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Microsoft Complaints Help Russian Gov't Pursue Political Opposition Groups 249

Posted by timothy
from the honestly-now dept.
asaz989 writes "The New York Times reports that Russia selectively pursues software piracy complaints from Microsoft in order to suppress the opposition — confiscating computers for evidence, searching offices, and the like. Microsoft lawyers usually back the authorities in such cases, even when cases such as that of the environmentalist group Baikal Waves, which went out of its way to buy licenses to prevent police harassment and nevertheless had its offices raided, and its computers confiscated. Microsoft participated in this legal process. Published alongside this story, under the same byline, is a related piece on the collusion of Microsoft lawyers with corrupt Russian police in extorting money from the targets of software piracy investigations. In a responding press release, the company states, 'Microsoft antipiracy efforts are designed to honor both [antipiracy concerns and human rights], but we are open to feedback on what we can do to improve in that regard.'"
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Microsoft Complaints Help Russian Gov't Pursue Political Opposition Groups

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  • Re:Troll story? (Score:5, Informative)

    by DarkKnightRadick (268025) <the_spoon.geo@yahoo.com> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:17AM (#33552152) Homepage Journal

    Yes, but Microsoft is apparently in collusion to help the police in these cases. That's disgusting. Absolutely disgusting and it would be so no matter if it was Apple, Google, or some other software vendor.

  • From TFA (Score:3, Informative)

    by andy1307 (656570) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:01AM (#33552350)

    Microsoft executives in Moscow and at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash., asserted that they did not initiate the inquiries and that they took part in them only because they were required to do so under Russian law. After The New York Times presented its reporting to senior Microsoft officials, the company responded that it planned to tighten its oversight of its legal affairs in Russia. Human rights organizations in Russia have been pressing Microsoft to do so for months. The Moscow Helsinki Group sent a letter to Microsoft this year saying that the company was complicit in “the persecution of civil society activists.”

  • by airfoobar (1853132) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:04AM (#33552366)

    "Copyright as censorship" is not a new idea. In fact, it's what copyright was originally meant to be when it was first devised, and now it's simply returning to its roots. With the far-reaching scope of intellectual "property" today, pretty much anyone can be accused of piracy, and oppressive governments can just pick who they want to target and point their finger.

    Companies like Microsoft are just being opportunists (read: "free-market capitalists") -- they know that if they are copyright holders, they have the power to negotiate with governments who are inclined to use copyright as censorship. Who knows what rewards Microsoft will get from the Russian government? Perhaps this is how that official Russian Linux distro was discontinued.

    And don't think the Russian government is the only one to do this sort of thing. Hardly! They are guilty of not being subtle about it, but the US government is just as bad. There's even a "Department of Homeland Security" conducting raids in the name of copyright, so yes I'd say we have a serious problem.

  • Re:From TFA (Score:3, Informative)

    by AHuxley (892839) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:12AM (#33552406) Homepage Journal
    http://tinyurl.com/2usjw6p [tinyurl.com] [yhrm.org] has a link to a letter sent back ~April 15 2010.
  • Re:Troll story? (Score:5, Informative)

    by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:28AM (#33552490) Homepage

    In as much as Microsoft isn't stepping up to clear the names of groups (like Baikal Wave) that have legitimate copies of their software, but are apparently helping the police bully groups that don't, I think you're missing the point. Microsoft isn't just a pawn in this, they're actively helping the state and not helping innocent victims. They're making definite choices who to assist and it's not a purely business decision. (Clearing the your customers of stealing from you is good business.)

  • by eugene2k (1213062) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:51AM (#33552642) Homepage

    >You could be using a lab full od Linux PCs
    In fact three of the computers taken ran Linux.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:29AM (#33552848)

    "Copyright as censorship" is not a new idea. In fact, it's what copyright was originally meant to be when it was first devised, and now it's simply returning to its roots.

    Not exactly. In England at least, copyright did grow out of the Stationer's Office licensing of books; but licensing began as a means of restricting speech (prior restraint), and copyright developed as a side-effect of licensing that hung on when (after the English Civil War & Milton's Areopagitica) prior restraint became less acceptable. So it isn't that copyright was developed for censorship, but rather that copyright was a useful side-effect of licensing/censorship. Oh, and by the way - all ownership is abstract. If it weren't, if you handed Putin your Superbowl ring to try on, it wouldn't be theft if he kept it. . . oh, wait a minute...

  • by hoggoth (414195) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:20PM (#33553272) Journal

    In addition, everyone should read Stanley Milgrim's research (the original and some of his newer work). All people are capable of doing good or evil in the right circumstances. If even a SINGLE person says 'no' it breaks the spell of obedience and many more people start saying 'no' as well. A single act has powerful repercussions even if it doesn't seem so at the time.

     

  • Re:Troll story? (Score:3, Informative)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @06:58PM (#33556338) Journal

    has that country ever had anything approaching freedom since the original Viking settlers headed out there in the middle ages?

    It did. It lasted for about 13 hours, while the Constituent Assembly [wikipedia.org] - the first body in Russia ever formed in a truly democratic elections, and representing all people of the country, was operating.

    If you look back long enough, well, there was also the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (which was culturally half-East Slavic, consisted in large parts from the lands previously belonging to Kievan Rus; and chunks of which remain today in modern Russia), and also Novgorod and Pskov veche [wikipedia.org] republics. But how much political continuity is there between those states and today's Russia is a very contentious question.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @07:21PM (#33556524) Journal

    Russia by definition can't be a third world country as they define the second world

    Soviet Union defined the "second world". That country is no more.

    how the fuck can you put Russia in the same category as Nigeria?

    As of 2008:

    Population
    Russia: 142 021 thousand
    Nigeria: 140 003 thousand

    Gini coefficient
    Russia: 40.5
    Nigeria: 43.7

    Corruption index
    Russia: 143rd place
    Nigeria: 147th place

    Average male life expectance
    Russia: 58 years
    Nigeria: 52 years

    Mortality rate
    Russia: 16,04 deaths per 1000 people
    Nigeria: 16,68 deaths per 1000 people

    Property right protection index
    Russia: 63rd out of 70
    Nigeria: 64th out of 70

    Number of citizens in favor of democracy
    Russia: 47.8%
    Nigeria: 44.2%

    Number of citizens claiming that stability is more important than freedom of speech
    Russia: 47%
    Nigeria: 43%

    Press freedom index ("Reporters without borders")
    Russia: 144th out of 169
    Nigeria: 131st out of 169

    Ease of doing business index (World Bank)
    Russia: 106th out of 178
    Nigeria: 108th out of 178

    Economic freedom index (WSJ / Heritage Foundation)
    Russia: 120th out of 171
    Nigeria: 131st out of 171

    Global peace index (IEP)
    Russia: 118th out of 121
    Nigeria: 117th out of 121

    The economies of both countries rely mostly on export of natural resources, primarily oil and gas.

    If you thought that Brin was joking when he said that "Russia is Nigeria with snow", then you were wrong. He actually meant precisely what he said, and numbers back it up.

    Oh, and in case someone might want to attack me as an "ignorant American clueless of other countries", I'm Russian.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @07:52PM (#33556754) Journal

    The Baikal environmentalists are confronting not the interests of the government, but interests of the enterprise owner, a person in the top 100 Forbes list.

    And the difference is?.. the present-day Russian government is the government of people inhabiting the top 100 of the Forbes list.

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