Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Undercut by Microsoft, Russia Drops Piracy Case

Via NYTimes.com (Dec 5, 2010) -

The authorities have dismissed software piracy charges against one of Russia’s most well-known environmental groups after Microsoft indicated that it would no longer support the case.

The police in the Siberian city of Irkutsk raided the offices of the group, Baikal Environmental Wave, in January and confiscated 12 computers, all but paralyzing its operations. Investigators said they believed that Baikal Wave had unlicensed Microsoft software on its computers, but the environmentalists said the motivation was entirely political.

The authorities dropped the charges after The New York Times published an extensive account of the case on Sept. 12 that prompted Microsoft to overhaul its policies in Russia.


t appears that the authorities could not move forward in part because Microsoft would no longer help them.

The day after the article was published in The Times, Microsoft apologized for its role in these cases and indicated it would no longer have any involvement in them. The decision would seem to have made it very difficult for the authorities to deploy what had been an increasingly common law-enforcement tactic against government critics.

Microsoft also contacted police officials in Irkutsk and urged them to drop the Baikal Wave case, according to Marina Levina, a spokeswoman for Microsoft in Moscow.

“With the benefit of hindsight, we realize we perhaps could have done more” to help Baikal Wave, Ms. Levina said.

Galina Kulebyakina, a co-chairwoman of Baikal Wave, said Microsoft’s turnabout had damaged the credibility of the Irkutsk police’s case. “They had no choice but to dismiss the charges,” Ms. Kulebyakina said.

She said the authorities had not formally announced their decision because they were embarrassed at how the case had turned out.

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