A computer user is suing Microsoft Corp. over the company's Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy tool, alleging that it violates laws against spyware.
The suit by Los Angeles resident Brian Johnson, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, seeks class-action status for claims that Microsoft didn't adequately disclose details of the tool when it was delivered to PC users through the company's Automatic Update system.
Windows Genuine Advantage is designed to check the validity of a computer user's copy of the operating system. But the tool became a subject of heightened controversy earlier this month, after PC users began noticing that it was making daily contact with Microsoft's servers without their knowledge, even if their software was valid.
A Microsoft spokesman, Jim Desler, called the suit "baseless" and disputed the characterization of the tool as spyware. "Spyware is deceptive software that is installed on a user's computer without the user's consent and has some malicious purpose," Desler said. Windows Genuine Advantage "is installed with the consent of the user and seeks only to notify the user if a proper license is not in place."
The lead lawyer representing Johnson in the suit against Microsoft, Scott Kamber of Kamber & Associates LLC in New York, was co-lead counsel for consumers in the lawsuit over Sony Corp.'s surreptitious placement of copy-protection "rootkit" software on PCs, through music CDs. That software, designed to prevent music from being copied illegally, disabled protections against viruses and spyware, potentially leaving unaware computer users vulnerable. Sony settled the suit.
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