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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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September 14, 2010

Russia Uses Microsoft IP to Suppress Dissent

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Microsoft caught in bed with the Russian FSB; this stuff just can't be made up. The NY Times reported this weekend that Russian authorities are making bogus raids on NGOs. The supposed purpose of these raids is to find pirated copies of Microsoft software and NGOs are reporting their computers are seized and not returned. Of course, anyone who can search the Web knows that Russia is a haven for copiers of all sorts and you can just as easily find copies of Microsoft products on .ru Web sites as you can find copies of movies and MP3s of music.

None of that seems to bother the authorities, somehow. Instead, according to Cliff Levy's article, the Russians have made "dozens of similar raids against outspoken advocacy groups or opposition newspapers." Suspicious much?

Microsoft comes in for criticism is that it has apparently known about this for months and done nothing. Levy further notes that human rights groups in Russia have been trying for months to get Microsoft to act. According to self-proclaimed cyber-cynic Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols in ComputerWorld, Microsoft has even gone so far as to provide information to support the police actions, though Microsoft claims those are just local lawyers it hired and apparently failed to supervise adequately.

It seems that the light of publicity is finally spurring action, though. Today's update to the story comes from Fred Weir at the Christian Science Monitor: Microsoft is offering, essentially, a shield license for journalists and NGOs. These organizations and individuals would be able to have free legally licensed copies of Microsoft products, which would end any IP-related pretext for the police raids. In addition, Microsoft are supposed to be setting up a legal assistance program to help NGOs who have already lost their computers prove that they had legal licenses to the Microsoft software on the machines.

In a sense, this is a "better late than never" kind of sad story. It's also a lesson in how real journalism can spur public outcry that can still move mega-corporations to action. As we watch the disintegration of the 20th century modes of creating and distributing investigative journalistic work, let's try to figure out how we can hold onto the good stuff, like Levy's story.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Laws and Regulations


COMMENTS

1. John Herald on September 14, 2010 1:00 PM writes...

Alan, outstanding synopsis with appropriate observations and links. The sad side of the story is that the suppression in Russia will continue with or without Microsoft's complicity. In the U.S., we, too, fall victim to the abuses of corporations and the arms of government - some as equally horrendous if you consider Savings & Loans, Bernie Madoff and the 2008 financial crash. While we can't do much in matters of immense scale, our rights for the most part are amply protected from the represessions common to many other countries. The bright side of an often dark universe.

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2. DrWex on September 14, 2010 2:44 PM writes...

John: Thank you. I agree that nothing done to resolve this situation will fundamentally change the Russian regime's use of force to suppress dissenting voices. At best this will remove one pretext they have had.

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