Do South Africans know when their software is fake?


South Africans prefer genuine software to the fake article – but some people will go to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on the real thing without actually paying for it.

Microsoft’s anti-piracy manager, Charl Everton, has fielded some ingenious excuses from people looking for free software in the six months since the launch of the Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) notifier tool in South Africa.

“’My puppy got into my study and chewed up my software’; ‘I had a legal copy of Office when I was working in the UK, but the license seems to have expired.’ ‘My ex-girlfriend stole my software and registered it as hers’. We’ve heard them all,” said Everton.

Since the end of January, more than 384 600 South Africans have voluntarily downloaded the OGA tool to help them see whether their Office applications are authentic or not. Of these, about a third have been found to be running non-genuine copies of Office.

Microsoft has announced the second wave of its OGA campaign, which pops a dialogue box onto the screens of users of non-genuine Office, along with options to obtain a licensed version. After 30 days, it leaves a permanent reminder in the task bar. However, in line with Microsoft’s “gentle nagging” approach, none of the visual cues presented will prevent users from accessing their data or preparing documents.

“The scary thing is that most of these people do not know the software they are using was pirated. That’s why our anti-piracy efforts have always focused on alerting customers that their software might be counterfeit, and connecting them to support and assistance to obtain the genuine article,” said Ms Everton.

Running pirated software has wider consequences than many people think. Right now, say Microsoft investigators, South Africa is being flooded by high quality counterfeit software from known organised criminal syndicates in the Far East. And pirates are getting more sophisticated in their approaches. In combating software pirates, however, there is a need to ensure a positive customer experience along the way.

Contrary to popular belief, OGA notifications do not reduce Office functionality, turn your computer screen black or send your personal information to Microsoft, says Everton. They merely alert the user that they are using non-genuine Office and that action should be taken to get genuine and properly secure their PC and personal information.