Net cafes in M'sia urged to go legit

Microsoft wants them to stop breaching licensing terms by signing up for a new--but free--rental program that would allow patrons to use its software, legally.
Written by Lee Min Keong, Contributor

MALAYSIA--Microsoft is targeting some 3,000 Internet cafes in the country to sign up for a new software-rental agreement that would allow these establishments to legally lease out the use of the vendor's software to their customers.

Internet cafes in Malaysia had previously been breaching licensing terms by "renting-out" the use of Microsoft software to customers who patronize their outlets. Under existing Microsoft licensing terms, only the company that purchased the software is licensed to use it.

Realizing the unique circumstances of Internet cafes, Microsoft is now looking to resolve this anomaly with its Microsoft Software Rental Agreement for Internet Cafes . Apart from Malaysia, the program has also been rolled out in other countries including Singapore, India, China, Korea, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.

"Through feedback from our customers, Microsoft has developed a specific agreement to address the growing need of having genuine software for this 'rental type' environment," said a spokesperson from Microsoft's Malaysian office.

"This is a free addendum agreement that seeks to provide Internet cafe owners the ability to 'legally' use and rent out Microsoft software to third parties," he explained.

Six Internet cafes have signed up since the launch of the initiative in earlier this month, and Microsoft is aiming to get "most of the current Internet cafes" on the program, according to the company spokesperson.

"There are no official industry figures but we estimate there are close to 3,000 Internet cafes in Malaysia, with between five and 100 PCs housed each outlet," he said, adding that Internet cafes in the other participating countries are "responding well".

Asked if only Internet cafes were infringing Microsoft licensing terms in this manner, the spokesperson clarified: "[Perpetrators include] any organization that provides shared computer access to a community at a fee."

The new agreement currently only provides a right to rent out use of Microsoft Windows operating systems and Microsoft Office applications, and does not impose any additional fee on Internet cafes so they can still purchase genuine copies of these products at the normal price.

However, they will need to audit their software environment and provide a list of Windows and Office software used across their outlets. Available on a yearly basis, the agreement also requires Internet cafe owners to conduct audits and re-submit a description of their software environment every year to renew the agreement.

In a bid to entice further interest, Microsoft says Internet cafes that sign up for the program will receive free Zboard keyboards, prepaid games cards starting from 1,000 ringgit (US$272) and Microsoft point-of-sales materials.

These Internet cafes will also have free access to Microsoft's Shared Computing Toolkit for Windows XP, which includes security applications that simplify software setup and provides protection against common threats in a shared-computing environment.

Lee Min Keong is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.

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