Microsoft Hit With ‘Genuine’ Lawsuit

Microsoft’s controversial Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program designed to combat pirated versions of Windows is facing its first lawsuit.

A check-in feature of the program, in which the users’ computers connect to Microsoft servers on a daily basis to check for updated configuration files, was the most controversial element of WGA.

The feature remains though now WGA only checks every 14 days to determine whether the version of Windows is legitimate or pirated.

A court filing by Los Angeles resident Brian Johnson asks for an injunction that prevents Microsoft from continuing to use the check-in feature of WGA in future releases. It was unclear what monetary claims might be at stake. The suit asks the court award the plaintiff and class action members “…full restitution of all monies wrongfully acquired by the Defendant by means of the wrongful conduct alleged herein….”

Furthermore, the filing stated that Microsoft’s methods were a violation of both the spyware  laws in California as well as Microsoft’s home state of Washington.

One of the complaints in the lawsuit was that WGA didn’t tell users it was checking for pirated software, and weren’t given the option to decline the check-in presented as part of a security update.

“Broadly speaking, the allegations are without merit and distort the merits of our anti-piracy program,” Jim Dresler, a spokesman for Microsoft, told He added that WGA is one element (the others being law enforcement and education) of Microsoft’s approach to combat piracy.

Microsoft rolled out WGA via the Web in a pilot phase last year as a way to check whether a user had a legitimate copy of Microsoft Windows.

Microsoft  released a more complete version of WGA Notification software worldwide earlier this week. No longer in a pilot or test phase, the new version includes changes that address some of the earlier criticisms, though far from all in the lawsuit, which was reported by Beta news.

In its validation check of the Windows software, Microsoft said it does not collect any identifying information on the user. If an illegal version of Windows is found, WGA sends out messages about not running a “genuine” copy of Windows and direct the user to Microsoft Web sites that encourage the use of “genuine Windows software.”

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