Russian Officials Abusing Copyright Law -- With Microsoft's Help -- To Intimidate Gov't Critics

from the well,-look-at-that dept

Almost exactly three years ago, we wrote about how the Russian gov't (after years of diplomatic pressure from the US), was suddenly cracking down on organizations for using unauthorized software -- but, that such "anti-piracy raids" only seemed to target government critics. We've suggested in the past that the US should know better than to pressure countries like Russia and China to be more proactive when it comes to copyright issues, because those efforts will backfire when such tools are used solely to further the political ambitions of those in power, not the business prospects of American companies.

It looks like the Russian government's misuse of copyright law in this manner has continued, and the NY Times (who also had that original article three years ago, though they don't point back to it, like we do) is noting that Microsoft appears to be helping the Russian government suppress dissent in this manner, because even when organizations claim they legally licensed Microsoft products, Microsoft keeps its hardline "down with pirates" line and supports the Russian raids and prosecutions. Despite the fact that these sorts of stories have appeared for at least three years, and despite claims from the groups targeted that they've requested Microsoft's help in not being involved in frivolous attacks, Microsoft only seems to have taken notice of the issue once the NY Times came calling.

And, before people say that the best way to avoid these things is to either not use Microsoft software at all, or to properly license it, it should be made clear that there's evidence that Russian officials don't care:
But the review of these cases indicates that the security services often seize computers whether or not they contain illegal software. The police immediately filed reports saying they had discovered such programs, before even examining the computers in detail. The police claims have in numerous instances been successfully discredited by defendants when the cases go before judges.

Given the suspicions that these investigations are politically motivated, the police and prosecutors have turned to Microsoft to lend weight to their cases. In southwestern Russia, the Interior Ministry declared in an official document that its investigation of a human rights advocate for software piracy was begun "based on an application" from a lawyer for Microsoft.
In other cases, organizations that were raided had compliance stickers on the computers, and had all the receipts and documentation ready to show police. However, police refused to look at the documentation and removed the stickers that showed compliance.

Microsoft execs should be ashamed of how their ridiculous anti-piracy stance is being abused to put down political dissent. Shameful.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Sep 13th, 2010 @ 8:53am

    ARGHHH!

    You mean to tell me that NY Times has a paywall?

    There's nothing I can do to read the story for myself or even link it if need be. Looks like I'm linking people to Techdirt to get the scoop.

    Anyway, IIRC, Russia is usually poorer than the US (/sarcasm), so people can't afford Microsoft's prices. I know that they're a monopoly and all, but has there ever been a story about MS offering a price differentiation instead of jailtime?

     

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  2.  
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    interval (profile), Sep 13th, 2010 @ 9:56am

    Re: ARGHHH!

    If people would only realize that Linux + apps == PROFITS the world would be such a snuggly place.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Revelati, Sep 13th, 2010 @ 10:06am

    Well it certainly seems like a step up from the old policy of shooting people in the back of the head in a dark alley. Good for you Russia! For taking to the time to pretend to have legal reasons for arresting dissenters.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Catharina, Sep 13th, 2010 @ 10:49am

    Support gnu/linux

    Even though it might not stop the police and governments, it still is a good idea to use and support free software as in gnu/linux in stead of propriety stuff. If more do, it weakens the position and allmighty powers of businesses like Microsoft and Apple. How rediculous is that to have taxpayers money waisted on checking up on software licenses?

     

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  5.  
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    Hulser (profile), Sep 13th, 2010 @ 11:08am

    I don't think it's fair to say that Microsoft's behavior is "shameful". Maybe "not honorable" or "not doing enough", but not "shameful". Unless Microsoft are treating cases against "enemies of the state" differently, then it's the Russian government's fault/responsibility. They're the ones targeting dissenters, not Microsoft.

    You could make the case that Micosoft should stand up to the Russian government, but in my mind there is a big difference between proactively helping someone do evil and not doing enough to reactively prevent evil. One hopes that if called on to prevent evil, we'd do the right thing, but there's still a large gap between the two behaviors.

    I would think a good compromise would be for Microsoft to provide copies of the purchase records to the groups being targeted, maybe even in a public forum. Make it something that is automated. Go to this web page, type in your registration number and get printouts of the licensing information. Just like the Russian government doing evil by hiding behind "piracy", Microsoft can do good by hiding behind "customer service". "What? Should we not have done that? We were just trying to help our paying customers."

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2010 @ 12:24pm

    Great argument for using F/OSS...

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    You can bet those people being persecuted will take a very close look on the competition and probably will switch to free software.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2010 @ 4:09pm

    Re:

    Didn't read all the way through, have you?

    'In other cases, organizations that were raided had compliance stickers on the computers, and had all the receipts and documentation ready to show police. However, police refused to look at the documentation and removed the stickers that showed compliance. '

    So how is your idea going to help at all? Microsoft are the ones that egged the government on, so yes, their actions are 'shameful.'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Deakon, Sep 13th, 2010 @ 4:50pm

    Microsoft Strikes Back

    PC World and others are running this news bit as well but Microsoft just did the right thing. They gave the software a seal of approval and said leave us out of your political games.
    http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/205370/microsoft_to_issue_blanket_license_to_n gos.html

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2010 @ 6:23pm

    Re: Microsoft Strikes Back

    NPR had this on All Things Considered today-
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129837985

    I guess it got too hot for the Redmond menace to be linked to the Putinistas.

     

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  11.  
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    Hulser (profile), Sep 14th, 2010 @ 6:12am

    Re: Re:

    Didn't read all the way through, have you?

    I read the part in the linked you quoted and I have the same opinion of it on reading it in your post: that it is completely irrelevent to my point. All it points to is that these Russian police are corrupt. How does that relate to Microsoft?

    Microsoft are the ones that egged the government on, so yes, their actions are 'shameful.'

    Microsoft asked the Russian government to enforce its laws. The Russian government selectively enforced the laws to squelch dissent. How is this Microsoft's responsibility? Holding Microsoft accountable in this case is like saying that because you're in favor of laws against murder, that you're responsible for any corrupt cops in the homocide department.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Sep 14th, 2010 @ 2:33pm

    Microsoft and Russia

    Is anyone naive enough to believe Microsoft does this only in Russia? Wouldn't happen here, you say? There's dumb, then there is moronic.
    At least Apple has made it clear they can and might do the same sort of thing here. They may be evil for it, but at least they are honest.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Windows XP Help, Jul 20th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    the article

    i wish i could figure this all out

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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