Russians prosecuting teacher who installed pirated Windows

Gorbachev and Putin call on Microsoft to drop the case but local prosecutor presses forward. Guilty verdict could send schoolteacher who installed 12 copies of Window to Siberia.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

In a Goliath vs. David story, Russian authorities are Microsoft is suing a Russian village school teacher for software piracy, reports the Associated Press.

The intellectual property rights test case was brought by Microsoft by Russian authorities against Alexander Ponosov, a village school principal in the Ural Mountain region of Perm, about 620 miles east of Moscow, seems like a poor way to set an example and even has brought the sympathies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Ponosov is being is charged with allegedly overseeing the installation of pirated versions of Microsoft software on 12 school PCs. The case is part of a larger crackdown on pirated software in Russia, the biggest producer of pirated goods after China.

Microsoft says it wants nothing to do with the case. It appears that local prosecutors, in order to please Moscow officials, have taken these steps in response to international pressure on Russia to clamp down on piracy.

"You know the president is always asked these questions at summits," Alexander Troyanov, the district prosecutor pursuing the case, told The Associated Press. "Evidently because of this, work has been stepped up."

Troyanov argued that the law makes no distinction — meaning Ponosov is fair game.

"Producers, sellers and users — all bear responsibility," he said. "After our investigation we decided that the software had been loaded either with his knowledge or by his direct order."

Russian television recently showed Ponosov turning down the offer from a Microsoft representative of an out-of-court settlement if he were to issue an apology to the company and acknowledge his guilt. Microsoft would then petition prosecutors to drop the claims.

"Of course I didn't suspect that it was pirated," he said in a telephone interview last week.

Ponosov claims that the programs were installed on the computers when the school received them.

"They worked fine, the only thing was that they didn't come with any documentation," he said.
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