If it looks too good to be true…
Before You Buy - Understand the Dangers of Counterfeit or Unlicensed Software
According to an IDC study, counterfeit software can include spyware, malware or other dangerous code. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) estimates that a considerable amount of software that is sold is counterfeit. While sellers may claim the low price is for liquidated product or due to having an agreement with Microsoft, you should exercise caution before buying such software.
By using genuine Microsoft software, you can be confident that you will have access to the latest features, security, and support, which will help to improve your productivity and expand the capabilities of your PC. You will also have access to new innovations and offerings available only to genuine Microsoft software customers.
You can learn how to identify genuine Microsoft software and avoid the dangers that accompany counterfeit or unlicensed software. This guide will help you learn what to look for to ensure you are getting what you paid for while avoiding the risks associated with counterfeit Microsoft software. You will see how to visually identify the software and what questions to ask the seller before you buy. Note: Please exercise extreme caution when contemplating the purchase of software from a seller who refuses to answer your questions or provides evasive answers.
How to Identify Genuine Microsoft Software
Protect yourself from purchasing unauthorized and counterfeit software by buying from only those who sell genuine and authorized Microsoft software. There are four things you should look for before buying any Microsoft software. The first is the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) which is a label that helps you identify genuine Microsoft software. Retail Microsoft software will have the COA affixed to the outside of the packaging. The COA should never be purchased by itself, and packaging that does not include the COA is not authorized genuine Microsoft software. If the software you are looking at does not show the COA affixed to the packaging be sure to ask the seller to provide you with this evidence that they are selling only genuine and authorized Microsoft software.
The next thing to look for is the hologram on the media. Many Microsoft products ship with this hologram, which is a holographic image on the surface of the disc and is part of the disc itself - not merely a sticker. While you may not be able to determine if the image is a hologram or a sticker from a photograph, you can check this after your purchase. If you believe that you have a counterfeit version of software please visit the Microsoft Reporting Piracy site.
One of the clearest indications that you are purchasing genuine Microsoft software is the professionally produced packaging and documentation. However, some high grade counterfeit software may have packaging that can look very good. Looking for the hologram and the COA in addition to the packaging are essential ways to identify genuine Microsoft software. Also, genuine Microsoft software packaging will never print a product key directly visible on the outside of the packaging.
Lastly, every copy of genuine Microsoft software will include an End-User License Agreement (EULA) that details the terms that you accept prior to use and which includes the “Grant of License” describing how the software may be used.
What About OEM, Volume Licensing or Academic Software?
OEM –OEM software is intended for original equipment manufacturers who preinstall this specially licensed software onto the PCs they manufacture. An OEM version may only be distributed as part of a fully assembled computer system. A fully assembled computer system consists of at least a central processing unit, a motherboard, a hard drive, a power supply and a case. Don’t be fooled by a seller providing OEM software alone.
Academic - Regardless of the claims of the seller, academic Microsoft software may only be purchased by educational institutions; teachers, faculty and staff of educational institutions; students, public libraries; and, public museums. You can visit the Microsoft Education site for more eligibility information. Sometimes consumers are offered academic media, or CDs that do not actually include the license to use the software. For example, a college has purchased 1,000 copies of Microsoft Office for their students, but an order of the accompanying media gets mis-channeled to an online seller. That seller doesn’t have the license for media that was intended for the students of the college. Anyone using volume licensing media, without a license to use the software, has been sold unlicensed software and should return it to the source immediately.
Volume Licensing (VL) – Media that says “Licensing” on the label has been removed from the Volume Licensing Media Kits provided to Volume Licensing customers and is not authorized for resale. If you see an ad for VL media or a label similar to this example, this is considered unlicensed software. The most important thing to know is that volume licensing installation CDs do not include a license to run the software, and a license is purchased separately by business entities through a volume licensing program. Anyone installing volume licensing media without purchasing a separate license is using unlicensed product.
Resources and Links for More Information
For more information and links to resources on these topics, please visit the Microsoft GSI eBay blog.