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Microsoft Upset Over Misuse of Anti-piracy Laws

September 14, 2010

Software firm Microsoft on Monday said it was concerned over a report that anti-software piracy laws were being used to suppress dissent in Russia and announced measures it would take to try to put an end to the practice.

Microsoft’s statement came after a report in The New York Times that the Russian government had used piracy charges concerning Microsoft software to confiscate computers and persecute non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Microsoft senior vice president and general counsel Brad Smith in a blog post said: “it was not the type of story that felt good to read.”

“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,” said Smith.

Smith added that the company is moving quickly to “remove any incentive or ability to engage in such behavior.”

Microsoft has internal teams around the globe looking into the issues and, according to Smith, was seeking advice from human rights advocates. Microsoft also plans to retain an international law firm not involved in anti-piracy work to conduct an independent investigation and provide advice on new measures the company should take.

In the meantime, Smith said Microsoft will create a new unilateral software license for NGOs that will ensure they have free, legal copies of its products, as it tries to “prevent non-government organizations from falling victim to nefarious actions taken in the guise of anti-piracy enforcement.”

“We’re creating in Russia a new NGO Legal Assistance Program focused specifically on helping NGOs document to the authorities that this new software license proves that they have legal software,” he said.

Microsoft already operates a donated software program which has a 390 million dollar market value for more than 42,000 NGOs around the world in the past year, according to the company.

Microsoft is seeking to “reduce the piracy and counterfeiting of software” but wants to do it in a manner that respects “fundamental human rights,” said Smith.

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