Microsoft Developing New Strategies to Combat Piracy

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has revealed some of the tactics it uses to fight back against software counterfeiting. It involves the use of nine regional crime labs and 75 dedicated anti-piracy staff.

Surprisingly, the company maintains that many users of pirated Microsoft software are unaware they are running bogus copies. That may seem hard to believe in Western nations, but does appear a genuine problem in some developing countries where there is less awareness about whether or not a retailer is using legitimate copy of Microsoft Windows, for example.

It also appears that software with price tags "too good to be true" isn't a fool-proof way of distinguishing between legitimate and bogus copies of MS Windows and MS Office. Surprisingly enough, in some countries the pirated copies are barely, if at all, cheaper than the real thing.

Unlicensed Software a Big Problem for Microsoft

China is a big part of the problem, with estimates suggesting that as much as 80 per cent of the software in use there remains unlicensed. Last week, a Chinese firm became the first in the country taken to court for pirating Microsoft software. It was fined the equivalent of $318,000 USD.

That relatively small fine is because the case only involved 450 copies of software. However, it's believed the case could serve as a precedent for making future court cases. (Source:

It also appears that programs such as Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) -- which notify customers when they are running counterfeit software -- may be having some effect with those who are not deliberately trying to cheat Microsoft. Last year 80,000 users contacted the company to report that they were unwitting users of pirated programs. (Source:

CD, DVD Pressing Machines Make Fingerprints

Microsoft is also using technology to catch the offenders. It has taken advantage of the fact that every CD and DVD pressing machine has minor defects which create a unique pattern on the surface of the disc. While the defects don't necessarily affect the disc's performance, it's still a detectable "signature", similar to a fingerprint. (Source:

The company has now developed a database of 580,000 pressing machines, meaning that when it analyzes a bogus disc, it can often discover where it was created. This allows it to build a map to trace the distribution routes used by pirates.

Microsoft has even got one step further by using its own mapping technology: it's created a tool based around the Bing map service to track anti-piracy legal steps and thus build up a picture of where the problem is most prevalent.

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