Microsoft' rolling out of the Windows Genuine Advantage tool across China has affected thousands of Chinese Windows users and has led one Chinese lawyer to say that Microsoft was China's biggest hacker.
Dong Zhengwei, a lawyer based in Beijing, wrote to the Ministry of Public security lambasting Microsoft fo illegally intruding people's computer and "sabotaging their private systems". Ironically and as judiciously pointed out by Stuart King of Computerweekly, China's own anti piracy laws allow companies to "adopt protection functions such as encryption software communication protocols, software installation licenses, software registration certificates and digital watermarkings".
The tool causes Windows to change the background to a black screen every hour and display constant warning messages like "Activate Windows Now" and is seen as Microsoft as an effective means to curb rampant piracy in Asia and more particularly in China which has a 82 percent piracy rate according to the Business Software Alliance annual global software piracy study.
Chinese users have reacted angrily with an anonymous blogger saying that "it is illegal to install any program on a PC without the permit of the owner" (although he fails to point out that WGA is opt-in) and there are already dozens of ways of over-riding WGA available online.
The high price of Windows applications has also been underlined as one reason why piracy rates are so high. But then, while neither Linux nor Openoffice have been hitherto as successful as Windows and Office.
Although not the highest percentage worldwide, Piracy in China still amounted to USD 6.66 bn in 2007, the largest amount by far and accounted for roughly one sixth of the world's global piracy losses.
There are more than 200 million computer users in China with most of them use Windows as operating system on top of which millions use Microsoft Office as their main business application suite.
Copyright violations and Piracy in China are not something new. 99 percent of music downloads in the country are illegal and it is not difficult to find pirated movie DVDs and software compilation CDs for less than £1.
Microsoft's decision to launch WGA and OGA (Office Genuine Advantage) in China is part of the Global Anti-Piracy Day which takes places today across 49 countries.