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Russian Court Drops Charges against Ponosov
Posted on Friday, February 16 @ 00:03:24 PST by EdisonRex

Should never have been brought in the first place

An excellent start to the weekend. Russia's Rian news agency reports that the Russian govenment's case against a rural school principal for buying used computers for his school district (which turned out to have unlicensed copies of Windows on them) has been dropped "for lack of evidence", according to the presiding judge in the case, Vera Bakarina.

However, this is probably not the end of the story. Alexander Troyanov, the prosecutor in the case, has disputed the judge's finding, saying that he considers "the court's decision unlawful on formal grounds". At issue is that the prosecution wants a guilty or not guilty verdict to close the case. The prosecution has 10 days to appeal the judge's decision.

This case has attracted an enormous amount of attention both in Russia and in Europe, primarily because of the perception that the Russian government, long criticised for being soft on software piracy, has gone after the wrong link in the chain. Microsoft itself has come under significant criticism, as it is apparently the BSA who gathered the "evidence" via a software audit.

Olga Dergunova, chairperson of Microsoft Russia, has attempted to deflect the criticism, somewhat eloquently, given that criticism has come from none other than Mikhail Gorbachev and Vladimir Putin who has called the Ponosov case "petty and meaningless".

You can read more this site which seems to have a good summary.

Interestingly, and completely at odds with Rian.ru's reporting, the New York Times is reporting that Ponosov was actually convicted of using illegal software, but that the judge declined to impose a fine or prison term because "Microsofft's loss was insignificant compared with its overall earnings". The verdict was broadcast on Russian television last night.

It's been a struggle all along, trying to decipher the truth in this story as Russian and Western accounts of the story have differed widely. With Russia wanting entrance to the World Trade Organization, and needing to, like China, move past a "pirate culture" into a more respectful one (that is, respectful to American interests), this case shows that there's a ways to go, both from the point of Western understanding of Russian culture, and Russian respect for Western copyright and patent law. Of course, the Chinese stuck up their finger at the West and came out with their own Linux, and Russian free software is developing as well. Piracy ultimately did not affect China's entrance into the WTO, as much as the size of the market did.



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