Microsoft Faces Second WGA Lawsuit

Two Washington state businesses and three Seattle residents have filed a second lawsuit against Microsoft over its Windows Genuine Advantage program. The suit alleges that legitimate customers are receiving non-licensed notifications every hour, and seeks class-action status.

According to a copy of the court filing published by the Seattle PI, the plaintiffs argue that all customers who have Automatic Updates enabled will receive WGA whether they wish to or not. In addition, the lawsuit claims that end-users are deceived into thinking the software is a security update and "are not told that the program 'phones home' daily."

The first lawsuit -- filed in California last week -- made similar complaints, alleging that Microsoft's WGA functionality violated the state's anti-spyware statutes, as well as laws in Washington. Also seeking class-action status, that case does not ask for monetary damages, only an injunction to prevent the use of the phone home feature in future WGA releases.

WGA Notifications, the component responsible for connecting to Microsoft's servers each day to check for a configuration file, was officially rolled out worldwide last week. The final release removed the daily check, but WGA will still communicate with Microsoft periodically.

When asked how often customers' computers will connect to Microsoft, the company told BetaNews, "The frequency varies depending upon license type, but typically takes place every 90 days or so. This enables Microsoft to update our list of bad keys, and ensure that newly discovered counterfeits are not proliferating."

The second lawsuit against WGA goes further than the first, demanding that Microsoft provide an automatic update to remove WGA and enable users to download any updates without having the program installed. As of July 2005, customers that do not pass WGA certification may not download non-critical updates and many programs from the Microsoft Download Center.

In addition, the filing asks that Microsoft work with security vendors to enable the removal of WGA using antivirus applications. It also says Microsoft should waive any claim it has under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act regarding individuals that investigate or remove WGA.

Compensation for consumers who have been harmed by WGA, and attorney's fees are additionally requested.

For its part, Microsoft has said that users can choose not to install the new version of WGA Notifications. The company is also providing instructions on how to remove the previous version of the software for those who do not want to upgrade to the official release.

Microsoft says it continues to modify WGA based on customer feedback, noting that the tool plays a critical role in stopping piracy of Windows, and protects customers from counterfeit versions of the operating system that may not be secure.

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