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Former Judge Accuses Russia's IP Court Of Using Unlicensed Software

from the pot-meet-kettle dept

There are some ongoing jokes of a kind that cynics like myself believe have more than a grain of truth to them. They go something like "The moment you have a person or group sanctimoniously come out violently against [X], you can pretty much set your watch to the eventuality that that same person or group will be found to have committed [X] themselves." This works in a myriad of arenas, from "family first" politicians getting caught up in affairs, to "children first" people and groups found to have abused children, up to and including matters of intellectual property. The examples of those in favor of draconian IP enforcement being found to have violated IP themselves are so legion that this entire sentence could have been constructed of nothing but hyperlinks to those past stories.

And now, it seems, we may be able to add Russia's Intellectual Property Rights Court to the list. A former judge on that court has filed a lawsuit against the court itself accusing it of wanton use of unlicensed Microsoft software.

Paragon is representing Alexander Shmuratov, who is a former Assistant Judge at the Court for Intellectual Property Rights. Shmuratov worked at the Court for several years and claims that the computers there were being operated with expired licenses.

Shmuratov himself told Kommersant that he “saw the notice of an activation failure every day when using MS Office products” in intellectual property court.

Now, it will be easy for some to simply hand-wave this away. Copyright infringement of American products in Russia is something of a national pastime, after all. And with all of the current rhetoric in the public about Russia, much of it deserved, it would be all too easy to shrug this off as a bad actor state doing bad actor things. The Russian government itself is attempting to combat the accusation by discrediting Shmuratov, who it says was fired for providing false income information as a matter of his employment. Making this all the more strange is how the Russian government has conspired with Microsoft in the past to use copyright to intimidate critics of the government.

What none of that changes is that the IP court in a major country may very well have been pirating software as it doled out punishments for the IP infringements of others. If true, that's about as purely laid bare the hypocrisy of IP maximilists as could be had. All kinds of IP infringement happen every day, and in all kinds of ways. The rules for patent, copyright, and trademark law are as convoluted as they are draconian, whereas the simple economics of digital goods practically begs for the kind of use and copying that would be called infringement. If the court overseeing Russia's IP court cases can't get this right, why should it be expected that anyone else can?


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 7 May 2018 @ 11:12am

    "As for the accusation- LOOK, A DISTRACTION!"

    The Russian government itself is attempting to combat the accusation by discrediting Shmuratov, who it says was fired for providing false income information as a matter of his employment.

    Rather than by, oh I dunno, showing that the 'infringing products' were in fact totally paid for and he was making things up, all but confirming that yes, the 'Court for Intellectual Property Rights' was in fact staffed by hypocrites who were willing to hand out punishments for the very thing they engaged in on a regular basis.

    Whether or not he provided fraudulent information when being hired has absolutely nothing to do with the accuracy of the accusations he's making now, so the fact that they are trying to discredit him rather than address his claims shows that even they know that he's telling the truth.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2018 @ 1:07pm

      Re: "As for the accusation- LOOK, A DISTRACTION!"

      Not only do they know he is telling the truth; they also suspect he has got some proof. As soon as there is proof, it is rich to try and claim the opposite... Then again, alternative facts seem to work.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2018 @ 12:22pm

    "The moment you have a person or group sanctimoniously come out violently against [X], you can pretty much set your watch to the eventuality that that same person or group will be found to have committed [X] themselves."

    ahh yiss!!! finally beginning to understand a few things are we? You can hitch this logic right up the usual folks finding their destinies on the roads they take to avoid them.

    TD is a poster child for stuff like this! But don't feel bad, you folks are hardly alone!

    There is a reason every nation gets the government it deserves!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2018 @ 2:00pm

      Re:

      "TD is a poster child for stuff like this!"

      It's not Techdirt. It's Timothy Geigner. He writes great articles about video games. The subject of international politics however, tends to be a bit more complicated, as there are often various pertinent peripheral issues that can easily get missed by most anyone who does not speak the language of the country they're writing about.

      Here's another possible explanation that might help explain why Russian government agencies might be using Microsoft software without paying for it:

      https://www.rt.com/politics/322836-medvedev-bans-foreign-made-software/

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2018 @ 5:45pm

      Re:

      Speaking of sanctimonious assholes. Here comes the king out of hiding from the last time he got his ass handed to him. Wil he grace us with one of the two quotes he knows? Will he run away as son as anyone calls him out on his obvious bullshit? Stay tuned.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2018 @ 12:37pm

    Devil's advocate

    As much as I enjoy seeing copyright maximalists burned by their own wishes, this might not be such a case. Recent versions of Microsoft Office become almost unusable if not properly activated (view only, no saving). I doubt the court would use such a version, because it would simply be too inconvenient to the people using it. The loss of functionality would drive them to something else, whether an older less crippled unauthorized version, an activation for the current version, or a free alternative.

    Some versions of Microsoft Windows panic and claim "not activated" in response to legitimate hardware changes. In these cases, if you don't mind ignoring the notification, you can use the system for a long time (longer than I ever measured) before it actually interferes with your work, so there would be no incentive for the operator to activate the system. Although conversely, if it was properly licensed, reactivating it is theoretically easy, so there's not much reason to leave it in the unactivated state.

    Neither the Techdirt piece nor the underlying Torrentfreak report contain enough detail about exactly what type of activation failure, or in which component, are alleged to have been present. Without that, it's hard to say that the Court was actually in violation of the licensing terms. Regardless, it's very entertaining that, even if they were technically compliant, they did an absymal job at demonstrating compliance.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 7 May 2018 @ 1:11pm

      Re: Devil's advocate

      "Recent versions of Microsoft Office become almost unusable if not properly activated"

      Hmmm really? From personal experience of people asking me to do so it's pretty far from what you are saying. However M$ is offering some pretty good pricing for Office 365 specially with that 1Tb offering that comes attached so I always try to divert them towards signing up. And free software like Libre Office are pretty good for your everyday use, I've used for a long time at work before we got M$ Office licenses that weren't 20 years old.

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

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 7 May 2018 @ 1:38pm

        Re: Re: Devil's advocate

        However M$ is offering some pretty good pricing for Office 365

        Not here in Canada.

        An OEM copy of Office 2013 with a new computer was $210. Good for 10 years, or the life of the computer. $21/year.

        Office 365 - with discounts - is $80/year, at least for the moment.

        Naturally they've recently raised the price of non-subscription Office by $100.

        Which is just one of the reasons why we forgo MS Office on most new PCs, and install Libre Office instead.

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

      • icon
        Richard (profile), 7 May 2018 @ 2:13pm

        Re: Re: Devil's advocate

        Hmmm really? From personal experience of people asking me to do so it's pretty far from what you are saying. However M$ is offering some pretty good pricing for Office 365 specially with that 1Tb offering that comes attached so I always try to divert them towards signing up. And free software like Libre Office are pretty good for your everyday use, I've used for a long time at work before we got M$ Office licenses that weren't 20 years old.

        My personal experience is a little different...

        I too use libreoffice routinely myself on my work laptop - MS office was installed on my machine by my employer - but I never used it and it wasn't activated. The when someone else wanted to borrow my machine for presentations at a conference they wanted to use MS powerpoint and so we hit the 30 day "activate deadline". Annoyed by this I later took the machine back to tech support and they activated it.

        Later they changed the machine's identity to conform to may physical office move - and forgot to re-activate office. So now the "non-activated" nag is back.

        The point is that seeing the non-activated nag message doesn't necessarily mean that the s/w is unlicensed - merely that the habitual user doesn't use that s/w and can't be bothered to get tech support to fix it.

        In short, without further detail, this could easily be a non-story.

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

        • icon
          Ninja (profile), 8 May 2018 @ 4:52am

          Re: Re: Re: Devil's advocate

          Yes, the activation thing is pretty annoying when you need to change something on your machine or move to a new one. I haven't tried anything like with the subscription model yet.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 9 May 2018 @ 10:01am

          "You could be innocent, but your reactions suggests otherwise."

          The point is that seeing the non-activated nag message doesn't necessarily mean that the s/w is unlicensed - merely that the habitual user doesn't use that s/w and can't be bothered to get tech support to fix it.

          In short, without further detail, this could easily be a non-story.

          While I'd agree that it's possible that they have paid for the software and something like what you described caused the 'confusion', their response to his accusations would seem to suggest otherwise.

          They could have simply explained that yes, they have paid for the software, it's properly licensed and it's just a computer issue that's making it look like they're using infringing copies, yet instead they go after the credibility of the one who reported it, as though what happened when he was hired has anything to do with the issue at hand.

          If they were innocent they had a much easier way to demonstrate it, that they didn't suggests that they are incredibly stupid, or that the accusation is on the mark. Neither is exactly a good look for them.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 7 May 2018 @ 1:12pm

    Pot, meet kettle.

    I've used that one too many times with IP maximalists.

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

  • icon
    Nathan F (profile), 7 May 2018 @ 1:41pm

    Tis a bit macabre but... how long do you think this Judge has before there is an 'accident' and can no longer speak out?

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

  • identicon
    Thad, 7 May 2018 @ 2:49pm

    Ah, reporting your old bosses for software piracy. Classic fired-employee revenge move.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2018 @ 9:19pm

    Copyright infringement is the 21st century's ultimate crime!

    Without copyright, DNA would have no incentive to exist.

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


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