Microsoft is stepping up its actions against piracy. I found a blog by Aviran Mordo at http://www.aviransplace.com/index.php/archives/2005/02/22/changes-in-windows-xp-product-activation/ that tells about this:
On February 28, Microsoft® will disable Internet activation for all Microsoft Windows® XP product keys located on the Certificates of Authenticity (COA) labels distributed by large, multinational OEMs.
Direct OEMs of Microsoft (large multinational OEMs that that have a direct signed license agreement with Microsoft) usually preinstall Windows software using System Lock Preinstall (SLP), which is a direct OEM’s method of legitimately bypassing Product Activation on behalf of their customers.
One form of piracy occurs when Product Keys are stolen from Certificates of Authenticity (COAs) that have been placed on direct OEM machines where the Windows software was preinstalled using SLP. Pirates take the Product Key from these COAs and sell them to resellers or customers who then use them to activate a hard disk loaded copy of Windows.
To reduce the illegal trafficking of these OEM product keys Microsoft will “disable” the ability to activate these direct OEM Product Keys over the Internet. When a customer or reseller tries to activate using a Product Key found on the list of “disabled” Keys, the online product activation wizard will instruct them to call Microsoft where a customer service representative can assist them further. Call center operators receiving these calls will only issue an override key to customers who correctly answer a series of questions which manually verify them as legitimate.
The first phase of this Product Activation policy update will affect product keys from the top 20 Direct OEMs only. This policy will go into effect on February 28th with additional updates throughout the year to extend this policy to all OEMs authorized to use SLP. This change will affect all Windows XP product keys already shipped from the top 20 OEMs in the market today as well as shipments going forward.
We’ll just have to wait until this happens before we know for sure if it works or not