Are Microsoft lawyers partying with Putin to harass Russian rebels?

Are Microsoft lawyers partying with Putin to harass Russian rebels?

Summary: What should Microsoft do to make this right?

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Sometimes I think that as bad as the whole Christian/Muslim divide has been over the centuries, it doesn't hold a candle to the divide between those who favor Microsoft and those who favor Linux.

Personally, I've never really taken sides. I've always generally found Microsoft software to do its job. It's often just a little annoying, but generally functional. More important, I've -- with absolutely no exceptions -- found the people I've met at Microsoft to be extremely pleasant and cooperative.

Linux, too, works quite well. The Linux loonies, well ... they're another story. As unfailingly polite as Microsofties have been, that's about how impolite I've seen the Linux lads to be over the years.

But, you know, that's the difference between working for a large corporation (and wanting to keep your job) and placing your entire quest for life's meaning in the arms of a rogue operating system while waiting too long between taking your meds (or talking to girls).

Unfortunately, if an article just published in The New York Times is to be believed (and, sadly, I do believe it), apparently the penchant for Microsoft people to be pleasant and cooperative has gone a little too far.

According to the Times, Microsoft's lawyers in Russia have been going out of their way to help Russian authorities crack down on protesters.

If you were to draw a number line and put "warm and fuzzy" on one end, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin would be as far as it's possible to go on the other end.

Vlad-Vlad is not exactly a cuddly Russian bear.

All indications are that Putin does not like his citizens to disagree with him. Harkening back to those heady, happy, halcyon days of his KGB career, Putin has been reported to use relatively heavy strong-arm tactics to silence anyone who disagrees with him.

Russia, like any other country, has its share of internal critics, ranging from political advocates to environmentalists, to the one guy in Cheremkhovo who wants to change the name of the country to Thousand Island (OK, I made that part up).

Although it may not seem so to outsiders (especially those steeped in spy novels), Russia is also a country with laws, and those laws protect protesters as much as they protect well-behaved citizens.

In a move so KGB-like and full of misdirection as to make Harry Houdini proud, The New York Times is claiming that the Russkies are cracking down on dissidents by "investigating" claims of software piracy.

This is where the boys from Redmond (Red, get it, heh, Glenn Beck would be so proud!) apparently get involved. The Times claims that Microsoft lawyers are supporting (and possibly inciting) raids on the offices of protesters, all in the guise of protecting the company's software licenses.

Where it gets quite dicey is in the claim that some of the protesters whose computers were seized were actually legal licensees of Microsoft software. These protesters claim that they specifically made sure to buy all their licenses so there would be no justification to investigate them based on their proper use of software.

Aside: what has this world come to when authoritarian regimes have to rely on software licenses to be jack-booted government thugs?

Anyway, as the story goes, those protesters whose gear was seized contacted Microsoft's lawyers in Russia, provided them with proof of ownership of the necessary licenses, and got a response surprisingly similar to Sergeant Schultz' timeless utterings of "I know nothing".

If all of this is true, what are we to think?

Is Microsoft complicit in Russia's human rights violations? If so, should we hold them to a higher ethical standard? How can we reconcile Bill Gates' astonishing level of philanthropy with dissident suppression in Russia?

What should Microsoft do to make this right?

Personally, I think the lesson here is that if you're in Russia and if you're protesting against the government, you should be using Linux. It'll protect you from the authorities -- and the Blue Screen of Death.

Just don't hang out with too many Linux fans. Those cats are craaaaaazy.

Topics: IT Employment, CXO, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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Talkback

35 comments
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  • Your story is good, but, in the intro, your impression of Windows is

    based on the people that work at MS, but, for Linux, you decide to base it on the fanatics. I suggest you base you opinion of Linux on the suits at IBM, Red Hat, Google, Amazon, . . . , etc. You will find these people to be "extremely pleasant and cooperative".<br><br>There are plenty of MS loonies that post right here on ZDNet if you need people that you can base your opinion of Windows on.
    DonnieBoy
    • Don't bother with him

      You aren't a doctor, are you? There's nothing you can do for him.
      OS Reload
      • Well, more and more like him will be switching to Linux as time goes on.

        Well, millions are using Linux without knowing it as in the case of Android. They just think it is a "Google" operating system. They also use Linux every time they do a Google search, make a purchase on Amazon, ebay, etc. I think we just need to not over react to the off-hand insults.
        DonnieBoy
      • @DonnieBoy: You are right, but he needs to hear the unpleasant truths

        And the sad truth is what his puerile remarks reveal about his character and what he really is. And he's not even mildly funny.

        I think that someone should call his attention to it, that's all. Hope I was able to help him even though I am not a doctor.
        OS Reload
      • OS Reload: I really can not argue with you. His off-hand comments were

        rather disrespectful. Though given time, he will slowly come around. He uses Linux a whole lot more than he realizes.
        DonnieBoy
    • This is all true ...

      @DonnieBoy ... but IBM and Red Hat are not giving Linux away either. They are making as much money selling Linux services as Microsoft is selling Windows.

      As for Google and Amazon, (and thousands of other corporations), Linux and Windows are used side-by-side, as appropriate. These folks choose their OS based upon their specific needs, not biases.

      The MS and Linux (and MacOSX) loonies who post to blogs would much rather BERATE the other guys than point out the value "to them" of their particular choice.

      The people that scream the most seem to want others to validate their choice instead of accepting that not everyone will make the same choice - even if they use the same rationale as others who make a different choice.

      I've done the UNIX/Linux thing but frankly I choose to use Windows because it meets my needs. I hope you choose to use Linux for exactly the same reasons.
      M Wagner
      • No, you chose Windows because you know nothing else and it is "good enough"

        You have a lot to learn.
        DonnieBoy
      • RE: Are Microsoft lawyers partying with Putin to harass Russian rebels?

        @mwagner@... I respect your choice. At least that was a choice, not rejecting non-MS stuff outright.
        SkyBon
    • Warped

      We have a story in which Microsoft is willingly complicit in Russian tyranny of political minorities and all Gewritz can do praise the "polite" people at MS and attack Linux users.

      Ego and ignorance from Gewritz...
      Tim Patterson
  • RE: Are Microsoft lawyers partying with Putin to harass Russian rebels?

    I suppose Microsoft/Russia could come out strongly against computer confiscation as a step towards determining possible infringement.

    But, I think the takeaway is that Microsoft is a Maguffin here. If police can seize computers on what should be a civil matter, i.e., infringement and breach of contract, than it could be Illustrator or QuickBooks that is the nominal software of interest. It could be a "Hello World" binary that some apparatchik copyrighted. The cops could walk in with an installer disk and put something on the system. Our 21st century variation on the throwdown gun.
    DannyO_0x98
  • To be fair, there are no more Russia's human rights violations than USA's

    but <b>no, you will not read about from David Gewirtz</b>.
    DDERSSS
    • And no, there is no "authoritarian regime" in Russia

      <b>Read definition, David</b>; Russia contradicts to it all-around:

      1) government in Russia is elected, contrary to unelected in typical authoritarian regimes (and yes, Putin stepped down as president few years ago because constitution prohibit for president to be the same person twice in row consecutively -- even though he had support to arrange referendum and cancel this limitation);

      2) Putin does not "possess exclusive, unaccountable, and arbitrary power". You better look for Near East states for that.
      DDERSSS
      • Facts, those bastards just keep getting in the way of a good story

        @denisrs

        Just how do you think david gewirtz would be able to write a "good" story (a subjective concept to begin with) if he had to take facts into account?

        Tell me just how he could do it, Mister Know-It-All.
        OS Reload
      • My bad: yes, David would be able to write a "story" if he would not pretend

        @OS Reload: ... to be ignorant (or if would not be ignorant honestly -- I am not sure which is it; both reasons at the same time, most probably).
        DDERSSS
    • "Bill Gates? astonishing level of philanthropy" is Monsanto-infected

      Gates' charitable activities are tied to Monsanto, a chemistry giant, which produced "orange" for Vietnam war, and, more importantly, and <b>devastates the planet of naturally existing breeds of grains, cereals, soya beans, et cetera by replacing these with patented genetically modified organisms (GMO) versions.</b>

      Farmers in India, Latin America and, most recently, South Africa found out that "productive" seeds that they buy from Monsanto mostly can not really breed, be reused, sowed again. Thus they forever enslaved into buying patented pricey seeds from Monsanto each year.

      And if a farmer could not by the seeds again -- for example, there was a flood and nothing really came out of the crops, despite it being GMO --- he is going to bankrupt, because next year regular seeds are not giving that much of product as GMO-version and farmer's grains/beans are more expensive in result.

      And even then, the grown "regular" seeds are going to be contaminated with cross-pollination to crops of farmer's neighbours fields, so Monsanto will sue the hell out of the farmer because of suggested "unlicensed use" of patented genes.

      <b>It is estimated that Monsanto policy caused famine and deaths (mostly suicides) of countless people in the poorest regions of the world.</b>

      And William Gates supports this company company.
      DDERSSS
      • Isn't Monsanto

        also the producer of the AP herbicide Roundup?
        klumper
    • That's debatable ...

      @denisrs ... but the bottom line is that no population can be oppressed against it's will. The public has only itself to blame if it allows its government to deny its citizens basic human rights. Of course, there is a lot of debate about what constitutes a "basic human right".
      M Wagner
      • Tell that to the Russians

        @mwagner@...
        [i]The bottom line is that no population can be oppressed against it's will.[/i]

        who lived under the Red Banner of Leninism as it gave way to Stalinism, complete with Cheka, the troikas, the MVD and GPU, the NKVD, and the Gulags. Generations struggled to survive under that unique form of Marxist Socialism.
        klumper
  • Looking at your attitude and the way you write

    I'd say you aren't having much success being heard when trying to talk to girls, or anyone who is not in the medical profession.
    OS Reload
  • A Message To david gewirtz

    <b style="font-size:140%">You are not writing in the talkback section.</b><br><br>If you want to be seen as a professional (and that's a BIG if) then get to follow a style guide and hold yourself accountable to higher writing standards.
    OS Reload