Microsoft has taken further steps in its crusade against software piracy and launched a new Product Identification service, which promises to give consumers who have purchased high quality counterfeit Microsoft software with the genuine article free of charge.
Announced at the beginning of this month, the service is designed to help Australian consumers and small businesses that may have been duped into purchasing counterfeit software.
The latest offer relates to all Microsoft products, excluding those on CDRs. For a limited time, Microsoft will also replace Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) products including Microsoft Windows 98, Windows 2000 Professional and Office 2000 SBE and Professional. The offer for OEM software concludes on March 31, 2002, with replacement copies restricted to one per home user and up to three per company.
According to Microsoft's director of small and medium business, Mark Iles, poor quality or imported products are the main areas of concern for Australian software makers. While high quality software counterfeit crime is not a major issue, Microsoft is concerned it could become one.
"Organised criminal counterfeiting is big business and unsuspecting consumers are paying the price - spending good money on bad software," Iles said.
"We have two focuses: education and awareness in the marketplace on the dangers of pirated software, and getting leads to crack down [on counterfeit software]."
Already, Microsoft has had 1200 hits to its Product Identification Web site, with more than 300 people downloading Product Identification application forms. Iles said he is also in talks with the US branch of Microsoft on the possibility of extending the service outside of Australia.
Microsoft's latest initiative follows a string of campaigns aimed at reducing the amount of illegal software in Australia. Earlier last year, the company launched an awards campaign against piracy, offering $5,000 for information that led to successful legal action against a dealer selling pirated or counterfeit software.
Hot on Microsoft's heels, the Business Software Association of Australia (BSAA) is also on the lookout for companies involved in software piracy, and says it plans to launch a new anti-piracy campaign targeting small and medium businesses in April.