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Microsoft announced that its much-ballyhooed operating system, Vista, will lock users out of core functionalities if the software isn’t registered with an MS-approved registration key within 30 days. The move is aimed at curtailing the distribution of hacked versions of the OS, which typically flood the market within days–if not hours–of a release.

It’s a tough stance, particularly for a company that has such a contentious relationship with the open-source and hacker worlds, which typically search for ways around such restrictions. However, Microsoft is gambling that its Software Protection Platform–a series of applications designed to keep prying coders out of its products–will fare better than previous iterations of its protection programs.

The software industry’s move toward more intrusive digital rights management–and the resulting programs that trace what is on users’ computers–should concern everyone. While it’s understandable that a company would want to protect its intellectual property, it’s not so clear-cut that these companies should have access to what runs on your personal computer.

While Apple has drawn my ire for its restrictive licensing agreements for media, Microsoft’s move has the potential to be far scarier for two reasons: its operating system is the most popular in the United States and it is moving the monitoring from individual media files (such as Apple does) and porting that to your hard drive.

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