Microsoft Responds to Chinese User Outrage Over Piracy Tool

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Microsoft on Thursday responded to user outrage over a new anti-piracy plug-in that blacks out the screen of computers loaded with pirated software.

"We are extremely grateful for our users' attention. At the same time, we believe there are numerous misunderstandings about the Windows Office Genuine Advantage program," the company said, responding to concerns that the software tool was notifying Microsoft of the identity of users who had installed non-authentic copies of Windows XP. Microsoft sought to soften users' reaction to a "black screen" and reminder that they should use legitimate Microsoft products with an open letter in Chinese to its users, sent to IDG News Service by e-mail and published by numerous Chinese media outlets.

"We absolutely guarantee that we will not in any way collect the user's name, e-mail address, or any other information that can be used to identify the user," Microsoft said. The company said that participation in the Windows Genuine Advantage program is voluntary, and that users' computers will not be deactivated or otherwise affected.

"In recent years, protection of intellectual property rights received more attention, but we realize that this is a long-term process, requiring support from all areas of society," the letter said.

Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) and Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) were first introduced in 2005. In China, WGA and OGA were first introduced in 2006, Microsoft said. This latest tool that seems to be upsetting users is for Windows XP Professional, and represents the next phase of WGA and OGA roll-out in China.

"Based on third-party research, up to 20 percent of those using pirated software believe that they are using genuine software. This latest tool will help users determine if they have a counterfeit version of Windows XP Professional or Office installed on their computers," Microsoft said in a statement.

The letter seems to have done little to reduce consumers' ire. "I don't need you tell me if it's genuine or not. Because I know. It's pirated. The key is that I cannot afford to buy genuine. If you reduce the price, then it's easier for me to accept," wrote one anonymous poster commenting on Sina's publication of the open letter, only identifying his or her location as "Hangzhou, Zhejiang province."

The issue has also taken on a bit of a nationalist tone. "Whether it's genuine or pirated is not the issue. The most important issue is, can China have its own software?" wrote another poster, only identifying his or her location as "Anhui province."

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