Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 12th Sep 2010 21:16 UTC
Microsoft Piracy is a big problem for large software vendors licensors like Microsoft. As such, the Redmond giant is undertaking several anti-piracy efforts all over the world, and, of course, it attempts to make its software harder to crack through activation and validation. As The New York Times has discovered, however, the prevalence of pirated Microsoft software in Russia is giving the Russian authorities a pretence to raid the offices of outspoken advocacy groups or opposition media - supported by Microsoft lawyers. Update: Microsoft responds with a blog post that says all the right things, including "Microsoft will create a new unilateral software license for NGOs that will ensure they have free, legal copies of our products."
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"The authorities cannot simultaneously promote Linux for the Russian people on the one hand, and then confiscate the computers of people who are using it on the other.

Of course they can. They can still claim "they may have pirated software" and raid their offices - whether they register x number of computers running Linux or not. The authorities could claim the advocacy groups may have more computers than the ones registered, they may claim they are running Office on WINE illegally, they may claim they run Windows illegally in virtualisation environments, etc. etc. etc.

While this is true, it is true only for absolute authoritarian governments in complete control. Most real-world governments need to have some sort of viable PR accountability. Most real-world governments cannot simply abuse citizens using outrageous claims that are easily seen to be lies.

Hence it is quite easy for a government to confiscate computers of groups who claim "we bought all our software properly licensed". That is just a claim that could easily be a lie, and the group has publicly admitted that they are using commercial software that needs to be properly licensed. They might easily have licenses for only some machines.

However, if the persecuted group were to claim that "all of our software is free software, it is state-sponsored Linux" ... then they have a credible position that has PR weight. It is easy to see that a machine is running Linux, you just have to turn it on, you don't have to take the machine away. It is easy to show that your files were created by OpenOffice in ODF format.

For reasons of PR alone, the state must come up with a real reason for wanting to confiscate the computers now. "Suspicion of piracy" isn't going to swing it now as a purported reason in the Internet age.

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