Chinese blast Microsoft over 'black screen' piracy notice

Beijing lawyer files complaint with government, others rage at WGA update

An update to Microsoft's antipiracy software has set off a firestorm of protest in China, with one lawyer filing an official complaint with his government and users raging against the move on blogs, media reports said Wednesday.

Beijing lawyer Dong Zhengwei filed a complaint with China's Ministry of Public Security on Sunday, reported <i>People's Daily</i> Wednesday. According to the state-run publication, Dong called Microsoft "the biggest hacker in China" and claimed that the update to Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), Microsoft's anticounterfeit notification and validation technology, was in violation of Chinese law.

"Microsoft's measure will cause serious functional damage to users' computers and, according to China's criminal law, the company can stand accused of breaching and hacking into computer systems of Chinese," Dong told the newspaper.

The China Software Industry Association (CSIA), the country's software trade group, is also planning to take action against Microsoft, according to People's Daily. "It [Microsoft's measure] is very bad, and the whole industry in China must take it seriously," CSIA Director Chen Chong told the publication Monday. Microsoft's China operation is a member of the CSIA.

The furor stemmed from an update to Windows XP Professional that Microsoft began offering users in China last week. The new version of WGA's Notifications, the software that provides the messages and other on-screen prompts when another component detects an illegal copy, displays a black desktop on counterfeit versions of the operating system and a permanent nag notice in the bottom-right corner of the screen. Users can change the background, but it reverts to black after an hour.

The new black-screen nag took effect Monday in China.

Microsoft announced the change to Notifications in August, explaining then that it was bringing Windows XP Professional's anti-piracy software in line with that of Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1). Previously, WGA's nagging in Windows XP was limited to a message at log-on and periodic secondary notices that popped up in a small balloon; the desktop was not altered, and the software didn't put a persistent message on the screen. Windows XP Professional users in other countries, including the US, have already seen the update.

Chinese users railed at the change. "First of all, Microsoft antipiracy [has the] wrong focus," said Liu Peng in a post to the Sina.com portal, according to a machine translation of the entry. "The fight against piracy should focus on the pirates."

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