of piracy seen by Microsoft was in the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) sector.

"Some examples we're seeing from the Far East and eastern Europe... are very high quality", Hilton said, and are aimed at the high-end user. "That's the sector we're trying to address."

Hilton also said that anyone found with the pirate programme won't suffer legal repercussions but their suppliers might. "Our goal is not to prosecute the individual, our goal is to get to the source," he said, adding that a decision on prosecution would be made on a case by case basis.

While Microsoft is hoping to get some idea of the extent of piracy in the UK with the programme, it seems consumers' might be even more interested.

When Redmond launched its Windows Genuine Advantage program to let its customers check if they'd bought genuine software, it thought only 20,000 people would take it up on its offer. After a month, more than 800,000 had.

To get a replacement copy of Windows XP, PC users will need to send off their receipt and complete a witness statement, revealing where they bought their knock-off software. More information can be found here.

Around 53 percent of software applications in use in the Asia Pacific region are thought to be pirated compared with 29 percent in the UK, according to analyst group IDC.

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