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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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  • by phaggood (690955) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:08AM (#33552102) Homepage
    to open source, this is a prime example. Sheesh!
  • Troll story? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iONiUM (530420) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:10AM (#33552114) Homepage Journal

    You know, while I know it's popular opinion to hate on Microsoft on slashdot, doesn't it seem to me that it's the Russian government abusing their own laws in order to screw the opposition, rather than Microsoft sitting there plotting how to hurt people? If it wasn't this, it would be something else.

    Just sayin'..

  • by hessian (467078) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:19AM (#33552162) Homepage Journal

    Third world countries tend to be run by juntas, warlords, oligarchs and strongmen. They're like having the Mafia, except as your official government.

    If you want to get anything done in these countries, you make nice with them. Either that, or you have to overthrow them.

    This is why the CIA is routinely in bed with horrible people -- these horrible people run the horrible countries where they need to get things done.

    Western businesses have taken a massive beating in Russia because everything is corrupt (Russia, as a country with minimal rule of law and an average IQ of 96, qualifies as third-world). They've started to play ball because short of that invasion, it's the only option.

    In this case, while Microsoft is doing evil, it's also a necessary evil if they want to do business in Russia.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:23AM (#33552186)

    There isn't one reason for NGOs continue to use microsoft software, in fact there are lots of reasons to not use it!

  • Uh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:31AM (#33552222)
    "but we are open to feedback on what we can do to improve in that regard.'"
    Of course, such feedback might make you a target but hey...

    Microsoft is inherently evil. Like kicking puppies.
  • by dnaumov (453672) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:33AM (#33552232)

    to open source, this is a prime example. Sheesh!

    How would switching to open source help when you are getting raided on the PRETENSE you are using pirated software? You could be using a lab full od Linux PCs and still get raided to ensure you are "in compliance".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:38AM (#33552262)

    Looks like a case of Russian authorities and Microsoft learning from each other about how to more efficiently violate human rights and get away with it. Considering how adept BOTH are at this within their own areas of expertise, it really isn't any real shocker. A real match made in hell,if you ask me.

    Only way it could be worse would be if Microsoft was doing the same with authorities in the PRC.

    Oh, wait,....they are.

  • Microsoft is in cahoots with the police, both in this instance and when they extort money from businesses on license checks (a la BSA).

    Why would you pay to use the products of an entity that is blackmailing you?

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

    by Draek (916851) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:48AM (#33552304)

    Yeah, but if it had been Apple or Google only the corrupt lawyers would've been blamed and not the whole organization.

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

    by bsDaemon (87307) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @09:53AM (#33552322)

    Modern Russia? You must have Russia confused with a country that has ever been free. The went from the Czars to the Bolsheviks, and have since been lead by a string of oil barons and former KGB officers nostalgic for the old days. I mean, really... has that country ever had anything approaching freedom since the original Viking settlers headed out there in the middle ages?

  • by Draek (916851) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:00AM (#33552346)

    The fact that you call Russia of all things a "third world" country shows you couldn't find your way out of your ass with a flashlight and a map.

  • by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:01AM (#33552352) Journal

    You have to buy something with a shiny hologram for it to be legit, even be it merely a Linux dist burnt onto a CD-R.

    To be legit in Russia, you have to pay the correct bribes, and follow the correct political line. After all, holograms can be faked, but groveling cannot.

  • Re:Troll story? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:05AM (#33552370) Journal

    Abusing its own laws? They're the government, for crying out loud. Laws are their toys. They own them. They can do what they want. This notion the the laws are somehow sacrosanct is a decadent Western invention.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:07AM (#33552382) Homepage

    On one hand, Microsoft has a right to complain about copyright infringement. Even I will not deny them that. On the other, Microsoft is probably aware of the selective nature of how Russian officials investigate and act on those claims. Should Microsoft, imagining for a moment that they have any sort of conscience, contribute to the oppression of human rights by issuing complaints?

    As another pointed out, running Linux and free software on every machine will not quite end the problem. After all, Microsoft has long since campaigned against "naked PCs" and that they are likely to be software pirates unless they were sold with OEM Windows and OEM Office. Their complaints may well be in the form of "they are running PCs but we show no indication that they have licensed any software from us!" That would be reason enough, I suspect, to raid a location or two.

    So, I have decided that Microsoft is a willing and complicit tool in this case. They can't not be aware of how their complaints are being used given their selective enforcement nature. And as far as Russian government officials are concerned, we are generally aware of the levels of government corruption within ex-Soviet countries. (I'll grant that the impression of government corruption in Russia is rather "cartoonish" in our understanding which is essentially belief without first-hand knowledge or evidence.) Microsoft should be more careful about issuing complaints. They aren't making examples of software pirates, in these cases, they are just being used as a weapon to "legitimately" attack political opponents.

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

    by DarkKnightRadick (268025) <the_spoon.geo@yahoo.com> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:11AM (#33552402) Homepage Journal

    Only because Apple and Google don't have a history of being corrupt as a whole.

  • by Zironic (1112127) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:19AM (#33552456)

    Russia by definition can't be a third world country as they define the second world, now even if they didn't how the fuck can you put Russia in the same category as Nigeria? Do you have any sense of proportion whatsoever?

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:24AM (#33552472)

    Google can't even do business in China without being accused of being "evil", so I can't really fathom what you're trying to say. What Microsoft is doing here is a lot worse than censoring search results, and yet you're saying Google gets free passes in the press?

    I think you may want to examine you biases.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:34AM (#33552548) Journal

    I don't. Last MS product I bought was Office 97.

    Anyway while individual business owners may have morals, corporations are not owned by anybody (except stockholders). They do not reflect a desire for morality, but Id esire to increase the monetary income and don't give a frak about human rights. As we see with how Microsoft and Apple* treat individual citizens.

    *
    *I'm thinking of the case where a British guy had his iPod start smoking and then blowup. Apple refused to replace it. Then they changed their minds and said they would, but only if the man agree o give up his Right to free speech (about the ipod) for the rest of his life.

  • by mcneely.mike (927221) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:35AM (#33552556)

    If everyone stopped using Microsoft products and BUYING Microsoft products, Micorsoft would disappear quickly and could bribe (sorry... Help) no officials and the officials would stop listening to them.

    The only problem with that is that it seems the majority of the world is STUPID and is still using Microsoft products and giving Microsoft their money.

    STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES!

    THINK ABOUT IT!

  • by Mathinker (909784) * on Sunday September 12, 2010 @10:49AM (#33552636) Journal

    > My money's on the $5 wrench. [xkcd.com]

    Refusal (and therefore, I suppose, inability) to surrender your encryption keys in the UK is a crime. I suppose trying to use some system with deniability might be of use, but given the spirit of that law, I don't see it as an impossibility that the court would merely presume (based on other "evidence") that you have used the deniability features of whatever encryption system is installed, and jail you for not surrendering the (presumed) keys (even if you haven't used those features).

  • by Erikderzweite (1146485) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:38AM (#33552932)

    AC is right though. There is business of selling shiny licenses for Linux' distributions, even Mandriva does that in Russia. Shiny papers are usually enough to shake off the raids. If the government want to disrupt your business badly however, no amount of licenses will help.

  • by Erikderzweite (1146485) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @11:56AM (#33553086)

    Microsoft is playing a win-win game in Russia (pun intended). First, pirated software invades the market and secures 99% of desktop OS and Office applications markets for them. Then, pressure is being put on government as piracy is cited as one of the top reasons which prevent Russia to join the WTO. Note that it is mostly US government which does the pressure there, not Microsoft. The company is just milking the market while getting rid of pirates which brought them the market in the first place.

    The best thing is — little to no MS involvement is needed: pirates will win the market as people would choose something that should cost money over something that shouldn't if both items cost the same. US will put a pressure on Russia anyway (and software sales are good exports too). The government in Russia will eagerly use piracy claims against opposition which they view as Western shills (for them it is using enemy's weapons against the enemy). Last but not least — companies and people will buy MS products as everybody is using them and government is after those who don't buy licensed copies. The business is being done for Microsoft, they just have sit back and collect the money.

  • by hoggoth (414195) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:18PM (#33553252) Journal

    Bullshit, bullshit, and more bullshit.

    Every decision is made by a human being. I am tired of "corporations" getting a pass for immoral decisions because they are not people, but imaginary entities. Every corporation is run by people who sit behind a desk and decide what to do.

    Every clerk who kills someone by denying them medical coverage is committing an immoral act.
    The Microsoft exec who decided he could make his quarterly numbers by assisting in mafia-style protection and harassment cons against Russian companies is committing an immoral act.

    Never forget that. Don't let it slide. When evil is done, someone made the decision to do it.

  • by mcneely.mike (927221) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @12:27PM (#33553316)

    I know..... but that's why i think people should stop and think about what they are doing once in a while, instead of using Windows because everyone uses Windows even though it is crap.

    People rag on about how weird Richard Stallman is, but he has been correct about pretty much everything.

    This shows us exactly why we should NEVER be using software that locks us in and can be used to harm us.

  • good question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Presto Vivace (882157) <marshall@prestovivace.biz> on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:18PM (#33553570) Homepage Journal
    Why would you pay to use the products of an entity that is blackmailing you? Nobody ever won a war with their customers. Moreover, the message I get from this is that you can steal to your heart's content so long as you are not involved in political activism.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @01:46PM (#33553738)

    Folks, to be fair, you need to acknowledge that ALL public or commercial institutions in Russia are using genuine Windows (if they aren't using Linux). The situation with pirated Windows has drastically changed over the last few years. With fines and chances of legal pursuits considerably high, the use of pirated Windows is a major no-no for any organization.

    However, that push started as early as in 2006, with the MS vs. Ponosov case:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponosov's_case
    And that's when people understood, that if a low-paid school teacher could face criminal charges for the use of pirated MS products in his school, that could get repeated everywhere.

    It's really a shame that Clifford Levy didn't even mention Aleksandr Ponosov in his article. Yes, that person didn't voice anti-Governmental claims. But it's that case, when the MS started its push of a big corporation against an usual person.

    I'm consider buying a notebook in Russia, and it will come with the pre-installed legal Windows system. Guess, why?

  • by hoggoth (414195) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @02:21PM (#33553954) Journal

    You are stretching the meaning of my post to make a point in your agenda.
    I think most people understand what I was talking about.

    Someone pays their premiums month after month, year after year. The day they get cancer the insurance company finds some technicality in their original application and cancels their insurance. That is wrong. That is immoral and daresay it evil.

    If someone submits a claim for something they truly aren't covered for or stops paying their premiums, of course that is different. The insurance company made a deal with it's customers: you pay monthly premiums and we will pay for your medical costs, according to the rules in the policy. Changing the rules later, or hiding loopholes in the rules to renege on upholding their part of the bargain is immoral and unethical, even if it isn't always illegal.

    This has nothing to do with "Obama". Corporations doing bad things is much older than the current infatuation with those darn "socialist liberal progressives".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 12, 2010 @04:05PM (#33554840)

    > As another pointed out, running Linux and free software on every machine will not quite end the problem. After all, Microsoft has long since campaigned against "naked PCs" and that they are likely to be software pirates unless they were sold with OEM Windows and OEM Office.

    That will get interesting as more non-x86 architectures become mainstream. Systems Microsoft doesn't even make an OS for...

  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:30PM (#33555660) Homepage

    How often does this happen? 1/10th of a percent? Let's not make a big deal about a problem that is actually quite small...

    Note that somewhere between 500K-1M persons are diagnosed with cancer each year and that ~550,000 die each year from the disease, a conservative estimate of somewhere between 5 and 15 million people are currently diagnosed with and being treated for cancer. If we take your 0.1% as a figure of cancellation, this means that we would have somewhere from 5-15K people who fall under your small problem - and that would be each year. Given that we have just undergone our annual week-long grief-fest for an attack that took only 2740 American lives, perhaps we should take just a little time to worry about things that destroy 2-5 as many lives each year. And, BTW, even though, as you termed it, "Pelosicare" (and, BTW, nice unecessary political troll there) does proscribe denial on pre-existing conditions, it does not proscribe raising rates to unsustainable levels once conditions are diagnosed. Of course, someone like you probably thinks that this is fine.

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

    by sjames (1099) on Sunday September 12, 2010 @05:58PM (#33555898) Homepage

    I once convinced a client to go with a non-MS solution by calling MS and asking how many of what license would be required. Everyone on both sides of the conversation ended up confused and no once and for all answer emerged. No assurances were offered that the setup would be considered license compliant.

    If THEY don't know what is necessary to be compliant on any given day, how is anyone else to know? If you can't know, how can you comply?

    I agree that if a company is going to use MS products it should attempt to comply. Really, the rational move given the uncertainty, cost of internal compliance auditing, and the cost of licenses in the first place, is to use Free Software and stop worrying. If the BSA can't show a valid EULA between you and one of their member companies, they cannot barge in.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 13, 2010 @08:50AM (#33560082)

    RMS *is* running a successful business. He just doesn't get out of it what you seem to think is the ultimate goal: having more money than you want or need.

    Creating a whole subculture, making possible a huge blooming system of free software, writing countless of apps of such quality that they are still used 20 years later and have begotten a religion-like following. It's good you prefer money to that kind of success, because you will never, ever be able to do something close.

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