Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Microsoft and Russia

New York Times
September 14, 2010

Microsoft made the right decision to stop helping Russian authorities use claims of software piracy to harass and silence dissenters. On Monday, it announced that it is barring its lawyers from taking part in such cases and will provide a blanket software license to advocacy groups and news media outlets in Russia, undercutting the Kremlin’s tactic.

Still, Microsoft’s willingness to lend itself to politically motivated investigations — it changed course only after an article by Clifford Levy in The Times on Sunday — suggests a shocking failure of corporate responsibility. The Times said lawyers for Microsoft bolstered state police in politically tinged cases across Russia. They made statements suggesting the company was a victim and called for criminal charges. After police seized a dozen computers from a Siberian environmental group, the group said all its software was legally licensed and asked Microsoft to confirm this. Microsoft would not. The police used information from the computers to track down and interrogate some of the group’s supporters.