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Microsoft To Issue Blanket License To NGOs 255

Posted by Soulskill
from the making-it-better dept.
itwbennett writes "Following a recent report that Russian police have used software copyright raids to seize computers of activist groups, Microsoft announced it will issue a blanket software license to nonprofit groups and journalist groups outside the US. The new blanket license should remove software piracy as an excuse for 'nefarious actions' by enforcement authorities, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith wrote. The new license 'cuts in one swoop the Gordian knot that otherwise is getting in the way of our desired handling of these legal issues,' he said. 'The law in Russia (and many other countries) requires that one must provide truthful information about the facts in response to a subpoena or other judicial process. With this new software license, we effectively change the factual situation at hand. Now our information will fully exonerate any qualifying [nonprofit], by showing that it has a valid license to our software.'"
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Microsoft To Issue Blanket License To NGOs

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  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday September 13, 2010 @05:37PM (#33566804) Journal

    And the qualifier is, of course, "qualifying." The article doesn't say who qualifies

    The article does not, because it talks about a future event ("will issue a license"). I would imagine that the text of said license would go for over 40 pages (as usual) detailing out who qualifies for what.

  • by vux984 (928602) on Monday September 13, 2010 @05:51PM (#33566926)

    And the qualifier is, of course, "qualifying." The article doesn't say who qualifies, and says that journalists and NGOs don't have to do anything to get the license, which means they don't find out that they don't qualify until they're in the same situation they're already facing, I guess.

    This isn't the sort of situation where microsoft would be trying to weasel. More importantly, the way it worked from what I can tell, is that russian authorities needed Microsoft lawyers to essentially sign-off on the complaints against dissidents -- they'd indicate they had "reason to beleive" group-X was using priated software, and the MS-attack-lawyers would say 'raid away'.

    This change is essentially instructions from Microsoft to its own legal counsel saying if its an NGO or Journalist etc then they have a license, and not to be party to police requests.

    Strictly speaking they could instruct their lawyers to refuse to pursue cases against NGOs and so on without the license, but this 'grant of license' is:

    a) good PR

    b) makes it harder (impossible?) to for the police to build a software piracy case as long as the legal system isn't competely subverted. The Microsoft lawyer simply says "they are licensed" end of story. He doesn't have to say, something like "my client isn't interested in prosecuting a case against them". Its more thorough and complete this way. It changes from "they might be doing something wrong, but we don't care to find out" to "we are completely satisfied that they are licensed".

    which means they don't find out that they don't qualify until they're in the same situation they're already facing, I guess.

    As you can see they don't really need to "know they qualify". The protection is indirect - its really more a way to give microsoft's lawyers an out from having to cooperate with russian police against NGOs more than direct protection for the end user. At least that's how i read it.

  • Re:Linux and BSD ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday September 13, 2010 @05:59PM (#33567022) Journal

    The irony is that you can still end up in court for running Linux on PCs without "licenses", because the police don't understand it, and will only take those shiny holographic stickers as a proof that your software is "licensed". It's boneheaded, but some Russian Linux distribution companies have since started selling special stickers for Linux just for this purpose.

  • by brianary (986309) on Monday September 13, 2010 @06:18PM (#33567194)

    Which organizations? How will Microsoft define "journalist"? Will bloggers qualify? Does the journalist, the publication, and/or the group need to be outside the US?

    Will they get a license key and support?

    "Whatever the circumstances of the particular cases the New York Times described, we want to be clear that we unequivocally abhor any attempt to leverage intellectual property rights to stifle political advocacy or pursue improper personal gain."

    So very naive. Do they think they are getting IP enforcement externalities for free?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 13, 2010 @06:52PM (#33567520)
    Yes, but what compiler [wikipedia.org] did you use?
  • by Score Whore (32328) on Monday September 13, 2010 @06:56PM (#33567542)

    But did you build your OS via tapping bits onto the SATA bus with a paperclip? Otherwise you have no idea what your OS is putting in there. See Ken Thompson Reflections on Trusting Trust. [bell-labs.com]

  • Re:hmm... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Monday September 13, 2010 @07:31PM (#33567782) Journal

    Not that I'm an MS fan but people who pirate software these days when there are usually very good legally free alternatives are hypocrites who deserve all they get.

    What makes them hypocritical? To be hypocritical they'd have to start their own software company and loudly complain when other people pirated their product.

  • by Eskarel (565631) on Monday September 13, 2010 @07:59PM (#33568000)

    There are all sorts of non profit and not for profit organizations all over the world, just as there are all sorts of "journalists" all over the world. Microsoft wants to look good and protect small non profits and journalists from government interference. They don't want to allow NBC or Fox to call their entire staff "journalists" and get out of paying license fees, or allow larger not for profit organizations to do the same. Which is fair enough. I work for a not for profit which has revenues approaching a billion dollars a year in local currency, we don't need nor deserve free Microsoft licenses, nor does the PR guy at NBC.

    Now if they put in additional exceptions to rule out organizations like the FSF you might have a case that they're being nefarious(not that the FSF would want free Microsoft licenses, but that's largely beside the point), putting a qualification on non profit and journalist to stop huge corporations from dodging license fees on the other hand isn't a problem.

  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday September 13, 2010 @08:02PM (#33568012) Journal

    Not true. Victims might have a hard time getting prosecutors to go after a case, but I made a living getting "victims" to sign statements saying that they would not testify if they went to court, and they were always, always dropped. That was many years ago, but I can't see that being any different now, at least in the USA.

  • by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @01:00AM (#33570022)
    Good call. Because there's absolutely no way in hell that the Russian government has people who could hack backdoors into open source, compile it, and surreptitiously install it onto rooted Linux systems.

    I agree with this: Russian law enforcement and government folks don't need copyright laws and Microsoft to hack or harass dissenters. But I'll go further: they don't generally need back doors at all, because they have no problem with kicking down the front door and dragging citizens out into the street, or simply shooting people in the head. Seriously, they act outside the law and do what they think needs to be done, without the constraints they we in the West are used to. Capitalist corruption and totalitarianism have taken over for the Leninist corruption and totalitarianism that we grew up reading about.

    Got money in Russia, you can buy influence and protection. Question the corruption or try to change the status quo, you'll find yourself in a world of pain and trouble, if you keep breathing that is. The situation may not typically be as bloody as the drug-infused battlegrounds in Mexico that we in the US keep reading about, but you'd better know what you're doing if you challenge any level of government in Russia.

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