Disingeniously claiming that they have no part in this "criminal case initiated by
The current Russian leader Putin is of the opinion that this case is patently "ridiculous", as he stated in a recent press-conference, and subsequently one of the former leaders of the country, M. Gorbachev, who is well-known in the West, wrote a direct appeal to the MS corporation asking to drop the case.
An American reader will need two reminders.
First, the case arose from a heavy-handed approach in enforcement of the so-called "intellectual rights" in Russia, that authorities took in response to the "promise" of Mr. Putin to the West, as he put it in his recent press-conference (possibly to make a point right before the long promised admission of the country into World Trade Organization).
The village teacher in a school starved of funds obtained these 12 computers with pre-installed OS and programs through the company that built and equipped a new school in the village. Next, authorities could not find a responsible person in that company and instead went for the teacher, the principal of the school, as the person responsible for maintaining legality and therefore a "pirate".
According to the prosecution, the "pirate" defrauded MS for approx. $10,000. As was found out in the run-up to the court hearings, MS usually sells its software to educational institutions at discounts, and then the calculated "loss" would stand at slightly above $1000. As this amount would not justify full criminal prosecution (the charge would remain minor and administrative), the teacher was charged with full amount.
Computers, as became clear, had to have Windows installed, as the formal test in the school programme has questions based on Microsoft software. In fact, the nationwide programme itself is platform-blind, but the use of MS is mandated in some of the school textbooks from a list. If the teacher would stop using these textbooks, his license to teach informatics would be discontinued.
That, we can speculate, is how the system of bribing and lobbying of Microsoft in countries like Russia works: it has no control over the schools, but was able to lobby an insertrion of the requirement in a lower internal document of the Department of Education or an educational district.
Current law-enforcement practices in Russia involve a right for the inspectors to enter any business and initiate checks on any computer system in it.
A second reminder for a US reader would be that the whole matter arises from a knowing pursuance by huge corporations like Microsoft of practices copied from classical patterns of colonialism.
MS keeps prices totally unreasonable for the countries with lower salary levels. For example, a $300 program can be as much as 10% of a monthly salary level after taxes for an ordinary worker in US. In a country impoverished by the process of "democratization" this sum can be as much as an average monthly salary, even more.
I.e. what appears is a paradoxical situation when an Indian or Russian programmer, as one example, provides his own labour to a corporation, which is subsequently overcharged to him an order of magnitude higher than to his US counterpart.
During the first stage of penetration into another country a corporation like Microsoft usually does not complain about "piracy" (a specifically emotive, although senseless, term coined by the big guys in this economic struggle for domination). However when penetration is complete, and most of the target market is locked into their software, MS acts through political channels to press for pitiless enforcement of their "rights".
The pattern repeats - the same happened previously in China.
Some countries rose voice against colonialist practices (notably, India whose official positian at one WIPO conference reiterated the main arguments of the anti-antipiracy US groups virtually point by point); China however made the next logical step moving from MS products to its own Chinese linux distribution.
The outcry about this case was very loud in Russia; one educational district announced they would stop using MS operating system and programs in their classes. There was a spontaneous offer of unpaid, free help by those hwo know Linux in (a comparatively big, roughly 250,000 strong) Russian on-line community in Livejournal (www.livejournal.com).
However this reaction, healthy as it may be, is still far from sufficient in a country as huge as Russia, where banditry and pirate practices of Microsoft and enforcers of biggest corporations' "intellectual rights" continue.