Microsoft Retires Office Genuine Advantage

Microsoft quietly retired its Office Genuine Advantage program, while hinting that new anti-piracy will be instituted in the future.

Microsoft seems to have canceled Office Genuine Advantage, an anti-piracy measure that asks users to validate their copy of Office before downloading updates and add-ons.

"The Office Genuine Advantage (-OGA') program has been retired," reads a note on the Microsoft Support Website. "For more information about the benefits of genuine Office, please visit the following Website."

That link leads to a page describing the benefits of genuine Office, including "Have the confidence that you got what you paid for" and "Have access to support from Microsoft or a trusted partner."

ZDnet's Ed Bott seems to have first noticed Microsoft's ultra-quiet deep-sixing of the initiative, which despite its good intentions (i.e., curbing software piracy) seemed to irritate a subset of users trying to download templates and other software editions.

"The program has served its purpose and thus we have decided to retire the program," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in a Dec. 20 e-mail to eWEEK. "Given our strong commitment to anti-piracy, we are making several new investments that will allow us to engage with customers and help victims of fraud."

Office Genuine Advantage began life as an offshoot of Windows Genuine Advantage. Microsoft has traditionally taken an aggressive stance against piracy, although it ran into a bit of controversy in September after The New York Times reported Russian officials using the pretext of searching for pirated software to raid internal advocacy groups.

"We take the concerns that have been raised very seriously," Kevin Kutz, Microsoft's director of public affairs, wrote in a statement to the Times. "When we grant powers-of-attorney to outside counsel to aid our antipiracy efforts, we vet candidates very carefully. We bind them contractually to strict standards and protocols, we train them and monitor their activities."

In a Sept. 13 posting on The Official Microsoft Blog, Brad Smith, Microsoft's senior vice president and general counsel, announced that the company would create "a new unilateral software license for NGOs that will ensure they have free, legal copies of our products." The program would last until 2012, with an extension possible.

Pirate software costs the tech industry billions of dollars per year, and many companies spend considerable funds trying to hold the line against vast networks of crackers, suppliers and distributors of pirated code. While law enforcement does occasionally shut down organized pirate gangs, software companies have taken their own steps to blunt the effect of stolen software on their bottom lines. Doubtlessly Microsoft will continue to do so in the future.