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.