Blanket software license to grant opposition groups protection from government raids

Microsoft announces licence changes following Russia report

Microsoft announced a massive policy shift on software licensing in Russia following criticism of the use of anti-piracy efforts to suppress dissent groups.

The company has is now offering Russian opposition and advocacy NGOs a blanket software licence which would automatically make their software free and legal without the need to apply for it under previous schemes.

A New York Times report on the weekend drew attention to the disturbing use of software anti-piracy ‘investigations’ by Russian authorities as a pretext for raiding groups opposing the government such as environmental groups, and confiscating computer systems.

The explosive report described how Microsoft employed lawyers had been apparently assisting the Russian authorities by arguing that criminal charges should be pursued while apparently denying assistance to one group which had specifically bought legitimate software to avoid such a raid.

“They said these issues had to be handled by the security services," Russian environmental activist Marina Rikhvanova told the New York Times. Human rights organisations had been pressuring Microsoft for months, according to the report, but only after The New York Times report did the company respond that it planned to tighten Russian legal affairs.

“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 Microsoft general council Brad Smith. “We are moving swiftly to seek to remove any incentive or ability to engage in such behavior.”

"Our first step is clear-cut. We must accept responsibility and assume accountability for our anti-piracy work, including the good and the bad."

You can read the full statement on the Microsoft blog.

Image source: Baikal Wave.

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