MSFT Requires Acknowledgement Of Guilt: Trial Continues

Tuesday, 2007-February-20 at 18:58

According to Kommersant Moscow,

Principal of Sepychevskaya village school Alexander Ponosov, charged with using pirated Windows software, refused yesterday to make terms with Microsoft company. If Ponosov had agreed to apologize to the company, the criminal case would have been closed.

Microsoft had earlier claimed that this trial was not their doing, but the criminal prosecutor’s office in that part of Russia.  I am not familiar with the Russian legal system, so I’m not sure how things work there.  But one should be able to presume that government agencies are independent of commercial interests.

Mr. Ponosov, it seems, will most likely get a fine instead of prison, unless he agrees to plead guilty and apologize to Microsoft.  Unfortunately, this takes what could have been an “everyone wins” situation and makes it into a loss for some.  First of all, the teacher loses.  The prosecutor wins, being seen as tough on crime and pro-intellectual property.  Microsoft wins and loses: schools and government agencies in that part of Russia will not buy pirated software, but the software that they do use is likely to be free & open source software (FOSS), such as Linux and OpenOffice.org.  Chances are, once the kids and office workers get used to the software, they will want to use it at home also, which they can because of its licensing.  Of course local FOSS projects and their users win.  Gorbachev wins, whether the teacher is punished or not, since he has now shown himself to be in favor of the common man.  Putin loses, but he also wins.  Western politicians have been pushing for a crackdown on stolen “IP” for years, so this will endure him to them and their {MPA|RIA}A masters.  However, he also loses domestically, because he also spoke out saying that this was unjust and should not be allowed to proceed.

Not that I am familiar with Russian internal life and politics.  Even our own domestic politics is sickening enough–why would anyone want to expose themselves to more of it outside the nation?

As an indication of this, I note that they returned “evidence” to the defendant before everything was finalized.  Now that one of the 12 hard drives is missing, they may have another issue to prosecute over.  In our nation, the evidence would stay with the prosecutors until everything was finally resolved, and even then the defendant might not get everything back.

To third world countries as well as countries like Russia: your best bet is free and open source software.  Really.  If you ditch proprietary software, you won’t need to buy pirated (stolen) software.  Plus, your students and users can learn more about it and how it works because the source is available if they choose to download it.  You may even find users improving the software, making it better-suited to the uses that take place in your environment.

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