Software Piracy

How To Tell If You Have A Legal Copy Of Windows

We all like a good deal now and then especially when it comes to expensive software.  That’s why most people turn to software piracy.  Software piracy is the unauthorized copying of software. Most retail programs are licensed for use at just one computer site or for use by only one user at any time. By buying the software, you become a licensed user rather than an owner. You are allowed to make copies of the program for backup purposes, but it is against the law to give copies to friends and colleagues.  Often people and some computer repair shops will try to sell you Microsoft Windows Operating Systems such as Windows 7, at a greatly reduced price.   This is where you must stop and ask yourself is this a legal copy of this software.

So how do you tell if it’s a legal copy of the software?  Microsoft affixes a sticker to each piece of software they sell.  This sticker is called a COA or Certificate Of Authenticity.  A COA is not a software license – it is a visual identifier that assists in determining whether or not the Microsoft software you are running is genuine. However, without it, you will not have a legal license to run Microsoft software.  It must also be noted that it is illegal to sell just the COA without the software it authenticates.  Examples of COAs and previous versions can be found at

If you receive offers for COAs as stand-alone items, be aware that these offers are highly suspect and can put you at risk. To fall victim to stand-alone COAs offers means that you may have wasted valuable money and you will not have a legal license to run the software. The best way for you to protect yourself is to purchase software from a familiar, reputable reseller. The Anti-Counterfeiting Act of 2003 makes it a criminal offense for dishonest resellers to distribute stand-alone COA labels.

Software piracy results in lost wages, lost jobs, and unfair competition.  You can help stop this illegal and harmful activity by knowing how to spot and avoid illegal software.  Reporting suspected violations when you encounter them, can have a positive impact on the fight against piracy.  There are three ways to report someone suspected of software piracy:

1:  By Email at

2:  Call the Microsoft Anti-Piracy Hotline at (800) RU-LEGIT

3:  Fill out an online reporting form

Microsoft takes all leads seriously and will investigate, although they can not tell you the outcome of your lead.

I hope this will help someone to identify illegal software and give you resources to do something about it.  Please feel free to email me with any questions or concerns or visit my website at


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